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This installment will be on the running backs, and for now, since this is a slow time, I'll be doing one of these every other week, it's a long offseason, but on to the running backs.
As I looked through each unit, one thing stood out to me, there are fairly big questions going forward in every unit, and running back is no exception. I will say this though, I am much less worried about the unit this year than I was last year, Lamar Miller has proved that he is a capable NFL RB. Last year that was still a bit of a question, and how well Knowshon Moreno was going to fit, this year we know what Miller can bring to the table.
The Dolphins have 4 tailbacks as of the end of the season, Lamar Miller, Damien Williams, LaMichael James and Daniel Thomas, Williams and James are relitive unknowns, while Miller and Thomas are known commodities.
LAMAR MILLER In 2014 Miller showed the Dolphins that he's a competitor, we all know he isn't Le'Veon Bell, but he's a hard working fast tailback that could potentially hit some big plays. Either way you could do a lot worse than Lamar Miller as your starting tailback.
DANIEL THOMAS I think most agree that Thomas is basically a failed pick, he is OK as a back up but his ceiling has been reached. Most were happy when he was cut last year, and I think the Dolphins move on for good this year.
DAMIEN WILLIAMS An un-drafted free agent, he was a stand out player at Oklahoma but was released by the team for undisclosed reasons, which killed his draft stock. A 220+ pound tailback with sub 4.5 speed, he was used sparingly this year but did show very good potential. When he was used it was mainly as a 3rd down back, because he can block and catch. This is unusual for a rookie, because you normally can't trust them in the passing game, blocking or route running, so the kid has a good head on his shoulders. I'm excited to see how much he progresses in the offseason.
LaMICHAEL JAMES There is a lot of unknown about the former Oregon superstar, he seemed to fall into a black hole once he was drafted. A very highly touted 2nd round pick for the 49ers, he doesn't see much playing time, as a tailback or as a returner, then to start out his 3rd year he asks for a release from the team, and so they cut him. The fact that they cut him is a little troubling, because he had been a 2nd round pick and yet they were willing to just let him walk. What's more troubling in my opinion is the fact that he asked for his release. Many Dolphin fans are clambering to release Mike Wallace because he may have taken himself out of a meaningless game, and here's a guy who asks off a team because he's not good enough to start. It's funny how perception changes.
(insert cricket sounds) Yes, I'm aware that we have no fullbacks, but I for one would like to see that change, a true fullback would be a huge help on short yardage plays, as a blocker or a runner. I do understand that our basic offense is not a fullback friendly offense, but any short yardage formation benefits from a fullback.
Depth here is the issue, as it is with many of the Dolphin units, but the answer may already be on the team. Damien Williams could emerge as a share timer with Lamar, which would certainly help a lot with depth. James is a complete unknown quantity at this time, Thomas could be brought back as depth, because he can be plugged in, but his celing is so low that there isn't much point keeping him around unless need drives it.
I don't see any pressing need to draft a tailback, besides the kind of standard draft a tailback late and try to develop him theory. As I said above, I wouldn't mind them picking up a fullback, but that is more of a late round or undrafted free agent type of thing.
Personally I think the Dolphins are set enough with Miller to go into 2015 with the hopes that Williams takes the step it looks like he will take. I wouldn't go out and spend on a tailback in free agency, a fullback maybe, but not a tailback. I think we should see what we have in Williams and James before commiting to anything else, because like I said earlier, Miller has proven he can get the job done, and I personally have some high hopes for Williams, I think he can actually becoma a better tailback than Miller, and then we would have a scary backfield.
Kevin Coyle is Back for Another Year?
While those in NFL circles and our media are in the "know" that Miami's defensive coordinator, Kevin Coyle, needs to be fired, our head coach Joe Philbin continues to make excuses for him. And, why not? Philbin gets another free pass himself on a mediocre job. "Attitude reflects leadership", and it goes all the way to the top. If the line is drawn at average (and that is what owner Stephen Ross has done by keeping Philbin) then that is what we are going to get.
I don't know what you expected, but I expected Coyle to be fired. We should have known that Philbin was taking way too long on this decision. I expected Ross to at least step in and force Coyle's firing as he did with Mike Sherman last year. Not only was the "playoffs or fired" rumors that Philbin walked into 2014 with, but the status quo is okey-dokey in Miami.
Let's face it: Coyle's defensive scheme just isn't working. The last four games of the season the Dolphins defense allowed 41, 28, 35 and 37 points. Our late season collapse falls on the defense. When Philbin inherited a 3-4 defense, he promptly declared that he was switching to the 4-3 defensive scheme and then hired Coyle to make it work. So, Coyle inherited the 6th best scoring defense in the NFL, and we have watched it go to #7, # 8, and then resting at # 20 last year.
One of my biggest gripes about Coyle is that he does not utilize his players to their maximum. He does not like to use young players and favors less talented veterans over them. Jelani Jenkins has shined but it is because he was forced to play him last year. What a gem he has turned out to be.
This has been a terribly disappointing offseason for Miami Dolphins fans. If it weren't for some of the success that GM Dennis Hickey had last year and the offense scoring more, I don't think I can take another year with Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle. That is a downer of a thing to say, but I am being very frank with you. If I feel this way then how many other Dolphins fans out there are in the same boat. Surely this is going to hurt Ross in the wallet.
Keep Mike Wallace.
There, I said it. He is under contract and is an important part of our offense. We traded Brandon Marshall because Philbin thought he would be more of a problem than a help for him. Bad move. He had a chemical imbalance that he was addressing, and he's a great talent. We sure could use him. We traded CB Vontae Davis because he was immature and Philbin didn't want to "grow him up". I hated this trade and I felt that Vontae Davis was seriously embarrassed to have this on Hard Knocks. I understand that the trade helped Davis mature, but we all knew the talent that Davis had. We let CB Sean Smith leave via free agency. Well, I am guilty of not being upset about that move. Sean Smith had problems with smaller receivers in that his hips just didn't rotate the way they should. My bad.
Wallace did ask out of the game out of anger, and that will need to be addressed. But, my feelings are that he has a legitimate gripe in that he wasn't getting targeted. How do you have the best deep threat in the NFL and not throw the deep pass? It should be attempted a few times a game ... offensive line problems or not. In the final game, Wallace only had one pass thrown at him in the first half. How does that happen? Everyone knows that he needs to feel a part of the game.
I seriously do not get OC Bill Lazor and WR Ryan Tannehill sometimes. Get him involved in the game or he implodes. It's all part of the game, fellas. Know your personnel and use them to the best of their abilities.
So, Wallace recently said that he would not take a pay cut. I wouldn't expect him to take a pay cut. He came here for the money, and he's not going to do us any favors about it. We knew that when we signed him.
Losing Wallace will hurt this team as he takes away the deep threat. He opens up the passing game underneath.
Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor Gets a B-.
I like Bill Lazor, and I think he did a good job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. In fact, I would go on record to say that I think he will be our next head coach. He is intelligent and he has the personality to be a head coach.
What I did not like about Lazor is that he abandoned the running game too soon in games. I understand that he lost Knowshon Moreno early in the season, so, that changed his mindset to more of a passing offense since Tannehill was our biggest strength, but too often it hurt us in games when we became one dimenstional in the 2nd half of games. Even though the NFL is now a passing league, balance will still win games.
How does Brian Hartline go from a 1000 yard receiver two years in a row to 474 yard receiver last year? It happens when your targets go from 131 to 133 to 63 last year. Lazor failed to get Hartline involved in the offense and you just do not do that to your #2 wide receiver. Obviously the offense was not suited to Hartline's style of play and the offense should have been adjusted to his strengths instead of waiting for him to "get it".
Richard Matthews, a former 7th round pick of ours, went from 67 targets in 2013 to 22 targets in 2014. Obviously he was in Philbin's doghouse last year due to a lack of maturity, but he is another receiver that took a step back in his development.
Now, Tannehill and Lamar Miller both took positive steps forward, but others on the offense did not. I am hopeful that Lazor gets his players more on the same page with Tannehill next year, because with Coyle running the defense for another year, the offense is going to have to carry the friggin' team.
Tannehill Shows Improvement in the Pocket.
Tannehill took a lot of sacks this year, and most of them happened after we lost LT Brandon Albert for the season. In fact, the offense was rolling like a machine at that point. Looking at the stats, it shows that Tannehill is developing pocket awareness. Does he need to improve? Definitely, but credit Bill Lazor for this development due to his improved footwork.
The Miami Herald's Armando Saluero noted this is his blog this week:
Tannehill was pressured on 38.3% of his drop-backs, sixth-most in the league, and took a sack on 18.2 percent of his pressured drop-backs, which was 12th most in the league. If you interpret these stats, it suggests Tannehill successfully avoided sacks more often than not when pressured.
Ed Reed's "You Are Who We Thought You Were" Award goes to ...
The Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.
Surprise, surprise. Despite the additions in free agency and in the draft, this team will always be .500 under Joe Philbin. The Broncos fire a good head coach in John Fox saying that the team did not peak at the end of the season, and we keep Philben who has not had a winning season in all 3 years.
Think about this: the Dolphins were 7-9, 7-9, and 6-10 and fired Tony Sparano. Under Philbin the Dolphins have been 7-9, 8-8, 8-8 with the wheels falling off in each December and Ross keeps him for another season because he likes him? Someone please pinch me and wake me up from this nightmare.