Today at the NFL Combine, Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey spoke for the first time since his introductory press conference. Hickey, who has been attending the Combine for 19 years, says that he’s always excited to be there and with this being his first one as general manager, it’s a very exciting time.
Throughout the press conference, Hickey spoke about several different topics and gave us some insight as to what the Dolphins were thinking heading into free agency and the draft. One of the biggest hints was when he said that he believes football starts up front on both sides of the ball, meaning the offensive and defensive lines. While the Dolphins are set at defensive end, a big question mark is the defensive tackle position. With Randy Starks and Paul Soliai set to hit the free agent market, the Dolphins could possibly be without two of their starting defensive tackles from 2013. If Hickey truly believes that football starts up front, it may signal a bigger push to re-sign both Starks and Soliai than most had imagined.
While Hickey didn’t get into specifics regarding the offensive line, we all know that it will be a huge focus during the offseason. The Dolphins are expected to address at least a few positions on the offensive line in free agency with the rest coming in the draft. However, the Wells Report complicates matters as Mike Pouncey was named as one of the main culprits in the bullying saga. Hickey said that they are working together with the NFL offices in regards to player discipline, and it is likely the Dolphins are waiting on the NFL before they take any action. It is expected that Pouncey will be suspended for several games. In that case, Nate Garner will most likely fill in for him during his absence as he did last season.
Another interesting piece of information that Hickey let out was that the Dolphins may be going away from the zone-blocking scheme on the offensive line that they have used the past two seasons under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and former offensive line coach Jim Turner. With Bill Lazor now set as the offensive coordinator and John Benton expected to become the new offensive line coach, it could signal a shift in their philosophy. This will be something to keep an eye on as it will greatly affect who the Dolphins pursue in free agency and the draft.
Hickey also addressed the quarterback position and Ryan Tannehill. Several weeks ago, an unconfirmed report came out that said Philbin had lost a bit of confidence in Tannehill and wouldn’t be afraid to put Matt Moore in the starting lineup if it came to that. Hickey said he believed in Tannehill and has been pleased with his progression from college to the NFL and then to his second year. He said he expects this progression to continue into his third year. There should be no question about the quarterback position as Philbin’s career is tied to Tannehill and his development. If Philbin benches him, that will most likely mean that Philbin is on his way out. I have a hard time believing that report for that reason and you should take it with a grain of salt as well. To further confirm that, let’s look at Tannehill’s numbers the past two years.
In 2012, he had a completion percentage of 58.3 percent and threw for 3,294 yards. He averaged 6.81 yards per attempt and threw for 12 touchdowns. He threw for 13 interceptions and fumbled the ball five times. His quarterback rating for the season was 76.1. In 2013, he had a completion percentage of 60.4 percent and threw for 3,913 yards. He averaged 6.66 yard per attempt and threw for 24 touchdowns. He threw for 17 interceptions and fumbled the ball six times. His quarterback rating for the season was 81.7.
As you can see, this shows development from one year to the next and this should improve in his third year leading the team.
The free agency period will begin on Mar. 8 and teams will be able to start signing players on Mar. 11. It is then where we will see the Dolphins’ plan begin to unfold.
Matthew Cannata is a Miami Dolphins columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PhinManics. Be sure to also add him to your network on Google.