Fans thought for sure this year would be an overnight success. First the season started out predictable and had the team not gone on a three game tear most fans would be quite comfortable with where the team was at. Imagine the same record but change the wins and losses. Fans love to play the “what if” card so play it.
What if the Dolphins had lost to Cincinnati and the Jets in round 2? Would you have been surprised if they lost to them but beat Indy and Tennessee? Of course not. You expected them to beat the latter but most not the former. Looking back the Dolphins play raised a lot of hopes for a fan base desperate for an immediate turn around. Despite the fact they had a rookie HC, a rookie QB, and not a single legit number one WR.
Most predicted the Dolphins would be lucky to be 4-6 at this juncture of the season but the fact they did reel off three wins and then three ugly losses comes as a shock. And while that is not o.k. (the losing) it does show that they are the team we all thought they would be. A team with a lot of work ahead of them. A work in progress.
The Dolphins however are not like most teams right now. Say what you will about Jeff Ireland but he has put this team into a position that should build for the future. The Dolphins spent almost no money in free agency this year outside of signing some of their own. They currently stand to have the most cap space of any NFL team next for next seasons free agency.
Fans want to point out that Ireland failed this year with his FA signings and to a degree that is true. The thing is Ireland never bought the team high profile bets to fix the team. He brought in parts and players who were cheap and cost efficient. In other words he didn’t overspend on a team that was, for all intent and purposes, going to struggle for victories. Knowing of course that the following year put the team in better position.
Ireland also moved two players and because of his off-season moves, the Dolphins will now enter the 2013 draft season with more picks than any other team. Ireland has 1 in round 1, two in round 2, and 3 in round 3. It’s likely he isn’t done yet. Most fans don’t have a lot of faith in Ireland and that may be founded, unfounded, or simply clouded judgement but the truth is Ireland will likely remain moving forward. What he does with the money he has to spend and the draft picks he can use will either turn this team into a powerhouse in a couple of years or slide the team backwards, further into the abyss they are trying to swim out of.
The good news is that the Dolphins are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and despite the last two weeks of poor play, they have some key players that are beginning to improve. If they can continue to develop, a leader or two may emerge. The first name that comes to mind is safety Reshad Jones who is making people forget Yeremiah Bell.
Jones has improved tremendously since coming to Miami. He is all over the field and over the last two games has sparked many comments regarding his effort. The same can not be said about an inside LB named Karlos Dansby.
Dansby has been playing with an injured elbow and since he says that the elbow won’t be an excuse, I won’t use it as one either. Dansby may have certain limitations do to his injury but his lack of enthusiasm and leadership is very questionable. Nowhere is Dansby standing out front lifting those around him. Instead, he is feeding off them to make plays instead. Dansby should be the vocal and physical leader on the field and thus far, I haven’t seen it.
The Dolphins will have a lot of off-season decisions and none will be more difficult that what to do with Jake Long at left tackle. Long has been largely pedestrian this year and is nowhere close to the form he was in two seasons ago. Shoulder injuries are starting to take a toll on the perennial Pro-Bowler. Something he does not deserve again this year.
The Dolphins are indeed a work in progress and the parts are as great as the whole. It’s a matter of where the missing parts are that will change this team around. For now, the good news is that younger guys are getting their crack at the field and that will give the coaches and the GM something to look at for next season when they start asking who can step up and get better. Until then, all we can do is wait.