The Miami Dolphins have made it clear to the rest of the league that they want to win, and want to win right away. They pulled no punches this offseason, and when free agency began, they appeared to spare no expense in bringing fresh young talent into the fold. With over $200 million spent in player compensation this offseason, it looks like the Dolphins have done everything they can to put a winning football team on the field this fall, but it is the money they did not spend that is now coming back to haunt them.
Back in March, the Dolphins appeared to be closing in on a deal that would keep left tackle Jake Long in Miami, but ultimately, Long chose the St. Louis Rams as his new home. His exit left a gaping hole in the offensive line, and it is now threatening to make the rest of the Dolphins’ offseason success a moot point.
After Long’s departure, the Dolphins were constantly rumored to be in discussions with offensive linemen all across the nation, but in the end they chose to move forward with second-year tackle, Jonathan Martin. Martin covered Andrew Luck’s blindside during his college years, but the college game is much different from the one that is played on Sundays. And with each passing practice, the hope of Martin stepping into Long’s shoes becomes less realistic.
There is no sense in crying over spilled milk. The Dolphins had a potential Hall of Fame candidate as the cornerstone of their offensive line, and they practically showed him the door with their lackadaisical desire to keep him in town. They could have secured Long for a second contract before another team even got to sniff around, but for some reason they decided that four Pro Bowls in a player’s first five years was not enough and they did not give Long the attention he deserved until just before he walked out. It is unexplainable, especially when you consider the amount of money the Dolphins dished out this summer.
Bringing in offensive weapons like Dustin Keller and Mike Wallace is fantastic. It was just what the team needed on that side of the ball, but Ryan Tannehill has to get a chance to throw them the ball for them to earn their keep. Keller and Tannehill were impressive against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, but one drive in a preseason game (the first for the Jags) does not tell the story of an entire season. Tannehill will need protection if he is going to be successful in his sophomore season.
If Tannehill is unable to sustain drives, it will be the defense that will feel the weight of Long’s absence the most. This is a defense that shows a great amount of promise and could easily be one of the best in the NFL, but short rests and poor field position will wear down any defense, regardless of the talent.
Another move they may be regretting is the decision to select Dion Jordan with the number three pick of the 2013 NFL Draft instead of taking Lane Johnson. Snagging Jordan was a shocking move and one that could pay defensive dividends, but Johnson was a stud tackle and is showing it in training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. It would not have been the jaw-dropper that selecting Jordan was, but then Miami would have a cornerstone left tackle again.
Miami did wonders in setting themselves up for a winning season, but without an anchor keeping Tannehill safe on that left side, it may all be for naught. The playoffs may still be out of reach if this problem is not resolved over the next few weeks.
Jeff Everette covers the NFL, specifically the Miami Dolphins, for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jeverettesports, “like” his page on Facebook, “Trust” him on Sulia, or join his circles on Google+.