The Miami Dolphins have the 8th overall choice in the 2012 NFL Draft. Whether they stay at #8 is a huge question in this draft. How much do they covet QB Tannehill? Do they have to draft him after missing out on Manning and Flynn, and not getting involved in the RG III conversation? Finally, is Tannehill even the answer? This NFL Preview will look back on Miami’s 2011 season before looking forward to 2012.
NOTE: I will randomly add other team previews as the days go by, HOWEVER, if any reader of this blog wants to see a preview for a specific team, just LET ME KNOW and I will gladly make it available.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. As always, your comments, questions and/or disagreements are welcome!
Additional Note: This preview includes ratings used for the 2011 draft. A short explanation of these ratings is as follows:
Numerical: The rank of the player for that position. If there are TWO numbers, the first number is the rank for the general position (OL for example) and the 2nd number the rank for the specific position (OT).
* rating: A rating just below those at the position
NR: Not ranked, meaning I do not think that player is draft worthy.
MIAMI : 2011 RECORD 6-10 2010 RECORD 7-9 2009 RECORD 7-9 2008 RECORD 11-5
TEAM OVERVIEW: Miami tried to push aside HC Sparano to get Harbaugh last year, and then with egg on their face signed this below average HC to an extension. Starting 0-6 in ’11, everyone felt Tony was a goner, but Miami in its infinite wisdom waited until they were playing better before firing him. Leaders in the Jeff Fisher sweepstakes once SD re-upped Norv Turner, Miami missed hiring a coach that could have easily worked with the talent at hand. In comes Joe Philbin, perhaps an upgrade but that we don’t know for sure. What we do know is that Miami has a very good defense and a capable offense when run correctly. Miami passed on trading up for RG III, a move we would have endorsed due to existing team talent. Unfortunately, this organization has recently hit rock bottom, missing out on hiring Jeff Fisher. Imagine Jeff Fisher as HC and Manning as QB. It could have happened, as they have a relationship, but once Fisher went to STL things went from bad to worse. How does this get fixed?
KEY STATS: Miami has a good roster that had to overcome coaching mistakes. The 59% pass D represented at least the 5th year in a row of sub 60 pass %’s. The 3.7-96 run D was on par with the 3.7-100 of ’10. Sacks were at 42, very consistent with the past several seasons. The D allowed but 8 rushing TD’s along with a nice 33.8 3rd down %. Miami intercepted a nice 18 passes, but amazingly recovered just 3 fumbles, leading to a -9 fumble ratio. This can be corrected, and so with a + point ratio and a 3rd place schedule all eyes could be on Philbin to see if he can elevate team wins. Under Sparano the offense was vanilla. In fact, Miami was outgained by 50+ yards per game. They were just 33% on 3rd down and took a very high 52 sacks! The return game was slightly above average, as was the run game with Reggie Bush surprising at 1066-5.0-6 on the ground. Spread-wise, Miami is 56-86 as a HF, including 6 for their last 33. They bounce back off a loss when a dog of >7 (15-3). They have a pair of negative trends off BB SU wins. They are 11 of 46 as a favorite to the NYJ, 36-19 on road grass and 11-23 on MNF, including 3-13 on the road on MNF.
TOP STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS PRIOR TO THE DRAFT: The top strength continues to be the pass D%. There is no one major weakness unless one counts coaching/decision making. Miami needs to elevate its passing game in ’12.
A FIRST LOOK AT THE 2012 SEASON: Will be updated once the 2012 is released. Here is the 2011 notes.
2011: It doesn’t matter who Miami plays until they find a way to win when they are supposed to. Cleveland, Buffalo and road challenged Detroit all won at Miami in ’10. Miami opens on MNF hosting NE. They stay at home to face a Houston team they have NEVER beaten (0-5). Games 3-4 are at SD/NYJ, with a bye week in-between. Miami needs to be ready early to handle this challenge. Back to back road trips at the NYG and KC won’t be easy. Miami closes the season with three straight inside the Division, but two of them are at cold weather Buffalo and NE. Miami’s Power # closed at 23.5, the low point for the year. That usually gets adjusted, but Miami needs to improve to handle the ’11 schedule.
FREE AGENCY ANALYSIS AND STAFF NOTES: Miami has not only failed to land an elite HC and QB, but also lost ground in free agency. Players and analysts alike are calling Miami a place to avoid. Miami traded #1 WR target Marshall for a 3rd round pick in each of the next 2 drafts. That leaves Brian Hartline as the new #1 target. QB Henne also left, replaced by QB Garrard, out of football in ’11. OG Hicks adds versatile back-up depth. 4 are gone from the D, all fringe starters (DE Landford, LB Taylor, CB Allen and Safety Bell). Miami signed fringe starting LB Guyton and a LB who appears only on special teams, plus added a decent CB with potential (Marshall) but no real starting experience. Safety Johnson is a decent addition. It should be noted that Miami was also the clear favorite to sign QB Flynn, but balked at that as well. Good thing this team has a (secret) master plan! The new HC is Joe Philbin. He may or may not be the answer, but can’t be worse than Sparano. Former A&M and GB coach Sherman is the new OC. The new DC is a guy named Kevin Coyle.
2011 DRAFT REVIEW: OG Pouncey shifted to OC, starting all 16 games and holding his own on a line that underperformed in the passing game. RB Thomas went 561-3.5 and needs to play better. WR Gates may be 26 years old but still is an unfinished product. FB Clay was tried at the need position of TE but was better suited back at FB. The NR rookies were hit and miss. The hit was Wilson, at least partly with 17 tackles. The miss was Kearse (cut in August). Free agency was a plus, with Moore holding his own in replacing Thigpen on the roster, Bush running better than expected and LB Burnett, with 105 tackles. DL Taylor is now retired, but did have 7 sacks last year. OG Columbo retired on the job and was awful, but no one replaced him.
1-15 OG Pouncey 6-1
As expected, moved to OC where he played better than his OL teammates
2-62 RB D. Thomas 6
Workhorse in college had early injuries but needs to move pile better
4-111 WR Gates 17
Instincts are off. Needs to learn how to route run to be effective.
6-174 FB Clay 2
Actually an average at best blocker to this point and more like a RB/TE
7-231 DT Kearse NR Wrong move last April and a waste of a pick
7-235 CB Wilson NR
Physical player lost 3 years with a murder rap but contributed a bit as a rookie
2010 DRAFT REVISITED: DT Odrick missed 99% of his rookie year but joined the solid DL rotation in ’11 to produce 22 tackles and 6 sacks. LB Misi played 12 games and had 34 tackles after producing 41 as a rookie. OG Jerry is listed as a reserve and needs to step up in pass protection. LB Edds tore his ACL as a rookie and never made it back to this team. Safety Jones was rated (5-163) and beat out DB Clemons during ’11, finishing with 67 tackles. Picks 145/212/252 all were for the back 7, and all received NR ratings. LB Spitler plays special teams, LB McCoy is gone and CB Carroll is a reserve who had 32 tackles.
2012 DRAFT NEEDS: Miami’s needs are all of a sudden deeper than we thought! They are as follows: WR’s, because no way Hartline and Bess can be anything more than #3 types: RT and at least 1 OG, because Marc Columbo graded out WORST in the NFL in ’11 and the combination of Carey, Incognito and Hicks is borderline at best: QB, either now or soon with Moore just average and hardly dynamic. No one seems to think TE is a need, but we certainly do, because Anthony Fasano is slow and past his prime: LB, especially if Misi is suspended, DB depth and blocking FB (Clay can catch, but he’s not a blocker).
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY AND TENDENCIES FOR 2012: Draft grades were good until last year’s mediocre crop. Under Parcells, Miami preferred multi-year starters from major programs. Also under Parcells/Ireland, they had noticeable misses in early picks with QB’s Pat White and Chad Henne as examples. Ireland says be patient, but the last few months have damaged Miami’s overall image. In the past the Dolphins have not been afraid to work a major trade. Could they do so again for a QB?
DRAFT PICK OVERVIEW: Picks in 1st 3 rounds: 8, 42, 72, 73. Miami has 8 picks, doubling up in round #3 thanks to the trade of WR Marshall to the Bears. Miami will get another #3 in the ’13 draft. Miami and New Orleans flipped picks in the 6th round, with the Dolphins moving up from 162 to 145 to complete the transaction for RB Bush. That turned out better than expected.
ROUND ONE PREVIEW: It’s near unanimous that QB Tannehill will become a Dolphin. There is extreme pressure to draft a QB now that Miami has repeatedly laid an egg in everything they’ve tried to do the past 12 months. Why do we feel they could blow this one too, with Cleveland and/or someone else jumping in? Meanwhile, Tannehill is a reach in our eyes even at #8! Of course his college head coach was Mike Sherman, now the Miami OC! WR makes sense here, as might OT Reiff but these two are hardly splash picks unless WR Blackmon falls to this spot.
REST OF THE DRAFT: The ’11 draft was vanilla in flavor. Pouncey was a given and the rest of the slate (above) failed to excite. This draft needs to be better. If they pass on Tannehill do they then look at Osweiler? Miami fans want something other than a signing of Wisconsin-Whitewater QB Blanchard after the draft! If Floyd (and Blackmon) are gone they must wait for WR, but still need to address this area TWICE! Should they trade back at #8, adding yet another top choice to make this a deeper team? When all is done we expect a QB to be drafted, and hope WR is addressed with a ready to go prospect, as is the OL. No TE’s are on Miami’s radar but they need one. They appear to have their eyes on a late round RB and unfortunately we hear they are targeting other NR players at CB and WR. If that is the case, please wait until AFTER the draft.