Last Friday, the Miami Dolphins lost their third game of the preseason against the Atlanta Falcons 23-6. The Dolphins first team defense played very well holding the Falcons’ high powered first team offense to just three field goals in the first half — without Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and Tony McDaniel. On offense, the Dolphins finally showed off their running game — and, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas looked good behind an offensive line that opened some decent holes. However, the Dolphins’ passing attack was a different story.
Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill was just 11 for 27 passing for 112 yards with no TDs, 1 INT, and 1 sack. The Dolphins started Legedu Naanee and Marlon Moore at WRs with Anthony Fasano at TE. Devone Bess played well coming in as the slot receiver catching 4 passes for 59 yards (14.8 yards per catch). But, the aforementioned starting trio did not help Tannehill much — they only caught three passes and dropped seven — two, two, and three passes, respectively. Seven more completed passes would have given Tannehill 18 for 27 passing, more yardage, and at least one TD pass — much more respectable.
Tannehill, along with many Dolphans, must be saying at this point — “Can we PLEASE find some Dolphins’ WRs who can actually catch the ball?” Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that at the top of the job description for an NFL wide receiver — catch the ball when it is passed to you? The Miami case of the dropsies must be driving Coach Joe Philbin and his coaching staff up the Hard Knocks walls! They must be wondering if there isn’t something in the Miami water.
So, who is to blame for this mess and what to do about it? I think the first finger needs to be pointed at Jeff Ireland. The primary responsibility for an NFL General Manager is to acquire players which make his football team better. In fact, Ireland said himself during the recent 2012 NFL Draft that it was his job to find players for Coach Philbin. And, the players he has found can’t seem to catch the football — they don’t meet the primary job description. They can’t seem to get open consistently, either.
Look, over the weekend, Jeff Ireland traded Vonte Davis to the Colts for a 2013 second round draft pick plus a conditional sixth round pick. Many in the media are critical of Irleand for that decision. I am not. Last season under Coach Tony Sparano, Davis missed 6 games due to a hamstring injury because of not being in condition when he came to camp. And then, he got suspended for a game after coming to practice hungover. This season under Coach Joe Philbin, he came to camp again out of shape and acted like a spoiled teenager on Hard Knocks — he got demoted to the second team. He got burned in the Bucs preseason game by a second string WR. He let Steve Smith get into his head in the Carolina game and got into a helmet clenching shoving match resulting in a 15 yard penalty. Lastly, he committed a silly interference penalty in the Falcons game grabbing the shirt of a WR and shrugging him off so he could step in front to make a pick six. In the end, the Dolphins got a 2nd round pick for problem player. I say good move and good riddens!
On the other hand, Ireland can’t seem to acquire a WR, if his job depended on it … and, it just might. In 2011, he drafted speedster WR Clyde Gates in the 4th round and TE Charles Clay in the 6th round. Okay, I get it … Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll wanted a deep threat and Head Coach Tony Sparano wanted the second coming of Jason Witten. But now, these receivers don’t seem to fit well into the West Coast Offense of Joe Philbin. In 2012, Ireland waited until the sixth round to draft B.J. Cunningham, and then Rashard Matthews in the seventh round. And now, these guys are just not making the grade. Okay, I get it … Ireland’s scouts were looking for WRs last NCAA season when Sparano and Daboll were still in charge and the offense was different. But, whether you’re picking for a Sparano or Philin offense, the job description still has at the top of the list to catch the damn ball!
Here is where I really fault Jeff Ireland. Entering into the 2012 NFL Draft, Ireland had just traded Brandon Marshall for 2012 and 2013 third round draft picks. WR was definitely a position of need. What did Ireland do with the 2012 third round pick? With T.Y. Hilton (Florida International) available, Ireland selected a TE. Did the Dolphins really need a TE more than a WR with Fasano and Clay already on the roster AND after using a 2011 draft pick on a TE? NO! Now, Hilton has 9 receptions for 116 yards and 1 TD in the preseason for the Colts — that is more receptions than any Dolphin in the preseason. And, the Dolphins 3rd round pick TE Michael Egnew is struggling — big time — and may be relegated to the practice squad.
Additionally, what did the Dolphins do in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft? With plenty of WR prospects available, Ireland traded up to select a RB. Did the Dolphins really need a RB more than a WR with Bush and Thomas already on the roster AND after using a 2011 2nd round pick on a RB? NO!
Furthermore, what did the Dolphins do in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft? With some WR prospects still available, Ireland selected a LB. Did the Dolphins really need a LB more than a WR after switching from a 4 LB (3-4) to a 3 LB (4-3) defense and having a glut of LBs already on the roster? NO!
2012 fourth and fifth round picks Lamar Miller and Josh Kaddu are now mere 3rd team players. Whereas, fourth round WR picks like Keshawn Marshall and Nick Toon are second team players for the Texans and Saints, respectively.
I get the THEORY to pick the best available player on the draft board. But, I personally think that is a bunch of BS. When you are really hurting at a given position, I think you need to trash the conventional Parcellian wisdom. Ireland should have used the 3rd and 5th round picks on WRs. Then used the 6th and 7th round picks on a TE and LB. I think one has to set his priorities.
Besides, people talk about “the best player available” like the “draft board” is an exact science or a crystal ball. If that was the case, then please explain to me why second round pick Patrick Turner was a bust and undrafted Davone Bess is Pro-Bowl caliber. Furthermore, please note it was the Texans and Saints that were 2011 playoff teams choosing WRs in the fourth round, who are now 2nd stingers, after the Dolphins selected a RB who this year was never really going to be more than a 3rd stringer. Who was the one who put the Dolphins draft board together any way? Oh yes, that’s right, it was Jeff Ireland.
Ireland has also not had much success in acquiring free agents to fill the WR position. Prior to 2012, Ireland has had failures like Tab Perry, David Kircus, Ernest Wilford, and John Matthews. Plus, the roller coaster ride with Brandon Marshall. So, in 2012 with a need for a veteran WR, Ireland acquired Naanee (who can’t seem to get open and lately has come down with the dropsies) and Chad Johnson (who flamed out on National TV). I cannot believe that Naanee and Johnson were the best the Dolphins could do to improve the WR corp. While watching the Redskins versus the Colts on Saturday, I saw T.Y. Hilton and thought about how good he would look in a Dolphins’ uniform. I also saw Reggie Wayne — boy, he looked good. Do you remember a few months ago when he wanted to be in Miami? Yes, I know that it was discussed as part of the possibility of Peyton Manning coming to Miami. But, why didn’t the Dolphins pursue Florida-native Wayne even after Manning fell through? Wouldn’t Wayne look real good catching passes from Tannehill, as well as providing veteran experience to the rookie QB and to some of the young WRs?
When it comes to picking WRs, Jeff Ireland is looking like a draft and free agent bust!
I hope the Dolphins don’t plan to give up on this season. The defense looks good, even without Vonte Davis. The running game has potential. And, Ryan Tannehill looks promising. The rookie QB just needs some WRs who can get open and catch the ball. I hope the Dolphins consider going out and finding a veteran WR to add to the roster — like, immediately. I can even give a job description — it is not complicated:
Immediate Opening for a veteran NFL WR of high character, intelligence and humility — prima donnas need not apply. Must have demonstrated ability to consistently catch the football, demonstrated ability to get open in press coverage, experience in playing in a West Coast offense, ability to mentor young WRs, willingness to work with a rookie QB, and ability to behave on a nationally televised reality show. Must have at least 4 years of NFL experience playing preferably for one NFL team and playing in at least 90% of their career games without getting into any off-field troubles. Playoff experience desired. Physical, drug test, and criminal background check required for employment. 2nd and/or 3rd round draft picks are available for compensation to teams with players currently under contract — 1st round pick for a superstar with low salary demands. Agents and NFL General Managers can contact Jeff Ireland, Miami Dolphins, an Equal Opportunity Employer.
So, Jeff Ireland … C’MON MAN. Get on with this search immediately — you got plenty of draft picks to play with and the season clock is ticking! Time to show Dolphans that you are up to the job!
And, by the way, could someone please ask Joe Philbin to play Chris Hogan with the first team on Wednesday against the Cowboys? Some of us Dolphans would love to see whether he has got the stuff or not. Besides, he can’t do any worse than those in front of him and it can’t hurt to try him out.
What do you think? Should the Dolphins go out and get a veteran WR now or give up on the season and just wait until the 2013 NFL Draft?
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