Notable 2013 Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Matt Moore, RB Reggie Bush, WR Brian Hartline, TE Anthony Fasano, OLT Jake Long,
DT Randy Starks, LCB Sean Smith, FS Chris Clemons
Notable 2014 Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Davone Bess, LG Richie Incognito, RG John Jerry, DT Paul Soliai, SLB Koa Misi, CB Nolan Carroll, SS Reshad Jones, K Dan Carpenter
Potential 2013 Cap Casualties: LG Richie Incognito, MLB Karlos Dansby, CB Richard Marshall
Offensive Scheme: Mike Sherman’s playbook is heavily influenced by the Mike Holmgren West Coast Offense. The standard up-tempo, rhythm passing attack is featured, but Sherman has added a few wrinkles. Sherman employs a zone-blocking scheme, but leans on a power-running game more often than your classic WCO desciple. Sherman is also unafraid to take his fair share of deep shots downfield; an element rarely seen in a standard WCO that makes its living attacking underneath.
In Sherman’s scheme, runners must display a decisive, quick burst through the hole, and possess reliable hands for the passing game. Pristine route-running, short-area quickness, and the ability to get tough yards after the catch are valued traits for a WR in Sherman’s scheme; size and straight-line speed are just gravy. The offensive linemen must be intelligent and stout at the point of attack, yet athletic enough to get out and block at the second level.
Defensive Scheme: Kevin Coyle cut his schematic teeth under Mike Zimmer and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, so it comes as no surprise that Coyle’s 4-3/3-4 hybrid closely resembles the Bengals defense. As in Cincinnati, the front seven is comprised of rangy athletes who are flexible enough to vacillate between the 4-3 and 3-4. A massive, run-stopping presence capable of anchoring both sets is critical in Coyle’s scheme. In the secondary, Coyle prefers big, aggressive athletes for his press-zone. The corners should be physical in man-coverage, and intelligent, rangy safeties are required in the two-deep zone.
In the War Room: On paper, the Miami draft day decision-making unit consists of GM Jeff Ireland, his right-hand man Brian Gaine, and head coach Joe Philbin. However, some would argue that Stephen Ross is the man behind the curtain.
It does seem odd that a whimsical owner like Ross has staunchly defended the embattled Ireland for this long. We’re talking about a guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh while Tony Sparano was still under contract, and scrapped Miami’s beloved old fight song for no apparent reason. Ross is obviously a “change for change’s sake” kinda guy, yet he’s been hesitant to make the one move that ‘Fins fans have clamored for the loudest; to fire Ireland. It’s all pretty fishy…and seems to offer credence to those who suggest that Ireland and Philbin are little more than Ross’ puppets. However, there’s also the possibility that Ross has embraced the idea of stability, for the good of his organization. Time will tell.
As for Ireland’s personnel track record, it’s spotty, but not as awful as some would have you believe. Sure, there have been some draft and free agency whiffs (Pat White, Ernest Wilford, etc.), but you’ll have that. Ireland has also had his wins; Tannehill shows promise. Pouncey was a direct hit in the first round. Odrick and Misi have begun to emerge. Hartline, Clay, Clemons, and R. Jones were nice third-day gets. Bess and Carpenter were UFA gems. Dansby was a solid F.A. signing, and bringing Cameron Wake across the border was an all-time heady move.
Like his mentor, Bill Parcells, Ireland plays it relatively safe on draft day. He fills needs, and when in doubt, he’ll usually address the trenches…Ireland seems to have an affinity for BIG 10 prospects; perhaps another trait inherited from Parcells…Philbin brought the “build through the draft” philosophy with him from Green Bay, and appears to be an important voice in the Miami war room. I don’t expect Miami to be major players in free agency.
2013 NFL Draft Picks: (9) 1st, 2nd, 2nd (from Colts), 3rd, 3rd (from Bears), 4th, 5th, 6th (from Colts/conditional), 7th
Sean Smith is an enigma. One week, he looks like a potential Pro-Bowler; the next week, he’s getting beat like a rug. Nevertheless, he’s the best that Miami has to offer at CB…and he’s a free agent after this season. I doubt that Miami lets Smith walk, but more is still needed. Richard Marshall is a decent starter, but he’s on the I.R. with a troublesome back injury, and the fact that he’s on his third different team in three seasons doesn’t inspire confidence. Nickel corner Nolan Carroll appears to be in over his head as a starter. Newly acquired Dimitri Patterson is a bum.
Alabama’s Dee Milliner is a big, physical corner custom-built for Coyle’s scheme. Miami would probably have to move up to secure Milliner, making second-day prospects like Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer or Utah State’s Will Davis more realistic options.
2. Wide Receiver
Miami could use a true #1 receiver to complement Brian Hartline and Davone Bess…and that’s assuming that Hartline and Bess are re-signed. A sizeable deep threat is needed to accelerate Ryan Tannehill’s development, so while Greg Jennings’ familiarity with Philbin seems to make him a logical free agency target, I expect Ireland and Co. to get younger and faster at WR via the draft. Tennessee’s explosive Cordarrelle Patterson (think a big Percy Harvin) could be a first round target. The Dolphins may wait until the second round to gamble on the upside of one of Patterson’s former teammates, Justin Hunter, or another ex-Vol, Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers.
3. Offensive Tackle
What to do with Jake Long? How the Dolphins ultimately approach the 2013 NFL Draft may hinge on the answer to that question. Should Ireland decide to bite the $15.4 million bullet and Franchise Long, the need for an OT will fall behind the need for a pass-rushing complement to Wake. If Long is allowed to walk, the need for a tackle rockets up the charts.
While Long has declined due to injury, he’s still only 27 years old and a serviceable performer. Letting him walk with no backup plan in place would be risky business. To entrust Jonathan Martin with protecting Tannehill’s blindside would be a monumental leap of faith, and potentially detrimental to the young quarterback’s development. I’m guessing that Long remains in Miami, but if I’m wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins trade into the top three (Jacksonville and/or Oakland could be looking to trade down) to grab Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. Mike Sherman is familiar with Joeckel after their days together in College Station. If Long bolts, I have a hunch that (as in the ’12 draft with Ryan Tannehill) Sherman gets in the ear of Jeff Ireland and lobbies for Joeckel.