Concerns (long but I think it's a good read)

PhinfanBo1

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I have a lot of faith in the 2002 Miami Dolphins. The additions of Ricky Williams and Norv Turner give the Dolphins offense the highest expectations since the 1995 season. The Defense, as a group, looks strong and enthusiastic as ever, the passing game has the potential to be more than respectable, and any Ricky-led backfield strikes fear into the heart of a Defense. Not to mention another necessary ingrediant for any succesful team: a top notch placekicker, with ever-reliable Olindo Mare. So what's left? What stands in the way of this very good football team, becoming a truly GREAT team. As far as I'm concerned, these are the questions that must be anwsered as the season progresses.

1) The Offensive line.
I find it hard to believe that the Dolphins offensive line will be anything less than average this season. First of all, having a mobile quaterback like Jay Fiedler and a great running back like Ricky Williams makes their job a whole lot easier. Second of all, there is legitimate talent. Todd Wade, Tim Ruddy, Todd Perry, Leon Searcy, Brent Smith, Mark Dixon, Jamie Nails, Seth McKinney, Marcus Spriggs. These are good, quality offensive lineman. I don't think you can take one name on that list and say that guy wouldn't be a starter, or top backup, on most football teams. Health is the biggest issue as far as I'm concerned. Obviously, Smith missed all of last season, Spriggs was out for all but one game, and an impressive one at that, and Dixon was injured during the all-important stretch run for the 2001 Dolphins. Beyond that, Leon Searcy hasn't played in 2 years; that is very hard to ignore. Wade was banged up in training camp last season which hurt his chances in the regular season, same goes for Ruddy. Perry was hindered by serious personal problems. That just leaves Nails, a formerly well-overweight starter on a terrible Buffalo offensive line who's determination has been questioned (prior to this off-season when he has seemed to really put in the effort, and has lost significant weight),and a rookie, McKinney. Not one member of our offensive line comes without a question mark, and that's scary when you think about it. The thing that I was thrilled about this off-season is that although Dave Wannstedt didn't bring in an "anwser" to the offensive line problem, he covered his bases by bringing in significant, quality depth. Todd Perry doesn't return to pre-2001 form? Okay, we have the former pro bowler Leon Searcy. Dixon goes down again? There's always Nails. Ruddy doesn't rebound as we expect? McKinney, although a rookie, was a four year, high quality starter in college and could quickly make the transition to the pros. And it's hard to imagine that lightning strikes AGAIN, and neither Smith or Spriggs can last the season. So behind every question mark, there is a little bit of insurance, a little bit of a possible anwser. The most important thing is to evaluate what you have early, and throw the best five out there like Dave Wannstedt plans to, as quickly as possible. In a game of unity, there is no position where cohesiveness is more necessary, than on the offensive line. The good news is that there is no lack of talent, or depth, I think this line just needs to come together and get rolling, and I have a lot of confidence that they will, in time. Still, question marks don't erase themselves, and these players need to step up and prove themselves over and over again. Because average won't do it in a superbowl run. Average will take you to the 2nd round of the playoffs, maybe even to the conference championship game with the talent that this line has surrounding it, but average won't keep Jason Gildon away from Jay Fiedler, or stop an attacking New England front seven.

2) When your linebacking corps features Zach Thomas, Morlon Greenwood and Derrick Rodgers, and can still be considered one of the biggest weaknesses on the team, you KNOW that team has a great amount of talent. Obviously, I don't lose any sleep thinking about our starting linebackers. They are energetic, fit the system beautifully and run around making plays. There are only a couple of middle linebackers that I would take over Zach, and I think at the end of the year a similar thing could be said about Greenwood. What concerns me is the depth. I like Twan Russell, Tommy Hendricks and Scott Galyon as people, and as special teamers. I want them on this football team. But what hapens if god forbid Zach Thomas gets hurt and he misses a couple of weeks. All of a sudden you have Hendricks as your starting middle linebacker. Ouch. If Greenwood or Rodgers go out, which we saw last year, we are stuck with either Galyon, who hasn't been healthy in what seems like half a decade, or Russel as a starting linebacker. Not good. Not unless this "braveheart," energetic rookie who's frame is freakishly similar to Zach's, Justin Seaverns, can step up and be that all-important 4th linebacker. Hopefully, we will never need that 4th linebacker and we will never need to find out if we can count on Seaverns, or Russell, or Hendricks, or Galyon. I don't want to find out for two reasons: one, because that would mean that we have lost a key member of our starting defense...and two, well, I don't think I want to know the anwser. Superbowl runs are all about depth, and this is one position, maybe the only one, where the depth scares me.

3) Saved the biggest concern for last. Leadership. We all know that Rob Burnett, Leon Searcy, and Jay Williams have been there, and done that. We all know that there are lots of guys on this team that look up to the Zach Thomas' and the Jason Taylor's. But are these guys leaders? Taylor is more of the lead by example type, and shockingly, the team didn't seem to respond all that well to Zach's outburst after we got our asses handed to us by the Jets at the meadowlands last year. I love to hear Burnett and Searcy talk about how they are going to lead this football team, on and off the field, step up, and do whatever it takes. That's great. But will they be saying that when we are staring down a Bill Cowher, or Bill Belicheck led team in the final 15 minutes of an AFC Championship game? I sure hope so. To me, this was a concern going into training camp and now, who knows how the players feel about Zach and JT after all of the Daryl Gardener stuff that has went down. I bet you some guys think of them more as leaders now than ever before, but some other guys could think of them in a lesser way now. Who knows.

Like with the offensive line, and with the depth at linebacker, finding out could mean the difference beetween a good season, and a succesful one. Because with this much talent, success is only one thing this year. Right now we have a handful of guys with rings on their fingers, success will mean a team full of them.
 

akfinfan

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I think our leadership has been shown this offseason by the release of DG. Zach Thomas obviously has taken this role by pegging concerns and getting the team moved in the right direction. Jay's leadership seems to get better year by year. You don't go 11-5, 2 straight years and not have laedership.
 

MDFINFAN

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Good post..I think I'm less concern about the OL as I am about the LB's, as you say we don't have as much depth there..Hopefully Justin is just what the doctor order..we're know soon..He seems like a keeper right now..Leadership is handle by each individual and together they make a team..I think Miami has enough individual leaders as well as team leaders..I consider M. Dixon the leader of the OL..he's very outspoken and works just as hard..I consider J.T., Burnett, Bowens, leaders of the DL.
Jay is the Man on the O and Zach on the D..The secondary is very well cover by individuals as well as B. Marion the captain of that group..For the WR.. OG is the leader..This team will stick together because of these people and down times will be gut check times and the Leaders will rise to the occassion..just watch.
 

Baz

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I actually think leadership is a strong point on this team. First of all, Wanny. By releasing Gardener, he showed who the boss is, and at the same time showed he is a friend of the players, since he was released at their request. On defense we have my man Brock and Zach, that is 3 times as much leadership as some teams have. On offense, Jay has shown his leadership qualities, as well as OG, and in time, Chambers will up here too. In my opinion, leadership is not a concern......
 

DNY

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My 2 biggest concerns are the O-line and our pass rush. As you said we have what I believe to be talent there, the O-line, and are deeper then last season. The pass rush though really doesn't have me as confident. We have some guys that may contribute but there are big question marks right now. It looks like they have the safeties blitzing more from some of the reports from camp. Bowens could cause some major disruptions if he continues on with last years play. Burnett may offer good pressure in a Trace type configuration. JT should offer his usual smart consistent play. Will Bowens, Chester, Haley or whoever plays DT in passing situations get good push? All questions that will affect the secondaries play also.
 

PhinsTD

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Our Dt are really not supposed to get a whole lot of puch. They are really only supposed to clog the middle and not get past the QB allowing him to step up into the pocket.

In our scheme they are really only supposed to occupy blockers except on 3rd down and at that point the only DT you mentioned who may be on the field will be Haley. More likely J.Williams and Chester are on field for 3 rd downs but I guess we'll see.

I'm more worried about our pass defense from our LB's underneath and the dime DB.

I also wonder about our psyche when we actually do get to the playoffs. Will we be thinking, "I hope we don't get blown out again." or are we gonna step up, be tough and fight hard to win? We also absolutely need to get over the Jit hurdle as it has haunted us in the past all season.
 

DNY

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I don't agree, if our DT's, at least in passing situations, weren't supposed to get penetration then we wouldn't be subbing guys like Brommell and guys like that for the past 5 years. Also, without proven demons on the outside we better get our rush anywhere we can. Again with an effective pass rush you have less to worry about with the coverage of LB's and a dime db.
 

MDFINFAN

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I agree with DNY, if teams don't plan for the DL being effective with a pass rush and only concentrate on JT..You've effectively taken concern from a O..I think Our DL should go like mad Dogs on passing downs to put a little fear in a QB's heart..In the midnight rumble with NY..Vinny for concern about our rush and you could see it in his play..But after he figured out that he wasn't getting hit..he lit us up and came back to kick our butts. QB's need to know that our DL can have them at any time.
 
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