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Week 2: Dolphins at Bills
So I find myself almost alone in my enthusiasm for this year. Other than Omar Kelly's 9-7 "bold" prediction most people are again predicting an 8-8 season for this team. I realize the questions, but every team has them.
What separates the good teams year after year is usually the QB. So therein lies my optimism for the year. I remember being this optimistic after the signings of Trent Green and Chad Pennington. One proved me right, the other got injured.
Ryan Tannehill has played differently this preseason. Last preseason, he seemed to stay on the field longer than most other starting QBs and got to see action against 2nd team defenses. Obviously the coaching staff was trying to build confidence and chemistry with some new WRs. This year, against some pretty good defenses like Tampa and Atlanta, RT had the first team offense moving the ball well between the 20s. His gawdy 68% completion percentage bears out that he's making good decisions with the ball.
His first team OL is also playing well. Add to that FA Alberts and number 1 draft pick James have been stellar in the preseason. When you compare to what they had last year, it is night and day. My gut is telling me that a more upright Ryan Tannehill is going to have a great year and with that drag Miami to at least a 10-6 record.
My confidence in the offense also stems from the young WRs and RBs. The WRs 2-6 are young, fast, have great hands and catch in traffic. Landry, Gibson and Matthews along with Hartline form a group you can't focus a defense on. RT was spreading the ball around in this group a lot and it will give DC's fits this year trying to figure out who to cover. Throw in RB's Moreno, williams and Darkwa and suddenly Miami has depth at positions that were a question mark a year ago.
Concerns, yes. Defensive front is as good as ever but the LB corps isn't inspiriing. Safety is also a concern. Miami has solid depth at CB and we should see some of those guys on the field this year.
Overall, I can't see this team losing many games this year. It is the most talented and deep team Miami has fielded in quite some time. My official prediction, Miami wins the East. 11-5. Here's to hoping you're not talking me off the ledge after the NE game.
Go Tannehill GD2
The first cut down day to 75 is approaching, 3 days after our Aug 23rd pre-season "dress rehersal" on the 26th, and 4 days after that the final cut down to 53, for every team this is the time to make some Tough Decisions. In recent years for the Dolphins this has been a time where the team tried to figure out which marginal players do we keep, and can we get some talent from other teams cast offs, and there is still some of that going on.
Tight end, Obviosly Clay is a keeper, and then there's...(crickets chirping), yes, TE behind Clay is a little suspect, I think Dion Sims has shown enough as a blocker that we keep him, after that it's a crap shoot. I am thinking that Lynch will be kept because of draft status if nothing else, and as a direct back up to Sims, but I also think we will keep a 4th TE, Brett Brackett I think is probably ahead of Egnew, but I do think they will keep one of these guys as a direct back up to Clay. Two blocking TEs and two pass recievers, considering the lack of obvious talent here I would be all for keeping only 3 so we can keep an extra WR, a position that seems to have a lot more talent.
Offensive tackle and guard, to say we have a lack of depth here is quite the understatement, since we have a lack of starters here, at least at guard. Dallas Thomas has been bad on his good days, the tackles are set at starter but not much behind that. The Dolphins front office will more than likely be scouring the waiver wire for upgrades, but they won't need to look for a center, when Pouncey comes back we will have one of the best back up centers in the league with Samson Satele, and if Pouncey returns to form also one of the premiere centers in the league, we are set at C.
Linebacker, can I just skip this part, or can we just cut Wheeler and throw Dion Jordan in his spot, he can't be worse. The truth is there is a lot of unknown in this squad, every starter is being moved, none of whom were anything to write home about last year. Back ups are all young players who we don't know much about exept for Jason Trusnick, who is a stand out special teamer and an OK back up. The other players have some potential, but remain unknown quantities at this time. LB remains our Achillies heel on the defense.
Kicker, Caleb Sturgis was a very high draft pick for a kicker, in a time when most teams are grabbing late rounders, undrafted free agents, or just grabbing someone off the waiver wire, the Fins spent a 5th round pick on Sturgis, but he was shaky at best, with a 76% completion rate, that gets you fired on most teams. What was a bit baffling to me was the fact that they had no competition for him until he got injured, again, that groin muscle. Now I know it's a tender area, er ah subject, but his seems to be moreso than most, since he's been having reaccuring problems there since last pre-season. John Potter nailed his only two attempts vs the Bucs, both were long kicks of 48 and 51 yards. Either way I'm not to comfortable with our kicking situation.
These are the most worrying positions in my mind, hopefully they can shore these positions up in the final days of pre-season, on to the no brainers.
Quaterback, Tannehill and Moore, I think these are the only two QBs we keep on the 53 man roster, Seth Lobato will most likely be a candidate for the practice squad, but with Tannehill and Moore we are in very good shape at this position.
Punter, Brandon the Big Bang Fields is an elite punter, sometimes I fell sorry for the ball...
*Long snapper, normally I would just say that John Denny is a no brainer, and perhaps he still is, the reason for the asterisk is because they have been trying out Jordan Tripp as a long snapper. The promising young rookie held that duty in college, and perhaps the Fins intend to go "old school" and use a position player to fill that spot so that they could keep an extra player at another position. Denny is 35, so maybe they're just grooming Tripp, but this could be an idea to make one extra spot on the team for some talent rich positions I will get to later.
Thats it for the no brainers, on to the comfortable positions.
Cornerback and safety, these position seem to be fairly set with good starters and decent backups, at least when Reshad Jones comes back from PED suspension.
OK, that category moved right along, now moving on to the real reason for the title, Tough Decisions, and the asterisk next to Denny.
Wide reciever, this will be a tough group to finalize, unless of course they only plan on keeping five, then they would go into the no brainers section, as there seems to be five locks at the position, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and rookie second round pick Jarvis Landry. The guys vying for a sixth or even seventh spot, if there will be, will be Damian Williams, Kevin Cone, Matt Hazel and Marcus Thigpen. Hazel would seem to be the odd man out, he hasn't done much, Williams and Cone have made some nice catches and show some good promise. The wildcard of this bunch is Thigpen, has the tools to become a dynamic slot reciever, can also be used as a scat back and is a returner. I could see the Dolphins keeping 6 WRs and 3 RBs with Thigpen as a back up for both positions as well as being the primary returner, especially on kickoffs. Cone, Williams and Thigpen all seem to have a lot of promise, it would be a shame to see them all go.
Defensive tackle, 3 locks right off the top, Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and Earl Mitchell, but some really promising guys behind them and we can't keep them all. AJ Francis, Isaako Aaitui and Anthony Johnson are all vying for one spot, very unlikely they keep 5, but not out of the relm of posibility considering the talent here. In my mind I think Aaitui has the inside track, being the primary back up for Mitchell, the space eater DT, we have two very good penetrating DTs in Starks and Odrick, but A Johnson has been really good, keep in mind also that defensive ends Terrence Fede and Derrick Shelby can also be plugged in at that spot and we have a wealth of penetrating DTs. Did you see Shelby rupture a double team for a sack in the middle against the Bucs... called back by a defensive holding in the secondary, but still, it was VERY impressive. A lot of talent here.
Defensive end, what a group we have here, in a vacuum we have 4 locks, Cam Wake, Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby and Terrence Fede, yes, I left off Dion Jordan in this vacuum, because these 4 players are clearly better than Dion Jordan is right now at DE. Back outside the vacuum we gave up our 12th and 42nd picks of the 2013 draft to pick the wholly unerwhelming Dion Jordan, if he was a mid to late round pick, which he is performing like, he would be cut, but we aren't in a vacuum and they can't just give up on him so quickly. The talent here, and draft staus, says we are going to keep five, in a perfect world we would cut Wheeler and throw Dion in there at LB and just keep 4, but the team says no go, but at least they aren't saying no go-go anymore.
I agree with coach Philbin, this is the best looking roster we've had in a few years, although we may be the weakest we have ever been in the history of this storied franchise at the right guard position, but there seems to be a lot of very good potential at a lot of positions, Tough Decisions for the coaching staff, for a nice refreshing change.