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$349.99. That’s how much it costs to buy a “Lego Mindstorm” robotic kit from Walmart. I heard about these things recently, and it appealed to the nerd in me. Okay, that’s most of me if I’m going to be honest; but seriously! Building lego robots that attach to 3 separate interactive motors, with a remote control so they can walk, talk and (per the claim of the advertisement) even think? I believe that last part to be a bit of a stretch, but MAN that’s awesome. (When I was a kid I thought tinker toys were the coolest thing ever until I saw my buddie’s erector set. That was the stuff, right there.)

So where is the correlation to the Miami Dolphins?

Building blocks. In my analogy here, the interactive machines represent the systems put in place by our coaching staff. Not just X’s and O’s stuff, either. It’s the whole approach. Each player must be examined as a block to see how well he FITS with the pieces in place and decisions will be made. Which blocks are missing, which are nearing the end of their usefulness, and which are just plain worn out? Which pieces might be shaped and molded into a functioning piece in the future, given sufficient experience and coaching?

So what pieces do we have in place already that we can feel confident building around? More than most of us thought when the team was 1 – 4 and looking lost, that’s for sure. Let’s take a look. This week I’ll focus on offense. Next week I’ll break down the defense and special teams.

OFFENSE

QB: Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore are key pieces that showed enough in their respective roles to make most of us feel comfortable moving forward, assuming Tannehill recovers from his knee injury. That said, I’m a proponent of drafting a QB every year. Never stop bringing in players and developing them, and don’t just wait until the 7th round or some UFA guy, either. If there’s a player on the board in the 5th or 6th that you have rated high, take him. That’s just my philosophy of drafting, not an indictment of who we currently have.

RB: We’re set with Jay Ajayi (pro-bowl alternate), Damien Williams (6 TDs in 2016) and rookie Kenyan Drake. I don’t foresee us drafting a RB this year unless somebody very highly rated falls really far (like Ajayi did 2 drafts ago.)

WR: This is an intriguing position to examine. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Devante Parker in tandem provide the team with a great combination of complimentary skill sets. Landry is among the best slot receivers in the game. Parker, with his size, speed and catch radius flashes elite talent often enough to keep us all longing for more consistency. (Receivers often take until their 3rd year in the league to really blossom, so there’s reason for optimism there.) Stills blossomed in Gase’s offense this year, gaining 726 yards and 9 TDs. He was the deep threat big play receiver the team was hoping to get when we traded for him. And, he’s set to be a free agent and will likely command a high price on the market. My personal hope is that we lock down Landry to a long term contract extension, freeing up some short term money to sign Stills to a 1 or 2 year deal. Waiting in the wings is Leonte Caroo, who we traded up to draft this past year, but never really had a chance to contribute much this season. Finally, there’s Jakeem Grant. He’s fast, that’s for sure. And his dazzling return for a touchdown this past season made us all dream of having a return threat that other teams fear. Unfortunately, he’s too small to use in any regular offensive packages and his fumbling issues are very troubling. He mishandled at least 5 kicks or punts this past season, and that makes him hard to trust. We can hope that he can be coached out of this problem, but I’m skeptical. We’ll see what the coaching staff thinks of him in the future.

TE: Apparently, Gase thinks that Dion Simms is a legit #1 TE. Okay, then. He’s solid, a better than average blocker and has improved as a receiver. But nobody is going to mistake him for Jason Witten or Jimmy Graham. MarQuies Gray ended the season as the #2 TE, and he flashed a number of times when Simms was hurt and even after he recovered. He’s a guy to keep an eye on. I don’t know his 40 time, but he seems a lot smoother and niftier than Simms in pass routes. Still, I believe a legitimate seam threat to partner with Simms in 2 TE sets would give Gase more options and more for opposing teams to worry about. With that in mind, I would like to see the team draft a TE if one they really like falls to them in the 3rd or 4th round.

OT: What to do with Branden Albert? Do we move leave him at LT, ask him to move to OG, or kick him to the curb? I’ve seen a lot of varying opinions on the boards about him and I’ve had my own opinion waver. Right now, my opinion is that we should keep him at LT and keep Tunsil at LG. The reason is simple. Continuity. Albert played valiantly with his injured hand. Yes, he was embarrassed in the Pittsburgh game, but he overall he played at a very high level this year. Of course, he also continued his trend of missing games due to injury. On the other side, Ja’Wuan James was absolutely horrible early in the season but ended the year playing much better. The team resigned Sam Young as depth at the end of the season, but he’s strictly a depth player. For all of those reasons, I believe it would be wise to invest a mid-round pick in a tackle to develop. If he develops quickly, then your future is set with Tunsil at LT, and James and the rookie battling for RT and providing quality depth.

OG: If the team does indeed decide to stick with Albert, then Laremy Tunsil is a solid OG who provides valuable insurance at LT. But who provides insurance at guard? Jermon Bushrod was an adequate pass blocker at RG but an absolute failure as a run blocker. And at his age, he does not represent the future. Backups Anthony Steen and Craig Urbik were exposed in their extended looks this year. This is one position that warrants serious attention in the offseason. Again. Between free agency and the draft, we need to bring two players with starting potential with the seemingly inevitable injury to Albert in mind. Overall, quality depth on the offensive line is an ongoing trouble spot for our team for some reason.

C: Another dilemma. Mike Pouncey is one of the best players on the offense. He’s also an alpha male who Gase seems to trust. He’s an elite talent who is under contract. He’s not going anywhere. But we need quality depth here, too.

Overall, when you take a look at the offensive roster, the so called “skill positions” are set, both in starters and depth, unless the team is unable to re-sign Stills. That is a luxury, and a much better situation than most fans would have guessed at the start of the season. The line needs at least one starter at guard and depth everywhere. This must be addressed in the offseason, but the good news is that in spite of recent history, that is very much do-able. That’s a good thing, too, because when I look at the defense next week, it’s going to be a very different story.

Right now our lego robot has most of its pieces in place on offense. On defense….

Well, let’s just say it’s going to cost more than $349.99 at Walmart to fix this puppy.

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, blogWow, this is the first time I think I've ever started a blog about the playoffs. Even after watching New England punch Miami in the gut last Sunday I'm in a darn good mood about this team and its future. Let's get down to business. The Dolphins travel to Pittsburgh today for a 1 PM game. The Steelers are currently -10 with a 47 O/U.

Will Ryan Tannehill play? No.If Tannehill can't use his mobility then its pointless to have him risk further injury to his knee.

I was watching the game last Sunday with a buddy (of course a Pats fan) and he commented on Matt Moore throwing a lot to the running backs. And its true, Moore always wants the big play but is smart enough to know his limitations. His deep ball is great but he lacks the zip to effectively use the intermediate routes. If he starts on Sunday, and I suspect he will, I'm hoping they use a lot of play action deep shots with a healthy does of Jay Ajayi to set it up.

The good news about playing the Steelers is their defensive weakness plays right into Miami's hands. Their front seven struggles almost as badly as Miami when it comes to stopping the run. Ajayi had his breakout 200 yard game against them back in October and if he's healthy he'll be getting 20 plus carries. Pittsburgh allowed 100 YPG, 15 TDs, and a 4.3 YPC. If I'm Gase its an all out assault on that front seven with Ajayi, Drake and Williams. Have Matt Moore throw no more than 25 passes and stick to crossing routes, play action deep shots and dump offs to the backs. I like Moore's aggressiveness but each game he's thrown a really bad pick while trying to do too much. Gase needs to prevent the extra adrenaline from making Moore drift into reckless territory.

Make no mistake, the Steelers are going to score points. In fact, I think this has all of the ingredients to cook up the same game we saw against Buffalo two weeks ago. Two struggling defenses getting railroaded by their opponents. In October Miami was able to hold Le'Veon Bell in check while forcing Ben Roethlisberger to play sloppy, turnover style football. I can't imagine that happens again in Pittsburgh on their turf. Unfortunately I think its the only way Miami wins because if Bell runs wild and Antonio Brown finds mismatches in coverage...ugh, I don't even want to think about it. Pittsburgh has scored 30 plus points in five of their final six games.

Call it a hunch, maybe blind optimism or even levels of homerism only Finesse can conjure up but I like the Dolphins' chances. We're still waiting on some injury news so things could change, but Miami is getting zero love from the media and the players have taken notice. Bobby McCain was downright livid that Miami is a heavy underdog after beating the Steelers already. The Baltimore loss lit a fire under the team and I'm hoping the results against the Pats do the same for next week. I'm going with the upset special courtesy of things like a special teams TDs, a Roethlisberger brain fart, bad penalties, etc. Just not a standard football game.

Miami 31

Pittsburgh 27

Happy New Year Phinfever!

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