The season came to an end for Miami last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens 27-9 in the wildcard playoff game, but it does not dampen a record setting turnaround for this franchise. Just one year ago this was a 1-15 team with an old roster and no hope at the end of the season, and one year later with a change in regime the Dolphins end the 2008 year AFC East Champions with an 11-5 record and the 6th youngest team in the NFL.
I have no problem admitting that I would have been happy just to see progress with this team and win 4-5 games, with 8-8 being a miraculous season. But this regime came in and bought an attitude change to this team as well as a major turnover in talent via smart moves in free agency and a very good draft. One of the biggest moves was the gift provided by the New York Jets when they traded for Brett Farve and cut Chad Pennington. Pennington bought stability, dedication & intelligence to the position of QB for Miami and a much needed leader. He is a guy that also does not mind serving as a mentor to the man that will be his successor, Chad Henne. Henne needs to soak up as much knowledge from Pennington as he can.
A similar move on the defensive side was the addition of Jason Ferguson, a tough, veteran NG that bought the same type of stability to the defensive side of the ball. In a 3-4 defense one of the most important positions is the NG position. If he cannot hold the point of attack against double teams, you get gouged in the run game. Miami went from 32nd in the NFL in 2007, which was dead last against the run to 11th against the run this season, and Ferguson was a huge part of the improvement.
That being said, it is time to start the next step of the rebuilding process. While Miami had a miraculous turnaround, it was very obvious in the games against the Ravens and the Patriots in the 2nd game that Miami still needs to upgrade there talent level. Once again, Miami will need to be smart in free agency as they last year and have another solid draft.
The most important thing I believes needs to be addressed is the interior OL. Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas will be back next year and you hope they can provide answers to the question at the OG position, but you still need quality depth and guys that can challange for starting positions. At the C position, Samson Satele may not be the answer as there were many times were I saw Samson getting manhandled by bigger NG/DTand Miami is in a division that features Kris Jenkins and Vince Woolfolk along with Marcus Stroud. Al Johnson could be the answer, but we don't know that for sure, and there also the possiblity of needing to bring in a RT if Vernon Carey is not resigned.
Next up is a premium pass rusher to join Joey Porter. Miami had 40 sacks as a team and Joey Porter had 17.5 of those 40 sacks. The Dolphins had to resort to a lot of blitzing to create pressure and in some cases still were not able to accomplish that. Continue to add to your DL depth and find DL that can provide push up the middle and compress the pocket during passing downs as well.
Up next is a big, physical play making WR. Miami found some nice pieces for the WR corps in Greg Camarillo & Devon Bess, guys that are very good route runners with reliable hands and dependable. Ted Ginn is still a work in progress and you did see improvement in Ginn's game this year. That being said, Ted has still got a ways to go and is not a #1 WR. I am going to put a name out there and though nothing may materialize, the Anquan Boldin situation merits monitoring to see what happens in Arizona. Boldin is everything you could want in a #1 type of WR and he is still a young player that is in his prime. Add Anquan to the current WR corp and all of a sudden your group takes a quantum leap.
Finally, but just as important, we get to the LB corp and secondary. Channing Crowder is a free agent and wants to get paid and while I think Crowder is a good player, I don't know that Channing is a player of the level that he will no doubt want to be paid. Matt Roth is a high motor, high effort guy that will give you all he has but he is limited and provided only 5.5 sacks on the other side of Joey Porter. You have got provide more pressure than that when you are getting one on one matchups.
In regards to the secondary, Will Allen was solid on one side and after some struggles early in the season Andre Goodman played some very good football and had lead the team with 5 interceptions. Both of these guys are 30 or older though, so some young CB's will need to be bought in. At the safety position you have Yeremiah Bell coming off a very solid season leading the team in tackles and got better during the year in pass coverage. He is also a free agent and wants a substantial raise in pay, but this is Bell's 1st season in a while that he was able to make it thru a season healthy and he is also 30 or older, so this will be a decision that will have to be made. At the other safety position, you have Renaldo Hill and Hill is a guy that I do believes needs to be looked at hard as someone that needs to be replaced. Yes, he came in a stablized the secondary after the release of Chris Crocker, but he is a terrible tackler and it showed on many, many occasions.
Miami is heading in the right direction. Time to start Phase II of the rebuilding process.
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