Dolphins need more on defense than offense

Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Miami Dolphins cheerleaders perform during Game 12 of the NFL International Series against the New York Jets at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Miami Dolphins cheerleaders perform during Game 12 of the NFL International Series against the New York Jets at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Free agency starts in just over a month and the Miami Dolphins will have more holes to fill on defense than offense. Then of course comes the draft where more holes can be filled.

More from Dolphins News

The off-season will be a tough task for new head coach Adam Gase. Absent from the Senior Bowl this week, Gase is likely pouring over film of his current roster and identifying needs with his coaching staff. It’s going to be a very busy period for the defensive coaches.

With players like Oliver Vernon and Derrick Shelby heading towards free agency and the team needing to make a decision on the salary cap hits of Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, Miami has to look at revamping a defensive unit that lacks starting and depth talent.

Most glaring is the situation at linebacker and at corner back but the defensive line isn’t exactly glowing these days either. While Suh played well after Kevin Coyle left the team the same can’t be said about Earl Mitchell or rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Phillips was largely inconsistent but some of that can be blamed on playing time and situational opportunities. At defensive end it’s not as bright as it was a couple of years ago.

Wake is coming off an Achilles injury that ended his season and as mentioned Vernon is likely leaving via free agency. Terrence Fede and Quinton Coples are all that’s left to man the edges. Assuming of course that Shelby also leaves. Fixing the defensive front is a big task. Miami finished the 2015 season ranked 5th against the run. That’s a bit deceiving as much of the turnaround happened after the first half of the season.

Linebackers is another huge need where Gase and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will need to decide what to do with a lot of youth and little quality at the position. While Jelani Jenkins has proven his value, Koa Misi is still very inconsistent at the point of attack and Kelvin Sheppard is a free agent Miami needs to let go. Miami could be in the market, they should be in the market for an almost complete overhaul. If the Dolphins switch to a 3-4 it get’s worse. In fact they almost can’t afford to switch given the personnel they currently have.

Moving back to the secondary Miami has to determine if Brent Grimes is worth upwards of $9 million in 2016. If he opts not to restructure his contract, the Dolphins could potentially view him as a cap casualty and then would be looking at needing two starting cornerbacks. Miami simply doesn’t have a corner to play opposite Grimes which leaves a lot of power in his hands regarding his contract.

Corner isn’t the only need as the Dolphins need to find a starting safety to play opposite Reshad Jones. Jones is having a phenomenal career in Miami but the Dolphins need more than just Jones deep to be successful.

Offensively the Dolphins have strength at wide-receiver and have two good tackles and a pro-bowl center but guard is a huge problem and Miami faces the tough decision ahead on Lamar Miller who will be a free agent. For the Dolphins though, only Miller and the two guards are offensive priorities and if they sign Miller and find two quality guards, most of the offense problems are solved. The same can’t be said for the defensive issues.

How the Dolphins repair the defense will be a major offseason key. They can’t fix every position and defensively the unit could lose some starters. It’s not out of the question to see the Dolphins lose Vernon, Sheppard, and Shelby to free agency and possibly part ways with Wake, Grimes, and Misi. If that happens Miami would most definitely be in a rebuild mode on that side of the ball. It might be their best option.

At this point the Dolphins simply don’t have the money to spend wildly in free agency like they have the last few seasons. That is probably a good thing. Smart moves made in free agency can fix some of the problems and smarter moves in the draft become long term solutions instead of quick fixes. The Dolphins need a long term solution not a quick fix.

So where do they begin? There is no right answer. Building from the interior out makes sense and if the right players are manning the defensive line, the linebacker have an easier job to do. That also frees up the corner and safeties. Unfortunately free agency isn’t deep with defensive lineman this year but there is an interesting twist to all of this. Dion Jordan will be back and be healthy.

Jordan is interesting because he could make the team and start or he could be released without the coaching staff ever seeing how he looks on the field. Prior to his suspension for PED use, Jordan was hampered by a coaching staff who didn’t believe in him and didn’t want him to begin with. Jordan was Jeff Ireland’s guy and Joe Philbin didn’t play him in year one sans a handful of times and in year two Jordan rode the bench most of the 10 games he was active for.

Jordan could solve one hole but he will basically be a third year rookie if he returns and there is a question about where he actually fits in with the defense. The Dolphins may look at filling the holes at linebacker and corner in free agency and then addressing the defensive line and safety position in the draft.

Everything that happens prior to the league new year in March will be closely monitored as it will give some indications on which direction the Dolphins are heading but one thing is for certain, Miami could build with what they have or they could rebuild the entire team. In other words, that one thing for certain is clearly uncertainty at this point.