It seems as though the consensus is that the Miami Dolphins roster is set, and this is a team ready for big things in 2013. Aggressive approaches to free agency and this year’s NFL draft seem to have sated the fan base and managed the high expectations for the season.
Ignore the urge to want the season to hurry up and get here. Be thankful there is a lengthy preseason, because although the roster appears to be improved, there are still questions that need to be answered.
With the departure of Jake Long to the St. Louis Rams, the first and most obvious one is left tackle. Jonathan Martin, who is coming off his rookie season, had only a handful of tackles who where ranked lower than him in performance. He played his college career with Stanford at the left tackle position and has stated that is where he is most comfortable even though he played several games at right tackle in 2012. Coaches have diagnosed his issue last season as being the level of strength, so Martin has reported to Dolphin facilities with 20 extra pounds of muscle.
The Dolphins passed on Lane Johnson in the draft and have signed a right tackle (Tyson Clabo), but they haven’t done much about left tackle outside of selecting Dallas Thomas in the third round of the draft. Thomas projects as a guard, so it seems that the Dolphins’ left tackle eggs are placed in the Jonathan Martin basket. Even if Martin turns out to be the real deal there, he’s not above injury and a veteran presence for depth and experience would be wise.
Another question that arises is on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins entered the offseason with a need for pass rush pressure opposite defensive end Cameron Wake. They made huge strides to addressing that need by trading up to select Dion Jordan. The potential problem is that Jordan is 6’7″ and 248 lbs. Jordan’s height/weight/skill set combo make him an ideal fit for the 3-4 outside linebacker position. The Dolphins run a 4-3 defense. There are rumors of a hybrid defense being installed, but at this point I view that as a necessity. Jordan could also stand to gain 10-15 lbs which is very doable, but rehabbing a shoulder injury could make it tricky.
Jordan’s presence on the field does not constitute a hybrid defense, and other adjustments have to be made. Jared Odrick, who is ideally a 4-3 defensive tackle, played the 4-3 end last season and can play end in the 3-4. So he fits. Randy Starks and Paul Solai are the tackles and they can play either style of defense as well as Wake who can also play outside linebacker. So the hybrid, from a personnel standpoint is possible, but the question is will it happen?
Those are the major questions, but there are others. Will Ryan Tannehill make the progress we expect at QB? Will second year running back Lamar Miller and rookie Mike Gillislee be enough after the loss of Reggie Bush via FA? Will Brent Grimes be able to rebound from his Achilles injury? What will Dustin Keller bring to the offense after a down year for the New York Jets? I just know that an exciting offseason is not the path to a successful season.