I was seated comfortably on the couch, potato chips in hand, watching last Sunday’s debacle versus the Patriots when I saw and heard something that nearly had me coughing up cheese and sour cream – Dan Dierdorf was saying some really nice things about the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line! I couldn’t believe my ears. This unit that was rebuilt from scratch in the offseason suddenly garnered some praise from somebody…ANYBODY!! I knew it couldn’t be true but it was. So, how is it that a team with a young and improving offensive line could possibly be 0-7? Well, we’ve already covered the defense and their issues. But the problems don’t stop there. So, it’s time to Flip That Offense!
LT – This was my biggest concern coming into the season – how would Vernon Carey handle the move to left tackle? He’s actually been fairly solid considering that his natural position is guard. I’d have to rate his play as one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. His backup, Cory Lekkerkerker, is glued to the pine and probably won’t see any time on the field. Really, who knows anything about this guy anyway? Fix? I’d like to see the team take a shot at a tackle in the draft and allow Carey to move back inside but it’s not a necessary change if he continues to improve. There may be no fix necessary if his play continues.
LG – Chris Liwienski has manned this position much better than I anticipated after being signed as almost an after thought this offseason. Funny, even though he was battling rookie Drew Mormino for this spot, the rook isn’t listed on the team’s official depth chart. Still, no matter how things look now, I just can’t get a warm fuzzy about this spot unless Mormino steps it up and wrestles this spot away. Late round pick anyone?
C – I’m ready to declare Samson Satele the Dolphins’ best draft pick for 2007 and one of the league’s surprise rookies for this year. He’s handled himself and the line calls extremely well for a first-year player. Sure, there have been growing pains but if he can keep this up, the team is set for the long haul. Yet, why is no one listed as the backup on the depth chart?
RG – Talk about shock and awe!!! Rex Hadnot has played well. His move from center to guard has worked well and now I can speak words that I have yet to utter…good job, Hudson Houck! Again, an OL position manned by a young player who could (or maybe should) be with the team long-term. The backup, Gene Mruczkowski? Does anybody really know? Unless the team makes a move for depth at this position, no changes are needed.
RT – This is easily the weakest position on the OL. L.J. Shelton has been in and out of the doghouse under both Nick Saban and Cam Cameron. Weight issues were cited when the team pulled him from the lineup during the summer but he’s battled back. Yet, I just can’t see him with the team past this season. That may leave this position to Anthony Alabi, a young, unproven player who will have a lot to prove provided that Shelton leaves the team. This may be a position that gets a long look either during the draft or free agency.
TE – If the Dolphins hadn’t signed Joey Porter or made the trade for Trent Green, David Martin would have been the team’s biggest offseason acquisition. The much-hyped release of Randy McMichael isn’t looking so good if the Dolphins are expecting Martin to be the answer. Martin has managed only 15 catches this season and certainly doesn’t look like the player we all thought or were told he was. His backup, Justin Peelle, has looked solid at times with 11 catches while matching Martin’s total of 2 TD’s. It would be nice to employ a guy at this spot that could make us all think of Antonio Gates but there are simply too many holes for the team to fill to put a lot of emphasis on upgrading at TE during the offseason.
WR – WHEW! What a surprise! When the team dealt Chris Chambers a couple of weeks ago, my first thought was that it was about time. My second thought was that Randy Mueller and Cam Cameron must have huge cajones to do it no matter how good the move was. I still believe that the Overrated One, no matter how nice he is, simply needed to go. Chambers is a number two WR at best in number one WR clothing.
This position could actually prove to be one of the biggest areas of need on this team. Chambers is gone leaving the (sorry gotta be honest here) number two WR spot open. The team is giving rookie Ted Ginn, Jr. a shot at WR. I’ve been on record saying that I didn’t like this pick. In fact, I hated it. But if Ginn can show some promise throughout the remainder of the season, I’ll relent…a little. If he can pick up the offense and show us something, then it’s possible that at least one WR spot is settled.
The rumored trade of Marty Booker never materialized. And it sounds aweful but it looks like the team is stuck with him for this season. He’s been a good possession receiver but little more. While it might be nice to see him back in a ‘Phins’ uniform in ’08 as veteran depth there’s little chance of that happening due to his salary and age.
This position may see a tremendous amount of change in the next year. There are two positions to fill and the depth isn’t exactly world class. Greg Camarillo, Kerry Reed, and Derek Hagan round out the group. It would be nearly criminal if the team didn’t take a long hard look at the WR’s and make wholesale changes in the upcoming offseason. If the push to get younger has truly started, watch the early rounds of the draft in ’08.
RB – Just when things were going well…BAM!!! Ronnie Brown is either going to mend and come back next year with a vengeance or he’ll become one of the tragic figures in team history. Something clicked this year for Brown only to see him lost for the year. The one consolation is that the injury was to only one ligament. We have to hope that he can recover quickly and make it back.
The other RB’s aren’t half bad, actually. Jesse Chatman has played well at times and we’ll know a whole lot more about him by season’s end. His backfield mate, Patrick Cobbs, appears to be a good enough backup after what we saw during the preseason but he’s not really the player I want to see. I have waited for weeks to see Lorenzo Booker and that shiftiness that Channing Crowder said he possessed that would make him so dangerous….and IT’S ABOUT TIME!!!!!! Where has he been? Is he really as good as he appeared to be in camp? Is he having trouble learning the playbook as some rumors suggest? The answer to those questions will be received over the final 9 games provided that Cameron will actually play the guy.
The real question at RB is with Ronnie Brown. If he’s healthy next year, there’s no reason to make any significant changes. If not, don’t choke on your favorite snack next April if the commissioner calls out Darren McFadden’s name when the Dolphins’ draft card is sent to the podium.
FB – Reagan Mauia is the only player listed here. He wound up being the player who ended Corey Schlesinger’s run in the NFL. Is he that good? He’s impressed the coaches thus far and has sure flattened a few defenders. Unless depth is added, I don’t expect the team to make a move here.
QB – Win or lose, this is the most critical position on any team. The argument will continue to rage that Trent Green wasn’t the answer. The truth is that Green was just brought in to be the caretaker until John Beck was ready. And I agree with bringing him in to help get Beck ready. He may not be on the field but he can still help to groom the kid. The same can be said of Cleo Lemon who is most likely only starting because of the loss of Green and the lack of experience for Beck. If Beck can show something when he gets on the field during this lost season, the position may be set. But if Mueller remains the GM, it’s almost a certainty that a QB will be taken during the draft. It is, afterall, his mantra.
The offense has looked fairly efficient at times this season. They simply don’t have the fire power to compete. There is much work to be done here, especially if the youth movement is to continue and there’s no better time than the present to Flip That Offense!