2016 Miami Dolphins Offseason Positional Needs
Miami Dolphins Team Needs
2015 was a very disappointing season for the Miami Dolphins. They entered the regular seasons with very legitimate playoff aspirations, and there were even a few pundits who thought they had a shot to make it to the Super Bowl. It was apparent from the very beginning that they were far from the team they were expected to be. After going 1-3 to start the season, the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin and promoted Dan Campbell from tight ends coach to the big job. Campbell went 5-7 the rest of the way before being handed his walking papers at the end of the season.
In hopes of finally getting Ryan Tannehill to live up to his potential, Miami hired Adam Gase as head coach to see if he can work the same magic on Tannehill that he did last season with Jay Cutler. However, that won’t be close to enough to give the Dolphins a chance for a bounce back season. Miami has some very talented players scattered across their roster, but they are surrounded by gaping holes at several key positions.
The responsibility for filling the gaps in this roster will fall to the Dolphins new general manager Chris Grier. 2016 will be Grier’s 17th season in South Beach, after spending the past nine seasons as the Director of College Scouting. It will not be an easy first year on the job for Grier considering Miami currently has the least cap space in the league, which means he will likely have to rely heavily on the draft. However, the lack of cap space doesn’t mean that there are any fewer holes in the roster. Here are the most important positions of need for Grier to address this offseason.
1. Offensive Line
For Gase to have any hope of turning around Tannehill’s career, the Dolphins have to find a way to protect him. Miami was 8th in the NFL in sacks given up, with Tannehill getting taken down 45 times. With as talented a group of receivers as the Dolphins have, they need to give him more time to get the ball to his playmakers. While it is easy to point at pass blocking being the issue with the Dolphins offensive line because they gave up so many sacks, run blocking may be an even bigger problem. According to Pro Football Focus, Miami was graded as the worst run blocking team in the NFL.
The Dolphins are set at center with Mike Pouncey, but they need to improve at the other four spots along the offensive line. Bringing in four new starters for an offensive line is improbable if not impossible, especially with Miami’s cap trouble, so they need to focus on fixing the biggest problem. While they didn’t receive good play from their tackles in 2015, it was the first bad season of Brandon Albert’s career at left tackle and Ju’Wuan James was actually playing at a much higher level in his second season before he got injured in week 8 and missed the rest of the season. So the place they need to focus their attention at on the offensive line is at guard, where Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner combined to be the worst guard duo in the league this past season.
It would be smart for Miami to bring in a mix of both veterans and rookies to solve their problems at guard. A few names to keep an eye on in the second round are Vadal Alexander, Cody Whitehair, Joshua Garnett, and Sebastian Tretola. All of these players should fall right around when the Dolphins make their pick in the second round.
2. Middle Linebacker
The Dolphins need to get better at middle linebacker this offseason if they have any hope of improving a run defense that ranked 28th in the NFL this past season. Despite what his tackle stats might tell you, Kelvin Sheppard had an awful season in 2015. Sheppard showed bad range against the run, and was just as bad if not worse in coverage.
One potential free agent that Miami might be able to sign to a cheap short-term deal is DeMario Davis, who was drafted by the Jets in 2012 when current Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum was the Jets GM. Davis has always shown good range against the run. Playing behind a four-man front like the one utilized in Miami would help keep blockers out of his face and allow him to go sideline-to-sideline and make plays.
The Dolphins got great play out of their safeties this season, but that was not the case for their cornerbacks. Brent Grimes was his usual reliable self, but Miami needs to find a good corner to play across from him, because Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain certainly didn’t do a good enough job. Grimes is starting to reach the stage in his career where he would be better suited as a teams second corner and not the top dog, so it would behoove the Dolphins to draft a young corner early in the draft this Spring.
With the Dolphins selecting 8th overall in the first round, it looks like Vernon Hargreaves might match up perfectly with them. With his combination of size and speed to go along with his unique coverage abilities, Hargreaves would be a perfect corner to pair up with the aging Grimes.
4. Defensive End
Oliver Vernon is likely going to leave in free agency, and if he does, then this will catapult up the Dolphins list of needs. Cameron Wake is far from a sure thing after missing most of the last season with injury, so they will need to bring someone in to serve as insurance in case he gets injured again. Derrick Shelby did a decent job filling in for the injured Wake, but it would be a mistake to count on him to be a starter heading into the season.
5. Running back
Much as with defensive end, this could become a huge position of need if Lamar Miller leaves in free agency. The Dolphins drafted Jay Ajayi last year, but his performance in a limited role was far from inspiring. It would benefit Miami greatly to make re-signing Miller a priority, however with their cap trouble, that could be trouble.