Jeff Ireland, Stephen Ross, and Joe Philbin are looking at this season as win it all type of year. Speculation on Stephen Ross’ future as the owner of the team doesn’t expand far beyond this season and CEO Mike Dee eluded to a possible sale of the team depending on what happens this season.
Jeff Ireland has been on the media hot seat for several years now and his spending spree in free agency and his draft moves have made the target much bigger. Philbin is only entering his second season and indications are that he will be a good NFL head coach. But time isn’t on his side. He still has to develop his players. If Jeff Ireland goes there is a good chance Philbin will follow. If Ross goes, they all go.
The key to this season which is marked by one of the toughest schedules in the NFL is not the additional pieces Ireland has added. Mike Wallace is a part of the motor. Ryan Tannehill is a part of that motor. As are Wheeler, Ellerbe, Wake, Clabo, Keller, and all the other players on the team. The key is how quickly they can become, a team.
It often takes new additions to a team months to get comfortable with those around them. Personality clashes, ego’s, and even judgement. Add to that the stress and strain of camp battles, veterans losing roster spots to rookies, and you have a mixture in boiling cauldron waiting to boil over. Joe Philbin needs to keep stirring it to prevent it from happening.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment is timing. How fast a player is equates to how soon to throw a ball or how late. If a player runs a route or tracks the ball as a defender his teammates need to know where he will be in their same route or pursuit. It takes time to get that nailed down. Far more than a few two-a-day practices.
Bonding needs to happen quickly. You have to know that if you are out of position, your teammate has your back. If you miss a block, someone will pick it up. You have to know that the guy next to you sees the same thing you see and will react the same way as well.
It’s hard to make these adjustments when you have one or two new key additions. The Dolphins have many. Consider they will have a new outside WR and new inside one. They will have a new TE and a new starting RB as well as a new full time LT and a new RT. Defensively they will have new LB’s, new CB’s, and a new DE. It truly is an overhaul.
On the upside, the Dolphins have kept their core strengths intact. Lamar Miller may be the new RB but he was here in the system last year. As was Brian Hartline and while Jonathan Martin is moving to LT he finished the season there last year. Defensively the safeties stay the same as does the defensive front line.
This teams season does not rest in a poor schedule or even on the ability of Ryan Tannehill to progress. It relies on the ability of this team to, once again, become a team. If they can enter the season focused as a whole they could do some damage this season. They have the talent on paper and many of these free agent additions have proven themselves to be capable at playing highly at this level.
Somewhere this team needs leaders and those leaders need to step up. Offensively it has to be Tannehill. Defensively it needs to be Reshad Jones in the secondary and Cam Wake needs to become a leader instead of just a sack artist. Jason Taylor was a leader and the Dolphins have not replaced that.