In two days the Miami Dolphins will face the Cleveland Browns in their third attempt of 2011 to notch a victory. The Browns may be without RB Peyton Hillis who was missing from practice today with an undisclosed illness. We will let you know if we find anything out.
The fact that Miami is still searching for a win two games into the season is really nothing new. In 2008 the team started 0-2 before rolling out the Wild Cat. In 2009 on their way to a 7-9 record they started 0-2. Last year they started 2-0 only to finish 7-9 once again. Where they will end up this year is anyone’s guess but many predict a 3 or 4 win season.
So what is the problem with these Miami Dolphins? Many have been in the Tony Sparano system for 4 years now. Those that haven’t seemed to have a connection to Tony in Dallas. So what gives? Why can’t this team seem to find a way to turn the corner? Well, in my opinion…it’s too many acorns and not enough budding trees.
The Miami Dolphins under Sparano and Jeff Ireland have yet to develop a single star on their roster. While Jake Long is most assuredly a star, he doesn’t touch the ball and he doesn’t play defense. Brandon Marshall does touch the ball but too many problem areas on the rest of the offense renders him average. Defensively, Karlos Dansby is supposed to be a stud middle linebacker but thus far in his two seasons with the Dolphins, he has not lived up to the expectations.
The real meat of what Jeff Ireland has brought to Miami lies with Vontae’ Davis and Sean Smith. Both are could easily become major impact players but still are struggling at times…despite Davis’ proclamations to the contrary. While Daniel Thomas and Mike Pouncey could become studs at their position, it’s simply too early to tell.
The reality is that those “stars” account for 7 players on a 53 man roster. While no team is going to be stacked across the board, the Dolphins are stacked with good to better than average players who need lean more towards support players than leaders or play makers.
Consider the defensive line. Kendall Langford, Jared Odrick, Phillip Merling, Randy Starks, Paul Soliai, Tony McDaniel, and even the recently signed Igor Olshansky are all solid but not stars. Teams need a good portion of their rosters to be “team” players and not individuals, but for Ireland and Sparano, too many average to above average players doesn’t equate to winning.
One of those reasons is that these players don’t know how to win. Only a handful of players come from a winning program in the NFL and we know that the Dolphins are not one of them. Knowing how to win allows a player to understand what going that extra mile means. It allows him to take a lead role and teach the others about those little things that you do to change a game from a loss to a win.
Ireland and Sparano have turned much of the roster over year after year. This year there was less turnover in years past but the players brought in were not brought in to lead. If we use Kevin Burnett as an example we will see the team looked at Burnett as a better, cheaper, and younger option than Channing Crowder. Maybe so but Burnett is not going to push the defense to be a better unit. He is going to do his job and so long as those around him are doing theirs he will have success.
And that is where the problem, in my opinion lies. Too many acorns.
Ireland thought that signing Reggie Bush would make the team more dynamic. It does. The failure to address the offensive line issues however make the signing of Reggie Bush an afterthought. Bush isn’t a bruising runner and without an oline that can open up holes, Bush isn’t going to go anywhere but outside. Daniel Thomas on the other hand is a bulldozer runner but again, without an Oline it doesn’t matter.
Rather than spend some money and upgrade the line, Ireland spent the money on competition. Competition in some areas of your team are needed. Quarterback for example. When you bring in someone to compete against players you don’t feel are worth starting, then you are replacing them with the same level of player in that competition. You either bring in a starter or you bring in depth. The Dolphins have spent a lot of money on depth when bringing in a starter would have created depth automatically.
The term “play maker” gets thrown around a lot. For the Dolphins we are still waiting to see if any of the teams draft picks will become a play maker or simply keep the status quo and add depth to the roster with better than average players. Or even average players for that matter. We still wait to see Koa Misi make an impact, we still wait to see if Chris Clemons can handle the FS job. Is Brian Hartline a legit number 2 or is he simply a solid option to be that third or fourth WR? Davone Bess is a star in the making but can you ever see him have the kind of value that would make him a fantasy football draft pick? Not likely.
This isn’t fantasy football and Davone Bess contributes to this team in many ways. As a singular person he really adds little to the team but he adds a ton when you view the roster as a whole. Then however you are comparing him to everyone else…which makes him look that much more appealing. I’m not saying Bess is not a good player. He is. He is a very valuable piece to this puzzle and there this team lacks many of those kinds of pieces.
I suppose one way to look at the problem with the Miami Dolphins is asking a simple question. Who are they building the team around? Not Marshall, Bess, or Hartline. Not Taylor, Dansby, or Davis. Surely not Chad Henne. So who then?
The answer? Simple. They aren’t and haven’t in a very long time. And that is the bigger problem.