After Free Agency Are The Dolphins Any Better?
Mike Tannerbaum must have a very optimistic outlook on life if he thinks that this seasons team could beat up last seasons. We are not sure he is looking at the right roster. Looking at the offense first, obviously the QB position is unchanged and will led by Ryan tannehill again, backed up by Matt Moore. The offensive line may be marginally better as last years guards will have improved competition in training camp which should result in them stepping up or being demoted to the bench. If anything there is more proven depth across the line. Jermon Bushrod will be asked to transition to left guard but will also be backup to Brandon Albert. Sam Young and Kraig Urbik will end up being in the mix for the starting right guard spot, challenging Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas who both struggled at times last year. The new linemen signings may not have upgraded the talent significantly but the team are better served if the injury bug takes hold because of player flexibility, if we were being kind the offensive line has slightly improved because of the improved depth.
TE hasn't changed significantly as Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims return as the primary starters, Jake Stoneburner provides the back up with new signing MarQueis Gray joining the group, Gray is a bit of an unknown commodity as he has bounced around 4 teams in his 4 year career, starting 7 games and recording 144 yards.
Running back and wide receiver has seen the biggest loss of talent at the moment as the team decided that Lamar Miller wasn't worth the salary that he got from Houston which could be a huge regret. They failed to acquire CJ Anderson or Chris Johnson and so have since signed Isaiah Peat and Daniel Thomas, yes the ex Dolphin, both of who can only be viewed as back-ups to Jay Ajayi if they make it through training camp. There is also a rumour going around that they are trying to work out a trade with Kansas City for Kniles Davis. This could be a good pick-up but not as good as having Miller on the team and acquiring Davis would mean the loss of a draft pick which didn't have to happen if Miller was paid. Considering the amount of cap space they freed up, resigning Lamar would have been relatively easy. At this point the talent at running back isn't as good as it was before free agency started, Ajayi could prove us all wrong and be an upgrade, but Miller was quick and shifty with good hands and he very rarely fumbled the ball.
Likewise wide receiver isn't as strong as it was pre March due to the departure of Rishad Matthews who was having a breakout season until injury forced him to miss a chunk of games. Kenny Stills will now start opposite Devante Parker with Jarvis Landry lining up all over the place, Matt Hazel will work the rotation together with any one of the recently signed wide outs. One, possibly two of them will make it through training camp but they will probably serve as special teams players or kick / punt returners. As with the RB position, WR has taken a loss because of the departure of Matthews.
On the other side of the ball the defence has seen a lot of change and as with the offense the talent level has probably taken a dip. Gone are Olivier Vernon, Brent Grimes and Derrick Shelby. They have been replaced by Mario Williams, Byron Maxwell and Andre Branch. The loss of Vernon will have an impact but there was no way the Dolphins were going to match the Giants ridiculous offer, fair play to him for getting the contract but his money isn't that far away from JJ Watt money and with no disrespect he isn't on the same planet as Watt. The Dolphins signed Williams to replace him and as long as the Mario that played with the Bills prior to the 2015 season turns up then the left side of the line won't be significantly affected. The concern that hasn't been addressed is how well has Cameron Wake recovered and how much has he got left to offer because the backup plan went to Atlanta. Andre Branch was signed to replace Shelby, is he an upgrade? he has the potential but has never lived up to his draft status, maybe a change of scenery will see a re-invigorated player. A recent signing that may make a contribution is ex Patriot DT Chris Jones, if he has recovered from his calf injury then his 69 tackles and 9 sacks in 23 games will help the defensive line depth.
The defensive backfield saw the departure of Brent Grimes but Byron Maxwell was acquired in a trade to fill Grimes spot. Maxwell didn't play well in Philadelphia but it may have been because he was in the wrong system. He is bigger and stronger than Grimes but not as athletic although Grimes play seemed to have diminished of late as father time may have started to catch up with him. There have been no other significant changes to cornerback so yet again the talent level may well be no better off than before unless Vance Joseph can get the best out of Maxwell. The safety position may have been upgraded with the signing of Isa Abdul-Quddus, during the last 8 games of 2015 he was one of the highest ranked safeties in the league, lets hope he carries on playing at the same level so that he forms a formidable pairing with Reshad Jones.
Linebacker saw the addition of Kiko Alonso to the squad, the question on everybody's mind is, has he fully recovered from his injuries and can he return to be the same player he was in his rookie season with the Bills, if he can then linebacker has definitely been upgraded from last season but as with a number of the replacements there are more if's and buts than answers at the moment. We won't get a clearer picture until training camp kicks of fully but until then we feel that Mike Tannerbaum's claim that this years team would beat up last years is somewhat crazy.
Maybe, just maybe the biggest difference won't be with the players though, it could be from the new coaches, if Adam Gase is as good as they say he is and Vance Joseph can get more out of the defense then the team may be able to get a few more wins than last year and who knows, watch this space...