- Jul 26, 2004
- Reaction score
THE GOOD NEWS
1. Bookends you can count on
While Jake Long had a tricky start to 2009 (4 total pressures given up to the Falcons), our No. 2-ranked left tackle didn’t let it get to him. The guy who was seen as a more natural right tackle gave up less pressure per play than any other left tackle and pitched a sublime 6 shutouts in which he didn’t give a piece of pressure up. His run blocking was what allows Joe Thomas to separate from him, but his 56 positive run blocks were bettered by only four others (who — other than Thomas — had more snaps).
All the way over on the right side of the line, they just so happen to have our fourth-ranked right tackle with a strong +12.2 rating. Vernon Carey isn’t as consistent as Long but that doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the best run-blocking tackles in the league.
He ranked fifth overall with his run blocking regardless of which side he plays and, though he doesn’t get the press of Long, he has made himself an invaluable and underrated part of the Dolphins’ success. Life’s a lot easier for Chad Henne and the running backs with these two guys on the field.
2. Time for a Wake-up call.
The disappointment of losing Jason Taylor to a divisional rival was negated by the joy of losing the underachieving Joey Porter. So what makes this something to be cheerful? Step up Cameron Wake — a pass-rushing menace of the highest order.
A somewhat interesting comparison of the three men is to look at how much total pressure they all accounted for: Taylor 32, Porter 25 and Wake 33. Not that different, right? Now factor in that Wake rushed the pass 200 fewer times than the others.
If our math is right, more Wake should equal more pressure. With Tony Sparano saying Wake is becoming a more complete linebacker, it looks like we’re going to see more of a man who scored a near impossible +24.5 pass-rusher rating on just 134 attempts. If ever a player was primed to break out, it’s Wake.
THE BAD NEWS
1. Subtraction by addition?
It was a tad odd that the Dolphins neglected to address the glaring issue at the middle of their defense — what to do at the nose tackle position. Instead. they’ve opted to move their most impressive defensive player in 2009 to the nose, a position he hasn’t played before.
Now there’s every possibility that Randy Starks is a success in this position. He’s bigger than a nose tackle like Jay Ratliff and was very stout at the point of attack this past season. But its’ always a concern when players are shifted around positions. Will Starks be as effective on the nose after a season picking up 32 total pressures and ranking as our second-best 3-4 end?
It says something for the rest of the Dolphins’ roster that this is a concern. But it’s one to watch; otherwise we could see Paul Soliai come in. While Soliai wasn’t terrible (+3.0 run stuffing), it would be asking a lot for him to build on that and see more than the 370 snaps his large frame handled in 2009.
2. Not playing it safe.
After somewhat unfairly cutting Gibril Wilson (he didn’t balance out his lowlight with highlights, which rendered his general solid play meaningless to many), the Dolphins still have some big issues with their safeties. Yeremiah Bell may be the best-tackling safety in the league and what the Dolphins want from their strong safety, but the free safety position is more a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-it-works-out situation.
Atop the depth chart is a player who was so trusted by the staff that he saw 89 plays as a rookie (Chris Clemons). His -2.4 rating in that period wasn’t great and you’d expect rookies to struggle initially, so nobody should be writing off Clemons. But as of this moment he’s proved very little in the NFL. For a team as talented as the Dolphins (and they are loaded with talent), that’s enough of a reason to be one of the teams’ biggest concerns heading into the season. Wilson would have been the safe choice, ironically, but the Dolphins appear to be going for broke at such a crucial position.
The truth is we were stretching a bit to find flaws with the Dolphins. In a few short years they’ve gone from a one-win season to assembling one of the most complete rosters in all of football. We didn’t even get a chance to talk about the depth they have at receiver or their young cornerbacks. The only concern is that for all the good players, do they have those great players who can push you past contending with teams to actually beating them? It’s time for some Dolphins players to step up.