Brick By Brick: Five Positions the Dolphins Need to Upgrade to Reach the Super Bowl
When teams go through a coaching change, there is often a rebuilding period. When Adam Gase joined the Dolphins before the 2016 season, the roster was seen as needing a three-year rebuild. That meant that the Dolphins were going to need to get worse in order to get better. That wasn’t the case.
The Dolphins finished their first season under Gase 10-6 with a roster that looked more like 4-12. They even accomplished something they have been unable to do in years past: win in December. Not only did they win in December, but they also won with a backup quarterback.
Miami did a lot of things right in 2016 and Gase started his Dolphins’ coaching tenure by showing how he can win based on scheme instead of leaning on talent. This is arguably the most important thing when building a roster.
Remember the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles? They were seen as a “Dream Team” because of how many big free agents they reeled in during the offseason. Long story short, the team lost four of their first five games and ended the season 8-8.
Building a roster through free agency does not work. Look at the two teams who faced off in the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcons have one of the youngest defenses in the league while the Patriots were the youngest team in the AFC to make the playoffs.
Whether it is through the draft, free agency, or even trades, the Dolphins have plenty of holes they need to fill. Here are five positions the Dolphins need to upgrade if they want to make it to the big game.
Cameron Wake finished 2016 tied for sixth in the league with 11.5 sacks. He also finished 2016 at age 35. Even if the Dolphins get another great season from Wake, the team needs to upgrade the other defensive end position that Andre Branch held down in 2016.
Branch finished with five and a half sacks but struggled against the run. The Dolphins want Branch back, which wouldn’t be a bad idea, but the Dolphins need help setting the edge against the rush. With Wake being paid like a top-10 defensive end, the signing of Branch would force Miami’s hand to spend a high-end pick that can thrive against the run and pass.
Aside from the quarterback, someone who can get to the quarterback is a must for any football team to be successful. Using resources on defensive ends would not be the worst idea. Throughout 2016, Ndamukong Suh found himself lining up all over the defensive line. The Dolphins would have no problem creating a package full of defensive ends if that is the route they decide to take.
The Dolphins currently have Kiko Alonso. Besides that, the entire linebacking core needs a complete overhaul. Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins aren’t bad, but neither have started for a complete season in over three years.
Neither of the two have been able to show consistent impact, and the Dolphins have been one of the worst teams against the run for the last two years. There are a few options the Dolphins can look at. Alonso has the ability to play both middle and outside linebacker, giving the team some leeway when looking at rebuilding the group.
They can chose to bring in either two outside linebackers, or an inside and outside linebacker. Furthermore the Dolphins have been getting destroyed against the run. To make matters worse, tight ends scored the fifth-most fantasy points against the Dolphins. Some of this could be blamed on the loss of Reshad Jones, but a swift linebacker with lateral quickness would go a long way in an a league where tight ends are becoming more of a threat in the passing game.
Within the next two years, Laremy Tunsil is going to kick out to left tackle. The Dolphins currently have one guard spot that needs to be filled but that is about to turn into two. According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins had the 30th ranked offensive line. A lot of the blame here can go on injuries, but every team has injures.
There are no excuses involved when making it to the Super Bowl. Every team in the NFL deals with injuries and that is why it’s important to have depth. The Dolphins currently lack depth in the middle of their offensive line. Needing two guards isn’t the worst need for a team to have, and it is actually pretty easy to fill, unless it is with someone named Dallas Thomas or Billy Turner.
Only seven of the top-30 paid guards were on playoff rosters in 2016. That means most teams can get away with younger guys who are still on rookie contracts. When looking at these positions, communication skills are arguably just as important as talent. Finding the right technique for a specific line is more important than overall talent and ability.
The Dolphins used Dion Sims, MarQueis Gray, and Dominique Jones in 2016. The group combined for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns, with most of those stats coming from Sims.
With the talent the Dolphins have at receiver and running back, the team didn’t need much out of their tight ends in 2016. With that being said, Gray just re-signed for two years with the Dolphins while Sims is about to become a free agent.
The tight end from Michigan State is likely going to look for somewhere he can not only play, but also get paid. It wouldn’t be surprising if a team takes a risk on the big-target who is also solid when blocking for the running game. The thing is, it isn’t hard to find an upgrade over someone like Sims.
O.J. Howard is one potential possibility in a draft loaded with tight end talent. The Dolphins don’t have to overpay a tight end either, seeing how Jones and Gray could produce when Sims was out. They just need to find the right one for the system Gase wants to run.
Yes it is true. The Dolphins need better play at quarterback. The thing is, Ryan Tannehill still has the potential to be that guy. Inconsistency doomed Tannehill early in the season and, even during the playoff run, he got bailed out.
Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers were the last four quarterbacks remaining this season. While football is a team game, you need a good quarterback in order to be successful.
If the Dolphins have a healthy offensive line, along with the current weapons on the roster, they may have enough to make it to the Super Bowl. It is also extremely hard to find a franchise quarterback, which is the biggest reason to not give up on Tannehill.
He has all the tools and he has all the weapons, but Tannehill needs to continue to get better every season if he wants the opportunity to lead the Dolphins to the Super Bowl.
It could be argued that the Dolphins have other holes, which is probably true. Every team has holes, but they can hide them because of scheme and talent at other positions. The Dolphins got the National Media’s attention in 2016. If they want to make the trip to the playoffs a yearly routine, they will need to draft well and be smart in free agency.
In order for the Dolphins to reach the Super Bowl, they need more than a team loaded with talent. They need a team that can feed off of each other’s energy. It is never the best players that win a Super Bowl, it is the best teams that receiver the Lombardi Trophy.