It hasn’t been all nice and sunny down in South Beach for the Miami Dolphins. Last season really tested the infrastructure of the organization, and possibly through the entire league. Throughout the trials and turbulence though, Miami still came out of the year with a .500 record; finishing 8-8 on the season. Miami even had a chance to weasel in the playoffs at the end of the year, but wound up collapsing, and lost to two division rivals in their final two games. The Dolphins wound up losing their starting right side of their offensive line for the remainder of the season, with both Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin moving on from the team; Miami must now restructure those holes left by them.
Knowshon Moreno and Brandon Gilbert were much needed additions to help improve their offense. Moreno provides stability to a running back core that never seemed to find their feet the whole season. Lamar Miller was supposed to be the next star studded bell cow for the Dolphins, but never lived up to his potential; only notching one 100-yard rushing game in 2013. Moreno on the other hand was twice as productive, producing his first 1,000 yard rushing season along with accounting for 13 of the Denver Broncos touchdowns. Brandan Albert and Jason Fox will help steer the offensive line in the right direction, but that future bruiser at right tackle is sorely needed for the Dolphins. Right tackle will not be the only position they will take a look at as the NFL draft closes in, other possible positions are guard and defensive tackle. Miami brought in Earl Mitchell from the Houston Texans, but his future potential as a full time starter is unknown, which may cause them to have a wandering eye come draft time.
There are possible replacements at the defensive tackle position available if Miami finds the position a dire need. Guys like Ra’Shede Hageman out of Minnesota, or Louis Nix out of Notre Dame; could fill the void next to Randy Starks. But all inclinations have pointed at right offensive tackle to be their main priority. Even though it may be a bit of a reach, Zack Martin would be there as the 4th best offensive tackle in the draft. Reports have Miami very high on Michigan tackle, Taylor Lewan; but the NFL Draft Daily has Lewan gone by the 12 pick to the Giants. There are a lot of positives, and a few negatives, when Zach Martin’s name starts getting thrown around in the first round. Martin does not have the prototypical size and strength for a franchise left tackle, but does have the proper technique and speed to be reliable. If it so happens that Martin does not work out at the tackle position, he could easily slide inside and become their right guard; which is another need among the offensive line. Either way Martin would become a productive starter, and who knows, with a little grooming he could become an All Pro.
With the last season in the rear view mirror, the Dolphins must focus in the “now”. Drama free, critique free, and media free; South Beach hopes for a summer that inlcudes a much needed break from the tabloids. With all skill positions being set, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill starting to mature as the the teams franchise quarterback, most of the pieces are already in place for the Dolphins to make a run at the division championship. If Miami can pull it all together, they may become a dark horse in the AFC.
This article is one in a series, published daily, providing analysis, insight and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman