This Dolphins front office has proved to be special in their first year of collaboration. Here are a few things that I think should be heavily considered when the Miami Dolphins are looking to improve the team.
First off, my philosophy goes like this…
Every team has an aspect of their game that will win them games and another aspect of their game that will lose them games. Once a team has established what they are strong in, they should build on that. Don’t settle for what happened last year, make that one thing even better for next year. As for the weakness, address it in the offseason. This can be done in many different ways (coaching change, free agency, draft, etc), but in some form, the problem must be heavily addressed in the offseason in order to assure that the same thing will not lose games for you in the future.
In the Dolphins case, we had one breakout star in particular that essentially won some of our games down the stretch. His name is Jay Ajayi. He is great. He is young. He could still use some help.
How many games did Jay Ajayi have a healthy offensive line? Not many. Laremy Tunsil can man his new position of left tackle. Mike Pouncey still has a few more years in his tank. Ja’wuan James has turned himself into an adequate NFL right tackle. These players are set.
But in today’s NFL, the tackles are a quarterback’s best friend. The guards are a running back’s best friend. All of the Pro Bowl running backs from last season had elite guard play.
When Jay Ajayi is running outside, he needs an elite guard pulling out to give him that extra block he needs to get into the open space. Miami’s current guards are not as quick and strong as they should be. Which brings me to the draft.
Yes there are holes on defense. But to make our strength even stronger (run game), taking a guard in the first round would prove to be a lethal move for the Miami Dolphins. Forrest Lamp seems to be the number one option at 22, along with being a great fit. With another year with offensive mastermind Adam Gase, the Dolphins offense could be even more attacking with an even stronger running game.
Now what lost the games for Miami last year? Well there were a few things. To start off, opposing running backs had a wide open field as soon as they got past the line of scrimmage, opposing tight ends and slot receivers had a field day in the middle of the field where they seemed to always find the hole in our defense, we never seemed to be able to get to the quarterback when blitzing.
There is one position related to each of these aspects of the game. And it is the very position in which every Dolphins fan knows to repeatedly be the weakest position on our team year in and year out; linebacker. All three linebacker positions need work. It lost us games in more than one way and needs addressing.
So what has been done so far? Well Kiko Alonso is almost assuredly bumping outside to weakside linebacker with the addition of Lawrence Timmons. Timmons is a force to reckon with in the middle of the linebacking unit. With that, Alonso is an upgrade over Jelani Jenkins and Neville Hewitt. Lawrence Timmons will be an upgrade over Alonso in the fact that he is more of a traditional run-stopping, gap-clogging linebacker.
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And that leaves one position along the unit to improve. Koa Misi has been no better than average in his time at strong side linebacker, and he cannot be counted on to play a full season without injuries. Reducing his role to a reserve would allow his durability to improve as well as improve the linebacking play in the second unit. So what else must be done?
This again brings us to two possibilities of improvement: the draft and free agency. The Miami Dolphins inquired about Zach Brown to fill the final Linebacker spot, but he has not ultimately made the decision. With or without his signing, drafting a young linebacker would either provide depth behind an aging Lawrence Timmons, or compete for a starting job at the strong-side linebacker spot.
The Dolphins should spend the first round enhancing the offensive line and take the best player available on the defensive side of the ball in round two, particularly along the defensive line, as depth is very important because of injuries. They should find a linebacker they like in round three of the draft or later and have him develop as they sign another free agent linebacker to be a cornerstone on the outside of the linebacker unit. Depth is a very crucial thing in today’s NFL and even more so for a team that struggled mightily in recent years at the linebacker position.
Having improved the running game on offense and over-correcting a major hole on defense, the Dolphins will look like a whole new team in year two of the Adam Gase era. I have full faith in Adam Gase and I believe he is on his way to leading the Dolphins to a division championship sooner rather than later. Each offseason should focus on improving a different part of the game, as this will soon lead to a team with few flaws and strong players all over the field.