Now that the 2011 NFL Draft has settled in with me a little, I’m starting to like what the Miami Dolphins did. Yes, I was upset they didn’t take a QB, and for a brief second I was even thinking it was going to be Mallett in the third round. Yes, at first I didn’t like trading up to get Thomas in the second round, I thought they gave up to much. I liked the Pouncey pick, the major drop off in the run game last year had a lot to do with the performance of the Line. Pouncey, should immediately improve a line that I think will be better than most. I absolutely loved the Gates pick in the 4th, didn’t really know who Clay was…..and I darn sure didn’t know who the final two picks were in Kearse and Wilson. But I am really starting to like the fact that Ireland and Sparano stuck to their plan.
They have a plan for what they want to put on the field, and I think they are executing that plan pretty well so far. They didn’t budge on their philosophy, even though most of the Dolphin fanbase was screaming for a big splash during the draft. This translates to a GM and Head Coach doing things their way. They know their seats are warm heading into this season, but they also know if they stray from what they have been trying to build over the past 3 years they will fail. They have stuck to their plan, and as long as they win games next year, who cares how flashy or exciting they play. Here’s my take on what we may see next year.
Let’s start with the offense. In 2009 the Miami Dolphins had one of the best running games in the NFL. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams were one of the best running back tandems in the NFL, and the O-Line ranked near the top. When you take a look at the 2010 version of the Miami Dolphin running game, two things really stick out. First, the O-Line was nothing like it was in 2009. Justin Smiley was gone, as was Jake Grove. Nate Garner also missed 2010 with an injury. I don’t care how good a line coach you are, replacing 3 starters on an offensive line takes some time. I don’t see Miami making that many changes this year, and Sparano has said that himself. When you look at all the good lines in the NFL, they have usually played together for a few years. This year John Jerry will be healthy, and have a year under his belt. Richie Incognito played pretty well last year, and I look for him to be better this year. Getting Nate Garner back will be a huge plus, his run blocking was sorely missed last season. Add in Pouncey, who I believe will play well from the start, and the Miami Dolphins line should rank near the top of the NFL. The second thing that stuck out to me was how Brown and Williams both seemed a step or two slower than they were in 2009. Brown tip-toed around a lot, finding holes that closed before he got to them. Williams just didn’t have the speed to get around the edge anymore, and when he ran up the middle holes closed early like they did with Brown. If the Dolphins look to improve in 2011 they have to get some fresh legs, and they did that with their second round pick Daniel Thomas. He isn’t flashy, but he’s a powerful runner. He doesn’t have many miles on his legs either, he’s only been a running back for 2 years. He has his fumbling issues, but I’m hoping the better coaching he’ll get in the NFL will help solve that. I think that fact that GM Jeff Ireland says he likes his play speed says that this guy will hit the holes quick. He catches well, and I think, like Pouncey, he will do well right from the start. Look for Miami to add another back through free agency. Many are saying it will be Deangelo Williams or Darren Sproles. If Miami gets either one, the running game will have improved by leaps and bounds over 2010. If they don’t go after either one, it means that Miami really likes Kory Sheets. Sheets is a speed running back that was in line to earn the return duties last training camp before he got placed on IR with a torn achillies.
My favorite pick of the draft was fourth round pick Edmund Gates. The major thing missing from the Miami Dolphin passing game in 2010 was the deep ball……ah…..deep threat……ah….deep anything! The passing game was just brutal last year. Blame Henne and Henning all you want, I did all season. But not having a speedster or a running game had to have had a bad effect on the passing game last season. Look back to when Miami had Ginn. He drew defenders towards him, even though the highlight of his season was the deep play action pass he caught from Henne against the Jets. Just the fact that he threatened the defense most of the year enabled Henne and the offense to do better. Gates is that missing piece to this passing game. If he takes a defender or two with him down the field, Brandon Marshall will reak havoc over the middle. The lack of someone going over the top of the defense allowed defenders to key in on Marshall. He was tackled way too quickly on most of his catches last season, get him some space and he will make plays.
Now, back to blaming Henne. I really wanted Miami to take a QB somewhere in the draft. Once they passed in the first round, I was really hoping for them to take Greg McElroy in the later rounds. I just think he will be good, he’s smart, and he wins games. Since no QB was taken, Miami has to go after someone in FA, once it starts. As of right now, Henne is the starter, and not much is behind him. Tyler Thigpen is expected to leave once a new CBA is in place and the FA rules are announced, that leaves Tom Brandstarter. If Miami goes into this season with Henne as the starter thats fine, but they have to have a veteran come into camp and give us fans something to look forward to if Henne starts to struggle. With the improvement of the running game, the addition of a speedy WR, and a solid O-Line, Henne will have no excuses. I don’t care who plays QB next season as long as that person wins games, and all the pieces are in place to do that. This offense has no reason to not score next season.
I think another reason this offense will be better for Miami is because they gave new OC Brian Daboll pieces to be successful, much like they did with the then new DC Mike Nolan the draft before. I had my doubts about this hire, but I think it will work. I know the Cleveland offense last year was nothing exciting. They had Hillis and not much else. Their QB situation was worse than Miami’s, and their receivers couldn’t really compare to what Miami had either. What they did do well was gameplan, especially against Miami’s biggest division foes in New England and New York. They completely manhandled the Patriots in New England, and they dominated the Jets in NY as well, even though they came up short of the victory in overtime. Take it how you want, but his less talented offense played well quite frequently last season. Think Ireland and Sparano didn’t notice that last season?
With this draft and some great FA signings, this offense will be better next season, as should the defense. Miami used their last two picks on defense, but they are also getting their first and fourth round picks from last year’s draft back from injury as well. Adding Odrick will make the D-Line even stronger, and Edds should help Miami cover a tight end for once. With another season under the guidance of Mike Nolan, the defense should be one of the best in the NFL. The turnover margin should improve as well, there is no way they will drop as many INT’s in 2011 as they did in 2010.
I think Ireland and Sparano are pretty happy right now with what they are going to put on the field next season. I’m looking forward to it. I think Miami has a chance to be much improved. They will have a nasty defense, and they should be able to impose their will on offense. If they can get some production out of the QB position, and I know that is a big “IF” right now, the 2011 version of the Miami Dolphins should be in the thick of the playoff race at the end of the season, and they are going to do it by sticking to their plan!
Topics: AJ Edds, Brandon Marshall, Brian Daboll, Chad Henne, Cleveland Browns, Dan Henning, Daniel Thomas, Darren Sproles, DeAngelo Williams, Edmund Gates, Frank Kearse, Greg McElroy, Jake Grove, Jared Odrick, Jeff Ireland, Jimmy Wilson, John Jerry, Justin Smiley, Kory Sheets, Miami Dolphins, Mike Nolan, Mike Pouncey, Nate Garner, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Peyton Hillis, Richie Incognito, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Tedd Ginn, Tom Brandstarter, Tony Sparano, Tyler Thigpen