Okay, now that you’ve had some time to let the offensive side marinate a bit, time for the defense.
If you want to check out last year's predictions, check out these links. Offense / Defense
Without further ado, let's get started.
Defensive Line (9)
This is a tough group to call. The Dolphins are loaded with edge guys especially with the additions of Hayes and Harris. It leaves little room for guys like Fede and Warmsley. The only way Warmsley really sneaks in is if he can show value at the tackle position. I think the team will move on from Fede this year.
The four edge guys on the list should be able to put pressure on the QB while at the same time helping to improve the run defense. But my opinion of the tackle position may be considered a bit of a hot take to some.
Obviously they have one of the best if not the best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. For the sake of saving a longer conversation for another article I’ll just go ahead and give you Phillips at the other starting spot as a safe guy we’re comfortable with. Behind those guys though, it gets scary.
I give you another number. The number is 12. This is the number of the total career tackles from every single interior D-lineman behind Suh and Phillips. Defensive tackle is a position of continuous rotation throughout the game. Miami must acquire another experienced, at least somewhat solid guy to rotate in with the two starters. If they don’t we are likely to see this line get gutted up the middle by the run whenever Phillips or Suh aren’t in there and those times will be plenty. I hesitate to even mention if one of the starters go down and we need someone to fill in.
I’d love to keep ten linemen but that’s not likely with the need of so many linebackers and defensive backs for special teams play. That would allow me to add either Fede or Warmsley of which I’d probably choose Fede in that situation. If for some crazy reason the Dolphins decide to roll with what they have at defensive tackle it will be a battle between those two guys in camp for that ninth spot.
By the way I’ll toot the horn and mention I put a place in last year’s defensive roster article for a free agent player to be named later and weeks later we signed Jason Jones.
Any Dolphins fan knows this has been one of the worst units over recent years. Many times we’ve relied on backups to play starting roles. They’ve even pretended backups were starter worthy because we had no one else. But things are looking up.
The Dolphins added Kiko Alonso in a big trade that also brought us Byron Maxwell (and in a stroke of luck, Laremy Tunsil) last year. Alonso was a savior at the middle linebacker spot making big plays all season long.
Misi will still play a role in this unit, he has his strengths but struggles to stay on the field. The aging Timmons is the biggest addition for this year and looks to help a poor run defense from last season.
We drafted Raekwon McMillan whose strength is also on the run stopping end. Hewitt and Hull have been contributors to the unit as well as have special teams value so they stay. I would like to have added undrafted free agent Chase Allen or CFL standout Deon Lacey but there just wasn’t room so they’ll likely see the practice squad.
I’m excited about this unit. I know we still don’t clearly see the shutdown guy yet but the talent is there from top to bottom. It’s a deep unit with enough experience in the backups to make you feel very comfortable going into the season.
Howard, Maxwell, and McCain are locks to me. I think Lippett has shown enough improvement and gained enough experience from last season he makes it too. I would like to see someone push Bobby McCain for the nickel spot but it seems he’s the one and only there except for maybe one option I’ll discuss in a bit. He’s my biggest question mark on this unit and he needs to improve to not be picked on by opposing quarterbacks.
Tankersley is a high draft choice from this year's draft and there isn’t much chance he won’t make it. That brought me down to Jordan Lucas vs. Lafayette Pitts. I think the experience and what Pitts has been able to show the coaching staff will be enough to win out over Lucas with a decent camp and Lucas will likely make his way back to the practice squad for a second season.
Reshad Jones. Need I say more. He’s the best in the NFL at his position. They signed Nate Allen, yet another stop gap at free safety. When will they finally find a permanent solution there? They just haven’t been able to draft at that position due to other needs and the ability to find guys in free agency.
Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens are great backups with lots of experience. The unit overall is very good. McDonald will be available November 5th at home against Oakland on Sunday night football but the team will likely work him in slowly. Perhaps he’ll be the answer we’re looking for at free safety.
Michael Thomas has recently mentioned he’d like to play some more nickel corner which at least would give McCain some competition but who knows if he’d be up to the task of truly pushing him out of that starting spot.
Special Teams (3)
For the second season in a row they brought in some competition for Denney at long snapper but he should still be able to hang on. He’s one of the league’s most consistent players at the position. He's also the longest tenured member of the team at this point.
Matt Darr has been solid at punter and will continue to boot 'em for Miami this season. Franks is a guy that seemed to change his outlook in the blink of an eye. His field goal against Buffalo in the waning seconds to help hoist us to the playoffs may have solidified his place on this team for 2017 and I doubt many fans will have an issue with that. It was one of the exciting moments of last year and one I know I won’t forget for a while.
No matter how it shakes out the Dolphins will have tough decisions all the way around at almost every position on the team. Looking at last year’s week one roster you can see the amount of depth and experience this team has added along with youth and potential. Should be a fun camp in a few months.
This column was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
If you’re going to write a second annual way too early 53-man roster prediction, I guess it’s only fair to recap the first one. There were a few bright spots and one great call. But perhaps it was all wiped away with a very poor prediction worthy of Bill Barnwell. With that, here’s your recap.
I nailed QB. Well that wasn’t hard. I said there was no way Dallas Thomas would make the roster. I was wrong but I bet Adam Gase wishes he had read my article before the season started.
I said Chris McCain wouldn’t make it, basically insinuating he wouldn’t be able to grasp the defense. Regardless of the reason he didn’t make the team.
Now, onto the biggies. I said Arian Foster would go into the season as the number one running back. Impressed yet? When the article was written he wasn’t even a Miami Dolphin. How about now?
But of course we come to, paraphrasing the great Albert Einstein, the greatest blunder of my life (sorry about the dorky science humor). I hang my head low as I write this, I said Kenny Stills would likely be traded before the beginning of the season. Yeah, I know, it was bad.
If you’re interested in referencing last year’s articles you can do that here: Offense / Defense
Now we move to this year’s predictions. I must say there really aren’t any bombshells good or bad in this one. For the most part it’s straightforward, and that’s a great thing. The Dolphins have some good to extraordinary talent in their starting lineup this year and have worked to add depth to the team.
They also have some players who played more last year than we would have liked. Last year’s problems are this year’s solutions. Guys who may have started last year will play some nice backup roles with the experience they gained being thrown to the fire.
One and two are locked for the Dolphins. They will roll into this season with the same two QBs they have for over half a decade now. Personally I enjoy the consistency at such a crucial position. But what will Miami do with the third position?
David Fales spent time on a Chicago team with huge QB issues and could barely get on the field. Not sure that bodes well for him. In the end, the Dolphins will stick with Doughty. They drafted him and he knows the system.
Running back (3)
Picking the first three is like shooting fish in a barrel (no pun intended). Ajayi definitely had his struggles heading into the season last year. Three 200-yard games have a way of making problems disappear. There’s no doubt he’s the starter going into the season.
Right behind him is Kenyan Drake. He has speed and elusiveness in a completely different fashion than J-Train. This is one of the best 1-2 RB combos in the NFL, hard stop. Past his ‘hold out’ is Damien Williams who had six touchdowns last year and found a nice role in the offense even with Ajayi and Drake ahead of him.
However, determining the fourth RB in the group was tough. There’s a lot of excitement around undrafted free agent De’Veon Smith. In the end, I believe he’s too slow for the NFL and doesn’t provide much special teams contribution which is a must to be the fourth back on any team. But I have an idea. I give you the number seven and a guy named Jakeem Grant.
Wide Receiver (7)
Seven wide receivers, what? Yes, I know it seems improbable but hear me out. Let’s start with the big three of Landry, Parker and Stills. Those guys are locks.
Leonte Carroo is a player of much debate lately. It’s been rumored he could be cut. He scored in the first game of the season last year but then started to fall out of favor with the coaching staff. However, I think it’s too early to give up on him so he’ll make the 53.
Grant is someone an offensive genius like Gase has been chomping at the bit to draw up plays for. His unique skill set allows Miami to play him in various spots including catching balls out of the backfield and he has tremendous special teams value ala Darren Sproles.
I believe he’ll be a pseudo fourth running back for Miami allowing them to keep only three RBs but seven WRs.
Now for Scott and Ford. Rashawn Scott spent much of his time on the practice squad last year and worked up to the 53-man roster the old-fashioned way, he earned it. Coaches want to see more from him and I believe he’s making the 53.
Gase and company were surprised to still see Ford on the board when it came time for them to draft in the seventh round this year. The only reason he was likely still there was a slower 40-time. I remember another guy who ran a bit slower 40 and it dropped his draft stock. Not to compare Ford to Landry but I believe he’s also making the team and falls into the seventh spot.
Tight End (3)
This is the most improved and transformed unit on the team. Last year we got by with backup quality players and guys off the street.
This year we will roll into the season with one of the most prolific pass catching tight ends in the league and PFF’s rated best blocking tight end. Nuff’ said. We could clearly see the offense was begging for someone who could be a seam threat from this position and now they have it in Thomas.
Gray will stick around for sure. He knows the offense and did well in his role last year. One of the aforementioned players thrown into a starting role who will make great depth for us this season.
Thomas Duarte would need to really shine during camp to push Gray out or someone else at another position so he’s probably going to see the practice squad again.
Offensive Line (9)
No doubt there are some things to be worked out in a starting spot or two but this unit as a whole is very deep and contains some nice pieces. When healthy, Pouncey is one of the league’s best centers. Coach Gase has mentioned he will go slow and careful with him during the season, hinting he may practice very little to be available for the season and hopefully the postseason.
Tunsil will now man the left tackle position with the departure of Branden Albert, a position he seems born to play. Ja’Wuan James had a slow start in 2016 but was arguably one of the teams most improved players by season’s end.
The team added some competition and depth in the middle with veteran Ted Larsen and rookie Isaac Asiata who will likely battle for one of the starting guard spots. Urbik, Steen and Young are competent to play when needed and start if necessary.
Look for the defensive side of the 53-man roster coming very soon.
This column was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
In spite of missed time last season, Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones is considered by many to be the heart of the Miami defense, a unit that has been, well, let’s call it less than stellar, especially against the run.
And on that note, Jones had plenty to say this week, starting off with the mixed emotions of watching the team make the playoffs last season while he was sidelined, noting that, “It was kind of brutal for me. But I was happy for my guys that we made the playoffs finally and made that push. But it hurt for me.”
On the other hand, he notes, "I'm pretty excited. I watched the playoff run … and I wasn't out there, so I'm pretty excited to be back and to be able to help our team win some football games."
Jones is well aware of how poorly the defense fared against the run last year, finishing in a tie for most yardage given up against opposing run games. And he knows that all good defenses begin with stopping the run, something that his return, along with an infusion of resources on that side of the ball this offseason, should definitely boost for the Dolphins.
Mimicking what Dolphins coaches and player have been saying this offseason, Jones thinks the defense will be better this year, just by having a better understanding of duties in the second year of their defensive scheme. Last year’s troubles happened “for different reasons. Missed fits or missed tackles. It just varies. (There are) different reasons.”
“I think, like every other defense in the National Football League, (you have to) stop the run first,” says Jones. “We've got to be solid on the run. I think if we can handle that, everything else will be alright.”
And a big part of being solid against the run will fall on Jones’s shoulders. And as has always been his ever-so-confident way, Jones is ready to resume his role as a leader in the defensive backfield.
"I just have a knack for the ball,” he says. “I was always taught there's only one football on the field, so get to the ball."
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him at Twitter: @EJFootball
On September 15th this year, a Miami Dolphins legend, lifetime member of the NFL Hall of Fame, and arguably the face of the Dolphins, quarterback Dan Marino, will turn 56.
Creaky knees and face wrinkles aside, Marino is still the tanned and fit personality he was in his playing days, universally revered in South Florida (and anywhere else in the country that Dolphins fans reside).
And this fall, his life and career will be immortalized on his birthday this year with an NFL Films broadcast of “A Football Life.”
Here’s a little-known fact about Marino for you. It’s well documented that Marino watched five quarterbacks get drafted before the Dolphins grabbed him with the 27th pick of the 1983 NFL draft. But did you know that Marino was the first overall draft pick in the history of the United States Football league (USFL) by the Los Angeles Express?
Thankfully, Marino chose the Dolphins instead. Like Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice, Marino was a joy to watch on the field. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Famous for his quick release, Marino struck fear in the hearts of many a defensive back, often staring down a player during his pre-snap cadence, then throwing to the receiver that player was covering. Many defenders through the years talked about how that piercing stare seemed to be looking through them, lending to an air of intimidation accorded few other great quarterbacks.
During his career, Marino was voted to nine Pro Bowls, was selected first- or second-team All Pro seven times, and was the NFL’s MVP (1984), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1994), and NFL Man of the Year (1998). The NFL’s passing leader five times, and touchdown leader three times, he ended his career with 61,361 yards and 420 touchdown passes, astronomical numbers for his era.
In the end, it was Marino’s legs, not his arm that contributed most to his decision to retire before the 2000 season. He endured numerous knee surgeries, and he jokingly referred to them as his annual oil changes. He turned down chances to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Minnesota Vikings, deciding that he wanted to retire having played for one team his entire career.
And just to show how dominant the guy was during his playing days, here is a list of his current and former records. Keep in mind that Mario retired having set or tied 46 NFL records, and practically fills the records section of Miami Dolphins media guides. The fact that many of these records took more than 30 years to be broken speaks to the enormity of the feats, as unlike today, Marino played in an era when teams rushed more than passed the ball.
NFL records tied
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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