The Dolphins faced adversity this season and largely due to massive injuries on both sides of the football.
Whether it was the late season injury to quarterback Ryan Tannehill or the early season injuries to both safety Reshad Jones and line backer Koa Misi, the Dolphins played well enough offensively to overcome their banged up defense who finished 29th in yards and 18th in points allowed. Opponents rushed for 100 yards or more 14 out of 17 games making a case for shoring up the defensive line.
Heading into this offseason, it’s important to look at the factors that could lead the Dolphins to choose either offense or defense in round 1: front office philosophy with free agency and health of their current roster.
Plenty of teams not named the Dolphins such as the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys have consistently drafted well in round one and have at times drafted offensive linemen.
All positions on the offensive line continue to have a large importance in the eyes of NFL teams personnel men who have a strong feel for the game.
The Miami Dolphins certainly have been in this situation before, one where they have made the playoffs after drafting a big mauling tackle out of Michigan named Jake Long. Long was supposedly not the “pillar” of the Dolphins defense that then GM Jeff Ireland hinted at. Of course, many people (including myself) consider the draft of Long one of the biggest oversights in Dolphins history as his career lasted until 2012 and in 2013 he left for the Jeff Fisher led St. Louis Rams after several back and forth attempts with the Dolphins doctors and Rams doctors about the strength of his knees.
Consequently, the Dolphins biggest oversight was not drafting Matt Ryan whom they overlooked thinking they didn’t think Ryan was a “sure bet” with a coach who didn’t exactly specialize in quarterbacks in Tony Sparano, a little known offensive line coach to most Dolphins fans at the time.
For one, the Dolphins drafts in subsequent years went from razzle- dazzle to straight up puzzling. Whether it was the selection by Ted Ginn Jr. versus the draft of Jared Odrick, the Dolphins have retooled and changed their draft selections bouncing from each side of the football.
Looking back on the Dolphins drafts, one cannot help but notice that the 2009 team no-longer has any Dolphins’ players on the current roster. In 2010, they missed on Dez Bryant who was probably available and selected Jared Odrick after trading back to pick 28. The 2012 draft features only Ryan Tannehill from that draft still on the team.
However, other flagship franchises such as the Packers and Cowboys in the NFL have done nothing but continually win the NFL draft. Sure like most teams they have missed on some picks, they have continually drafted well.
Case and point, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers have drafted considerably well and have even out maneuvered other teams in drafting some of the best talent up front on the offensive line, defensive line with skill positions sprinkled in between.
When talking skill positions 2008 was a great year for the Packers who took Jordy Nelson in round 2 out of Kansas State.
Packers in 2009 got a sleeper pick with T.J. Lang in round 4 after taking Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji- in round 1.
Packers built even more of their roster with Bryan Bulaga, a tackle out of Iowa in 2010.
In 2011 the Packers selected Randall Cobb in round 2 out of Kentucky as Cobb continues to flourish in the regular season and post season as a premier wide receiver and returner.
Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys strengthened the argument for the youth brigade up front and in the trenches.
First most pundits would be quick to point out that drafting tackles and guards round one is a bad idea.
However, the Dallas Cowboys said the heck with conventional wisdom and shored up their offensive line, probably the best in the NFL by drafting offensive linemen in round 1.
In 2011, the Cowboys went with tackle Tyron Smith. Not done and realizing that the line needed to be rebuilt so they drafted Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin in 2013. In 2014 they went and drafted Zach Martin, much to everyone’s chagrin out of Notre Dame.
That makes 3 offensive lineman, all in round 1 and already added to Doug Free who was already in Dallas. Not to mention, being able to sign La’El Collins after he fell from the draft due to appearing in a police report days before the 2015 draft.
As the 2017 Dolphins attempt to do even better than the 2016 Dolphins and prove to their fans that winning is sustainable and not an aberration, do not be surprised if the Dolphins begin to rebuild and retool their offensive line due to age (Branden Albert) and durability (C-Mike Pouncey). With Laremy Tunsil holding his own at guard, it’s possible they continue to keep him at the position and draft a tackle.
It remains to be seen, but with both Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey, it almost makes sense for the Dolphins build off of this similar philosophy and find a Center and Tackle in the draft.
While it might not be the popular move because fans like running backs and wide receivers and star-studded corners and linebackers, the position of the offensive line continues to prove itself as the mainstay in the NFL and in the trenches.
(Photo Credit-Al Diaz-Miami Herald)