Playmakers? Don’t Hold Your Breath.
By Patrik Nohe
Take a break from what you’re doing real quick and name three playmakers on the Miami Dolphins right now… Still thinking? That’s because there are not three playmakers on the Miami Dolphins and without fully knowing how far along Ronnie Brown has progressed in his recovery from a broken foot, it’s arguable Miami doesn’t have a single one.
To avoid any undue debate, let’s just go ahead and define some parameters. A playmaker has to be at one of the offensive skill positions or be a defensive stalwart. He can’t be getting up there in years and he has to back up his potential with on-the-field production. For instance Jake Long is arguably already one of the best tackles in football, but he certainly wouldn’t constitute a playmaker. By the same token, Cameron Wake shows tons of promise and had a good first season, but his lack of reps prevents him from earning the distinction.
There are certainly potential playmakers on the roster. Vontae Davis, Chad Henne and Wake for instance could all develop into game-changing players, but right now they each have a ways to go. So where are the playmakers and why are they so conspicuously absent?
When Bill Parcells arrived in Miami he did so with the task of reinventing the culture and rebuilding the team. He started with his typical M.O. rebuilding Miami’s lines and upgradingthe size and strength of the team. To the credit of the trifecta they have come in and drafted a good young quarterback, a fantastic young line and have assembled a promising young core on the defense. What they have yet to do is bring a playmaker to Miami…
Now comes the tough part, don’t hold your breath that it will happen this year.
Chances are the Dolphins won’t pull the trigger on a big trade and frankly, free agency doesn’t yield the type of dynamic offensive weapons Miami needs. I understood not going after Anquan Boldin, a 30 year old receiver that wants big money and has an injury history like Ronnie Brown is a risky investment. I get that Brandon Marshall is probably too costly for the risk.
In fact, at this point I don’t foresee any trade scenario where the Dolphins could bring in a top receiver. In my opinion, the right deal for Miami happened last season. The Dolphins could have sent a bunch of bums to Cleveland for Braylon Edwards like the Jets did. They didn’t even require draft pick compensation, just some back-ups and he could have been ours. It seemed like a fit too, he was almost a Dolphin once under Saban, he would be catching passes from his collegiate quarterback. It seemed like a fit to me. But it was too pricey or not the right move for Parcells and the Dolphins. Which is why in all honesty I really doubt Miami does anything to address the receiver position before the second or third round of the draft.
Face it, Bill Parcells doesn’t like spending a top pick on a receiver. If he won’t send a few back-ups for a potential number one, he sure as hell won’t send one of his precious picks. Especially when Miami’s needs at OLB and Nose Tackle are currently so pressing. That pushes the need for a receiver back a bit and I don’t look for Miami to be aggressive in filling that role. The Dolphins would like to have a top notch receiver, but historically the Tuna has considered that sort of player a luxury, and has even gone far enough to say he thinks a team can win without one.
The Parcells approach likes to use big backs, big lines, power football and solid defense. That’s what is being built in Miami right now. The product is fine when the defense works and the team doesn’t turn the ball over. If the defense isn’t on that day or there are some mistakes, the team is ill-equipped to come from behind. This is a pretty big problem but to me also represents the stubbornness of the trifecta. Perhaps by retooling the defense and improving it, the lack of a number one receiver will seem like less of an issue (as it did two years ago). But the fact remains the Dolphins offense remains incomplete and without playmakers.
In fact, think of whom Miami has brought in to play offensive skill positions since Parcells arrived. Aside from Anthony Fasano (who has more value as a blocker) the regime has brought in Ernest Wilford, Patrick Turner, Jalen Parmele, David Kircus, John Nalbone, etc… aside from that impressive group Lex Hilliard, Davone Bess, Lousaka Polite and Brian Hartline have all made contributions. But playmakers?
The fact is, the Trifecta has really not improved the offense beyond solidifying our lines and drafting a quarterback (which is less impressive considering they’re now .500 on drafting QB’s in the second round after Pat White). Really, how dramatically has the offense changed since the 2007 debacle? Subtract Jake Long and Chad Henne and you still have Ronnie Brown as the centerpiece, Patrick Cobbs behind him, Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn Jr. catching passes and Dolphins fans regarding third-and-long’s as pre-cursors to punts. Arguably the Dolphins are worse at receiver than they were in 2007 when they started the season with Marty Booker and Chris Chambers. For as much of a defensive overhaul as the trifecta has pulled off, the offense is still pretty much the same as it was when they inherited it. New quarterback, new formations, same lack of dynamic offense.
And frankly, I doubt it changes this year. Sure, a team may take a flyer on Ronnie Brown and the Dolphins will happily get worse on offense in exchange for a first. But after the oft-injured tailback, Miami has nothing to strike fear into any defense. Beyond Ronnie the Dolphins next best player is Ted Ginn vs. The Jets (Ginn may be lousy the other 14 games of the year, but against the Jets he has 4 touchdowns in his last three games). That’s not saying much.
Bill Parcells is a bright guy, far smarter than I am. But I find aspects of this off-season troubling. I fear that Miami will use the draft to address their needs at Nose Tackle and Linebacker while ignoring their need at receiver until the later rounds. Get ready for Brandon LaFell in the second or for a second-tier player later in the draft.
But a splash? Don’t expect Miami to make one at receiver or probably even on the offense. Don’t expect new playmakers anytime soon.