Jeff Ireland, a name that has been damned throughout Dolphin nation since 2009 (I do not include 2008 because the team ran through Bill Parcells). Even though it is easy to see Ireland has made some questionable moves in the last few years, It is too early for all these “Fireland” chants. He has had four drafts and this is a statement year. Depending on how the success of the Dolphins will reflect the success of Ireland.
Ireland’s first draft in 2009 included names like Vontae Davis in the first round, Pat White in the second, Sean Smith in the third, Brian Hartline in the fourth and Chris Clemons in the fifth. Vontae showed signs of being an elite corner but at the beginning of his career. We all know how that ended with Vontae being traded to the Colts at the beginning of the season for a second round pick. Right now that is looking like a good choice seeing how Davis has had a sub-par year for the Colts. Pat White was a “one and done”, moving on to baseball after being knocked out week 17 against the Steelers. The other three have become key members of this Miami Dolphin team, Brian Hartline being the surprise of the league, leading the league in receiving yards through week five. Sean Smith has also been shutting down Pro-bowl wide receivers like A.J. Green and Larry Fitzgerald looking very impressive this year; of course the same could be said about Chris Clemons, coming into his own at free safety.
In 2010 Ireland found a few diamonds in the rough, like Cameron Wake from the CFL who has become a sack machine for the Dolphins since he has arrived, with 6.5 sacks through the first 6 games this year. Wake is the same big play threat since he joined the Dolphins. Another diamond was undrafted Devone Bess who has become any Dolphin’s favorite target being a 3rd down machine. This draft could be called one of Ireland’s drafts, In the first round he picked the big defensive end out of Penn State, Jared Odrick, who even though was hurt his entire first year is finally starting to become the a strong end to play on the opposite side of Wake. In the second round Koa Misi was picked. Up until this year fans were upset by this pick because Misi was not developing well, but this year he has fit quite nicely in the Dolphins new 4-3 defense. The same could be said about John Jerry who also looked like a bust for the first two years of his career, but this year it was seen on “Hard Knocks” that he was worked hard to become the player the team always assumed he would be. This year he has been a pleasant surprise on the right side of the Dolphins O-line. Nolan Carroll was drafted in the fifth round. At his name, most fans can recall how he was torched by Tom Brady in week one last year. But this year as Richard Marshell has been hurt he has been successful as a 2nd corner, or a nickel corner when Marshall was healthy. Finally in the sixth round Ireland picked Reshad Jones, who looks like he has become a big surprise. After week five Pro Football focus had him the number 1 safety in the NFL. This is huge seeing how Jones has been great against the run and a very stable part of this great Dolphins D. Also the Dolphins added Karlos Dansby to be the centerpiece of this defense who is finally also becoming what Ireland thought he was getting when signing him to a huge contract just two years ago. The biggest move of the year, though, was sending two second round picks to Denver for star wide receiver Brandon Marshall who quickly become a locker room distraction. After two years with Marshall they sent him to Chicago for two third rounders. This is were the fans have had a problem with Ireland, He may have cut his losses and had nothing up his sleeve to counter losing such a big name with no one to replace him.
2011 was started by drafting the big center out of Florida, Mike Pouncey, who after a inconsistent first year, has also come into his own. After week six of this season he is the #1 ranked center in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus. With the second round pick Daniel Thomas was chosen who still remains to be a big question mark. He has shown signs of being the big back Ireland was looking for, but has also had trouble holding onto the ball, and already has two concussions through the first six weeks of the season which could become a problem. The fourth round pick went to speedster Edmond Gates who had the potential to be a Mike Wallace big play wide receiver that just never panned out, he was cut in the beginning of this season. In the 6th round Tight End Charles Clay was picked, someone who I think can become a star in this league. He has shown signs of greatness but also has had mental breakdowns, like drop balls and has recent as last week running out of bounds when trying to burn the clock. In the 7th round Jimmy Wilson was picked, he is another player who I think in a couple years can be a play maker but only time will tell how he pans out. The Dolphins also signed Kevin Burnett to share the middle linebacker position with Dansby, who also did not seem like a good choice at first, Burnett was slow and didn’t look too good. But this year he has been another big part of the Dolphins front seven. The dolphins also took a shot in the dark signing Reggie Bush to a two year 5 million dollar deal who has become a huge play maker for the dolphins, proving everyone around the league he could be an every down running back.
That brings us to 2012 which in my eyes is Ireland’s judgment year. Ireland picked the Athletic QB Ryan Tannehill out of Texas A&M who wasn’t viewed as a top ten pick. Ireland went all in with Tannehill and so far I think I can say for all Dolphin fans, that this team has been a pleasant surprise being exactly what the Dolphins were trying to find since Marino retired in 1999. In the second round Ireland selection Jonathan Martin, a left tackle, who was moved to right tackle to help protect Tannehill, has also done a decent job keeping Tannehill protected, both in and out of the pocket. In the third round Oliver Vernon was picked. Since the preseason Vernon has been making plays whenever he got the chance. He continued that trend this year as recently as last week against the Rams having two huge game changing sacks to lead the Dolphins to the win. Also taken in the third round was Michael Egnew who is yet to play in a game. He was going to be the tall tight-end to run the seem routes but so far has been playing poorly to the point he has not suited up in a game. The final pick from this draft who could have an impact this year is 4th round pick Lamar Miller, a big play running back, who I thought was going to get some carries with Thomas being sidelined with a concussion but that was not so. Miller had a great game against the Raiders week two and since then is averaged about five yards a carry since then. I think I speak for Dolphin Nation when I say we want to see more of this kid.
Throughout the NFL people were projecting the Dolphins to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, unless you are a Dolphin fan. This team has huge potential and could even make the play offs this year. This team is on the move and it is thanks to Ireland. Up until this point I have not been a fan of Ireland to any extent, but finally his plan is starting to come together. I think Ireland’s success is on the shoulders of Tannehill. If he becomes a superstar then this team may be elite within the next three years, but if he turns out to be another Miami QB bust, it may be time for another rebuilding period for the Dolphins under a new GM.