*splish splash* What’s that, Dolphins making noise again? Must mean free agency is in full swing. Two years ago the Dolphins biggest need was wide receiver; they signed the top free agent available at that position in Mike Wallace. Then Tannehill got crushed in 2013 following the collapse of his O-line due to the Incognito/Martin fiasco. The Dolphins went out and got the top free agent tackle in Brandon Albert in 2014.
Last year the Dolphins had three heartbreaking losses in the final minutes against Detroit, Green Bay and Denver. The Dolphins couldn’t stop the run(ranked 24th) and the D-line wore down late in the game. With the signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh the Dolphins filled their biggest weakness with arguably the best in the league at his position. The Lions ranked 6th in run defense in 2013 and were 1st against the run last year.
The signing of Suh addresses one area of weakness for Miami, but most people would argue the Dolphins still have holes to fill at wide receiver, cornerback, free safety, offensive guard and possibly tight end. The Dolphins will undoubtedly sign veteran free agents at most glaring areas of weakness, but for the Dolphins to really get over the 8 and 8 hump they’ll need some of their in-house guys to step up.
At wide receiver, look for Rishard Matthews and Matt Hazel to see increased reps. Assuming Miami keeps Wallace, look for Matthews to fill the Gibson/Hartline role as the #2 receiver with Landry in the slot.
The Dolphins recently signed free agent cornerback Brice McCain, but he would be best fit in the slot with Jamar Taylor or Will Davis across from Brent Grimes. Taylor run a 4.3 at the combine and tied for the most reps of 225 at 22. Those numbers showed as he was solid in pass defense but really displayed his strength jamming receivers at the line and showcasing his tackling ability when the play came his way. Davis hinted at natural ball hawking ability in his first camp with Miami and during preseason. The problem here is neither can stay healthy enough to get significant playing time.
The Dolphins made an interesting move during the 2014 draft taking 6’1 cornerback Walt Aikens of Liberty University in the 4th round. Coyle, known for his zone scheme, generally plays shorter, quicker corners.
The Dolphins currently have Aikens playing free safety competing with Michael Thomas to pair with strong safety Rashad Jones. Miami will likely sign a veteran free agent for the position and very well could bring back veteran Louis Delmas.
2nd year player Billy Turner could not beat out Daryn Colledge for the starting right guard position in 2014. As a rookie Turner showed to be a mauler in the run game, but a liability when it came to pass blocking. If he can improve his technique he could be an affective starter and an athletic pulling right guard.
The Dolphins very well may lose starting tight end Charles Clay who is currently under the transition tag. Tight end coach Dan Campbell has done a great job developing former 6th round pick Charles Clay and 4th round pick Dion Sims. Look for Miami to pick up a veteran at the position, but also develop 6’5 Arthur Lynch out of Georgia who was a 5th round pick for Miami in 2014.
Miami still has moves to make, but if they really want to take the next step not only in 2015, but future years they’ll need the young in-house players already on the roster to take on a bigger role during a time of limited cap space.