Thursday, January 8, 2009

Where the Fins Go From Here

The Miami Dolphins may have ended their regular and post season, but have begun another season already - "The Off Season." Now's the time to look towards the future of the team and evaluate what's good, what needs to change, and what needs to be tweaked. The Fins are definitely on the right track; proving that it only takes one season to turn a franchise around. Next season they'll be out to prove that it only takes one season to go deep into the playoffs. Let's review what went right, what went wrong, and what we will see come the '09-'10 season.

The Dolphins definitely found many ways of winning in the '08-'09 NFL season, some days it was the offense, others it was the defense. That's good to know that you can win a game on either side of the playing field. What isn't too good is knowing that your offense can be sporadic at times. We had the Wildcat Offense working for the beginning portion of the season, but then teams began to study it more in-depth and caught on to the game plan. Let's note that our defense was fairly solid all season, but it was difficult for them when the offense struggled - they began to tire out as they were on the field for too long. That's tough for any defense to put up with. I'm sure Parcells & Sparano will find the right ways of addressing these issues in the ensuing months.

I want to lay out the positions that were and are strengths to the Miami Dolphins. Here's my order:
  1. Linebacker Position
  2. Defensive Line Position
  3. Quarterback Position
  4. Halfback Position

Joey Porter, Channing Crowder, and company were a very good defensive group for the Fins this season and have potential to continue their play for a few seasons. Porter came second in sacks in the entire NFL, which shows that he wasn't ready to be another forgotten player in the league. The defensive line, led by Vonnie Holliday, has a mix between youth and experience with veterans like Jason Ferguson, and rookies like Kenall Langford and Phillip Merling. It seems like a very promising unit for next season if they stay together and stay healthy.

As for the QB position, there's no doubt that Chad Pennington was the MVP of the team. He came in second for MVP of the league, behind Peyton Manning, which shows how well he played this season. His future in the Dolphins is fairly secure for at least another season, but down the line I see Chad Henne stepping up and getting a chance to prove himself. I like our depth at that position and am confident that we can open up our offense with either of the two "Chads." Lastly, the halfback position is pretty solid with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Each has the talent to be a first string starter in most teams, yet they are a 1-2 combo under the Dolphins. This season might not have been a good statistic year for them, but they definitely have the potential to play great football. Don't forget about Ronnie's 4 TD game versus the Patriots early in the season.

And now here are the positions that weren't so strong for the Dolphins and need some in-depth evaluation:

  1. Wide Receiver
  2. Offensive Line
  3. Tight End
  4. Cornerback Position

While I may love Ted Ginn Jr., he definitely is not a "Number One Receiver." As radio commentator, "Big O," said about the Dolphin's WR unit, "they have a bunch of number threes running around out there." No disrespect to Ginn, Camarillo, and Bess, but the Dolphins need to go out there and get a top-notch receiver. Then there's the offensive line, which played fairly well on pass blocking, but didn't do too well on run blocking. As we saw in the Ravens game, the Fins just weren't getting the protection they needed against a formidable Ravens defense. If the Fins hope to go deep in the playoffs, they need to be prepared to play against the toughest defensive units in the league. Defense wins championships (sometimes) so you gotta counter that with great protection.

A few minor weak points I find in the Fins are the tight ends and secondary players. Anthony Fasano and David Martin are decent tight ends, but they are no Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, or Jeremy Shockey. Randy McMichael was a very good TE for the Dolphins in the past and we should look to acquire someone with the same skill set as he did. This isn't a primary concern, but it would definitely alleviate the passing game woes. As for the secondary, the Dolphins are "okay," but still not "great." You can't compare this unit to the combo of Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. We need a play-maker back there that will not only make big hits, like Yeremiah Bell, but force turnovers. Simply put, the TE and Secondary positions within the Dolphins aren't at "elite status" - where they should try to be.

In my opinion, Bill Parcells will make the WR position a priority this off season and will be looking towards an all of the above approach in free agency, trading blocks, and draft scouting. I suggest that Chad Johnson NOT be in consideration for the Dolphins potential acquisitions, mainly because he will bring much unwanted attention to himself and the organization (kind of like T.O. in Dallas). I also believe that a shutdown corner will be important to the Dolphins front office as they try to stretch their defensive unit to become a rush threat and a pass threat.

If the new Dolphins owner, Steven Ross, allows Parcells & Co. to continue their plan of action, then the Fins should be fine. At this rate, the Dolphins will become an elite team in the NFL, right up there with the Colts and Steelers. Now we must watch how it all plays out and closely follow the moves that the Dolphins make this off-season. While this season was a "New Beginning," next season will be "Continued Excellence." Miami Dolphins football is back in full force.

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