Fellow PhinManiacs writer Ron Canniff and I are participating in a mock draft sponsored by the Next Fan Up Podcast last week and this week. I'm not allowed to release the picks yet but I can tell you that the good Mr. Canniff did a marvelous job representing for the Dolphins. Eventually those picks will find themselves onto this site and you will be able to judge for yourselves.
In the meantime there are some conclusions that can be drawn from the results of that draft without getting into specifics and I'd like to concentrate on one of them that will not be a surprise to anyone who have been paying attention.
This draft isn't exactly chuck full of difference makers. As Omar Kelly at the Sun-Sentinel points out here, there isn't a lot of difference making talent in this draft especially if you are picking where the Dolphins are at 13. But it does have one prominent strength: 3-4 defensive end/4-3 defensive tackle. In our draft, potential first round talent was available late in the second into the third rounds in the form of, for example, Sheldon Day, Vernon Butler, Kenny Clark, Austin Johnson and Adolphus Washington.
Why should the Dolphins care about defensive tackle? Because it's what I call a "sneaky need."
A "sneaky need" is one that is there but no one is talking about. Most people acknowledge that the Dolphins have needs at all three levels of the defense, but few people point to the interior of the defensive line, presumably because they feel that they have an established starter in Earl Mitchell with a future behind him in youngsters Jordan Phillips and perhaps Deandre Coleman.
Here's the problem. The Dolphins were 28th in the league against the run and there's good reason for that. And no, it wasn't disappointing play from Ndamukong Suh that caused the problem. And no, it wasn't entirely poor play from the linebackers, though that's always a factor.
The truth is that only a cursory review of the game film from last year shows that Dolphins were poor against the run because teams ran away from Suh to the other side.
The key to stopping the run in the type of defense that the Dolphins ran last year and will run again this year is penetration from the defensive linemen. Time after time the video shows Suh doing just that, frequently finding himself two yards into the back field while the opposing running back took the ball to the other side where the [insert name here] at defensive tackle was stuck to an offensive lineman like glue, unable to get off of a block.
Frequently they were blown one and a half to two yards back into the linebacker on that side. The defensive ends did them no favors as well, as the problem was particularly acute when Olivier Vernon was paired with the defensive tackle to that side.
There's just no doubt about it. The Dolphins defense was a sieve against the run mostly because of poor defensive line play. I'm not saying that there's no hope for the defensive tackles that the Dolphins have. An awful lot of what determines success in the NFL is good coaching and the young players like Coleman and Phillips may get much better training under the new staff.
Given that the Dolphins invested a second round pick into Phillips last year, they may well be hoping that will be the case and that he will develop. In fact, in an ordinary year, I'd say defensive tackle should be way down the list of potential needs.
But its not an ordinary year. The NFL draft is all about getting value at the position you are selecting and the value in this draft is in a position that flat out underperformed last year for the Dolphins. Under the circumstances, the team would be well advised to take advantage of it by taking a promising tackle in the early to middle rounds of the selection process.
This column was written by Tom Shannon. Follow him on Twitter: @bearingthenews
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