Miami Dolphins Need To Try Something New
Let me take you on a trip down memory lane. The year was 1989 and the Dolphins set the record for the fewest amount of sacks allowed, ensuring the Dan Marino was only sacked 9 times the entire season, unfortunately, that did not lead to success on the field. It was evident that Shula was going to make some serious changes to his roster to remain competitive in the AFC East. With the 9th overall pick the Dolphins selected what they thought would be the running back of the future Sammie Smith (that’s a story for another day), however in a surprise move Shula re-entered the 1st round by trading his 2nd and 3rd round pick to the Chicago Bears for the 25th overall pick. The player they selected was Louis Oliver.
I grew up watching Louis Oliver as our Dolphins Free Safety and still to this day, he is my favorite all time Miami Dolphin. Watching Oliver roam our backfield and creating plays is what enticed me to love the Free Safety position.
Fast forward to 2014, and our Miami Dolphins have not selected a Free Safety in the first round since 1989. There is a growing sense in the league and in our fan base that the Free Safety position can be addressed in the later rounds and doesn’t really require a first round selection. You can groom a player and develop him to be a starter. Ed Reed set the precedent, being a 2nd round selection that turned into a pro ball player. I am not sure if I agree with this rule as the draft game is not a science it’s more like a lottery. No team knows how the potential prospect will develop in the NFL, they can just hope that they have done their homework correctly and their player will develop into an elite franchise player.
Jeff Ireland believed in this philosophy as he continued to pass on selecting Free Safety prospects in the first or second round. Rather he would focus his attention on selecting players in the 5th to 7th rounds, which was evident last year with Chris Clemons (6th round pick) and Rashad Jones (5th round pick). As the NFL continue to progress into a passing league, I believe we cannot continue to stick with this viewpoint.
Enter Denis Hickey.
Hickey is our new General Manger, and is going into his first draft next month with full control (or so we are led to believe) of selecting our potential prospects. There are no Earl Thomas or Eric Berry in this draft class, however, there are two intriguing prospects that will gain first round attention; HaHa Clinton Dix from Alabama and Calvin Pryor from Louisville.
Don’t let the name make you laugh, HaHa is the top Free Safety in this draft class. HaHa is coming from a strong collegiate program and has showed us his potential throughout his tenure at Alabama. As a Free Safety you are the last line of defense and having HaHa in your backfield you have a sense of relief that he will make the play. His shadowing and cover skills are excellent and he has a nose for the center fielder position. He can also provide over the top support, and can provide a big hit when he needs to. The only thing I don’t like about his game is his hip and feet movement. Although he has great versatility I still believe that he needs to work on his back peddling. He drags his feet a little in man to man coverage, but excels in zone which provides evidence that he needs to correct his foot work. The good news is that this is coachable and can easily be corrected. HaHa would be a definite asset to our Miami Dolphins team and if he is still on the board at 19, we shouldn’t think twice on selecting him.
Watching tape on Calvin Pryor you would think you are watching an old school batman episode. ..BLAM, ZOOM, SMACK. The kid loves to hit. There isn’t one game that I watched where I didn’t see him make a hit that made you say, “DAAAAAM.”
He is a fierce competitor and loves contact. Ideal for run support and is really quick to the ball. Where he needs to develop is the other aspect of the Free Safety position which is he passing game. Although he plays the ball really well in the air, it’s getting to the ball to make the play where he needs to take the next steps. Similar to HaHa, Pryor plays well in zone, where he doesn’t need to recover or make up ground, however, when he plays man coverage his weaknesses are exposed. Pryor needs to increase his man coverage awareness, especially in the NFL where the game speed is faster than he has experienced before. Pryor is an entertaining prospect, however, he needs to develop his game to become an instant starter. That is on him, and if becomes a student of the game rather than focusing/relying on his god given ability he might become an elite safety.
The Dolphins would be wise to try something new and break the habits that were present during the Ireland era. There is a lot of pressure on Hickey to see if he break the cycle of losing seasons, but at the same time provide us with a first round selection that can lure our fan base back to the stadium. An impact player at Free Safety would be a wise choice…It’s something new…something we haven’t seen since 1989.