It pains me to write a story that is about a promising future when the immediate present looks so bad. It’s hard to approach anything with a degree of optimism when what you see on the field is so unworldly vanilla. Yet, that is exactly what I am going to do. Attempt to paint a picture that is promising and optimistic in spite of the teams troubles in 2013. Why? Because believe it or not, it’s true.
The Miami Dolphins are heading towards being a great football team. There I said it. The guy in the mirror just snickered and I truly believe my dog rolled over laughing. Regardless I said it and I said it aloud. Say it with me, “The Miami Dolphins are heading towards being a GREAT football team.” Do you feel better or violated? Both is acceptable.
With a three game losing streak under their belt it’s hard to realize what kind of future this team actually has. Look beyond the simple numbers of the teams record and you can begin to see the silhouette of a playoff caliber team. If we jumped back say three months ago we would look at this years schedule as a brutal start to the year. We would have assumed losses to Atlanta, New Orleans, New England, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. We would assume that the Dolphins would or at least could likely start 2 – 5 on the season before kicking it into gear. O.k. even I will admit this has been hashed out to no end and it makes no one feel any better about this team than we felt a week ago.
The Dolphins blew a huge opportunity against the Ravens and a bigger one against the Bills. Who the hell is Thadeus Lewis anyways? Oh yeah, the good news.
Consider this team has been in all but one game this year. The Saints game. Even in that one had it not been for Tannehill mistakes the Dolphins kept it close to half-time. Now consider this team is young. How young? Young enough to rank 9th in the league overall. That’s not too bad and it also doesn’t mean squat. It’s an excuse and we are all tired of excuses.
In the last few years the Dolphins have struggled at cornerback, safety, LB, TE, Oline, QB, and WR. This is not an exaggeration but a pure fact. Even last year the Phins ranked poorly in every one of those categories except safety.
A year later we have a sophomore QB who is getting killed. A WR core who ranks as potentially one of the best in the NFL but has a QB getting killed. A stepped up TE pass catcher in Charles Clay who’s QB is getting killed and a suspect running game because an Oline can’t block…while the QB is getting killed. Defensively we have a stronger LB’ing corp, two up and coming rookie CB’s who are playing behind one of the teams surprise players in Brent Grimes, a safety duo of Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons who are getting better and a defensive line that still has the potential to be great.
Where does that leave us?
The offensive line. There is no question that the Dolphins are a train wreck already happened along the line. The band-aid patch of Bryan McKinnie will do nothing more than swap out mediocre play for mediocre play maybe Jonathan Martin plays far better than Tyson Clabo on the right side. O.k., I concede…he “better” play better. My point is that the Dolphins are not only young, but they are for the most part under contract and aside from the offensive line troubles are on the verge of being a very good football team.
Now think about this. The offensive line is fixed, Ryan Tannehill has time in the pocket and the running game actually works say 25% better. Our WR’s are no longer and issue and we have a seam threat TE in believe it or not, Charles Clay. Do we still lose to Baltimore and Buffalo? Not likely. Do we compete better against the Saints? Probably so. My point is that the Oline is one of if not the biggest problem on this team right now.
Many fans want to blame Jeff Ireland and honestly I think that is a mistake. Last year we can throw out as the team didn’t spend money on free agents and relied on the draft. They drafted Jonathan Martin and yes he has been nothing close to expectations. But blaming Ireland for mistakes along the line prior to last season is a bit harder to do. First two totally different styles of offensive play. Under Sparano the Phins drafted prototype lineman in the guise of Bill Parcells. Those are not the kind of players Joe Philbin needs in his system.
Philbin’s offense is a quicker more athletic style of offensive line play. Many fans heralded the deal for Tyson Clabo who has been as bad a signing as any in recent memory. At the time it was a very good move. In fact many fans balked at the idea of making a trade for KC LT Branden Alberts. Who by the way is having a great season at LT supporting Alex Smith’s blind side. Fans are not always right and neither are GM’s.
Now we will soon be faced with a possibility of another early off-season. If the team doesn’t pick it up on the line of scrimmage it’s safe to say the Dolphins will retire for 2013 in week 17. It’s not lost yet. The Dolphins are currently only two games out of a WC spot if the season ended today and there are still ten weeks left. Perhaps the heart to heart Stephen Ross had with Ireland and Philibin will turn the light on for the Dolphins HC and his OC Mike Sherman. Maybe they salvage the season. If not it’s offensive line time.
The Dolphins are actually in great shape financially heading into the off-season for 2014. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 million. They have their WR’s shored up, their LB’s, Safeties, and TE’s taken care of, and RB’s are no longer a hard find. Most of the teams own free agents are along the line of the defense where Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are slated to become free agents as is CB Brent Grimes who I believe is a must re-sign player. That leaves the focus on the offensive line and almost entirely on the offensive line.
If the Dolphins opt to make a major FA splash along the line they can afford to do so freeing up the draft for blue-chip playmakers instead of a need for inexperienced lineman. The good news is however that they have that option. These Dolphins are not bad they are only troubled by poor play by a unit who is causing everything else to fall apart. Fixing that should fix the WR, RB, and QB issues and suddenly, this team is a contender.
So you see it’s difficult to swallow now but the reality is this team is close to becoming a very good football team. It’s young, hungry, and in great financial shape. It just needs an offensive line to bring it all together. I know, it’s easier said that done but at least this year the Dolphins don’t really have to try and split their money across many needs…just one unit.