Will the Miami Dolphins rebuild?


The Miami Dolphins have been one of the most active teams in free agency the last few years. It has netted them nothing in terms of success. If not by quantity than by salary, the Dolphins have added top player to their roster with little team return.

In the last three seasons the Dolphins have added Mike Wallace and paid him well. Branden Albert and paid him well. Ndamukong Suh and well, yeah, he got paid too. Add to that the contracts of Mike Pouncey and Ryan Tannehill and you have a salary cap situation that is mortifying when you consider that after this season, the team may be looking at a rebuild.

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The question of whether the team needs to be rebuilt or retooled is an interesting one. It’s becoming more and more obvious that the future of Dan Campbell is one that will last eight more weeks and then as the off-season begins, the Dolphins will be looking for a new head coach. Hoping that for once will fit. Miami has struggled with coaching decisions since Dave Wannstedt left the team and that story is well told far too many times.

The core of the Dolphins is now Tannehill, Pouncey, and Suh and sooner rather than later Jarvis Landry is going to want to get a new contract. With the way he plays he deserves it. Landry is electrifying and is probably the hardest playing player on the team going 100% every play. For as good as Landry is however, coaches don’t build around slot receivers.

We have to assume that the Dolphins will have a new head coach in 2016 which will mean new assistant coaches and more than likely new schemes on both sides of the ball. Will the Dolphins become a 3-4 or a pound and ground attack on offense? That will be the next head coaches decision. When you look at the make-up of the team it seems that retooling may be the best route. The Dolphins simply can’t afford to blow this mess up and start over because the salary cap is too prohibitive.

The Dolphins need to change things up at linebacker and cornerback. Address the safety position opposite Reshad Jones and they need to get better on the offensive line. Ryan Tannehill isn’t going anywhere and that could be a problem luring a head coach to Miami as he will not have an option to look elsewhere for a quarterback and I’m not saying that he should. Not yet.

How the Dolphins will fix the problems on their team will be a trial by error. Free agency hasn’t worked and the draft has not produced the top end starters that are needed. This years crop of draft picks, Jordan Phillips, DeVante Parker, and Jamil Douglas have not impressed. Phillips perhaps because he isn’t on the field enough, he added a sack on Sunday. Parker because he has been injured, and Douglas is struggling with protection schemes. This is not to say the draft class was a bust, it’s far too early to tell, but once again for whatever reason, the Dolphins have failed to find impact starters with their first three picks.

When you factor in the money spent in free agency and the draft problems it’s no wonder the team is where it is right now. Miami simply hasn’t been able to pull enough talent from either pools and when they do, Albert, injuries are a concern.

What the next coach decides to do is important but not as important as who the next head coach will be. The Dolphins need a lot of changes and one year won’t fix that. A new head coach is going to inherit talent but at a price. A salary cap price. Blowing it up and starting over won’t be a simple solution but more than likely we see changes coming in waves over the course of several seasons which doesn’t bode well for the Miami fan base who have grown increasingly tired of mediocre and poor play.

Each season Dolphins fans are greeted with pre-season hyperbole. The team gives us enough to believe and shows enough to believe but once the season gets started it falls apart. Something needs to change.

An area of most concern however isn’t necessarily the starters at the positions mentioned above but the depth and quality behind those starters. Miami may say they have a next man up mentality but if the players that are being asked to step up are not good enough, it doesn’t matter. On Sunday, Jason Fox stepped up for Ja’Wuan James and was too inconsistent to grade out well. Fox did well enough at times but too many penalties finally let to him breaking down and giving up plays to the defense.

It’s not just Fox though. We see the same at safety where Michael Thomas, whom I expected to breakout this year, continues to struggle with pursuit angles and coverage. The only depth we saw anything from was along the defensive line where Miami boasts solid players but they too are far too inconsistent and the play at linebacker in this scheme doesn’t help. This is the area we may see the most change under a new coach and system.

Stephen Ross has yet to get much right since taking ownership of the team but this off-season will be a critical one as it pertains to coaching. Missing yet again will set the Dolphins back another three or four years depending on how long he sticks with the coach should he fail. The Dolphins are a mess right now and no motivational coach is going to change that. The Dolphins need real change or they will be mired in mediocrity.

Rebuild? Retool? Who knows but we can say that whomever inherits this team will have his hands full.