Miami Dolphins: Linebacker Shuffling

The Super Bowl is in the rearview.

One season over another just begun.

Teams have started making cuts and positioning themselves for free agency which officially begins March 9th.

This is the time of year that teams suddenly look quite a bit different. Good teams try to shore up their problem areas before the NFL Draft comes around to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to welcome young college players.

The Miami Dolphins have already started by cutting Mario Williams and Earl Mitchell. They are also exploring the possibility of trading tackle Brandon Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The major problem area for this Dolphins roster is at linebacker. First year middle linebacker Kiko Alonso was a pleasant surprise.  The rest of the linebacking corps struggled through injury and inexperience. Veterans Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins remain big question marks of whether they will be even on the team come training camp. There is a strong possibility that the team will add two(if not more) new linebackers through free agency and the draft.

That makes very good sense.

What does not make sense is the notion of replacing Alonso in the middle and moving him to outside linebacker.

Yes there is the chance that you find a gem in the middle and Kiko slides outside with no issues whatsoever. Only problem is-

Zach Thomas is not walking through that door.

Moves like this rarely go off like clockwork.

Do I need to remind you of the attempt to move Koa Misi to middle linebacker a few years ago?

Not only did the move not solve the middle linebacker issues but it also significantly weakened the play on the outside.

Alonso is solid in the middle. In his first year with the team. He may be even better in year two.

Spend your time(and money) finding players to play on the outside. Which is much easier than finding a great mike linebacker.

If it works do not fix it.


Miami Dolphins: Replacing ‘The Don’

Every team, when around long enough, has its legends. Those members of it history without which you could not tell the story of the franchise. Their names are spoken with a sense of reverence.

These men, they cast pretty big shadows.

Every single time a linebacker wanders into the Miami Dolphins training camp the questions come. Is this the next Zach? This speaks to the desire for the overachieving, undersized giant of a man Zach Thomas was for years down in south Florida. Drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft he was an instant fan favorite. Even though the Dolphins have a long history of impressive linebackers Zach’s star shined a little bit brighter.

‘The greatest pure passer in the history of the game’. That is how I describe one Dan Marino. Honestly I do not think that title will be taken any time soon. With a flick of the wrist Marino rewrote the record books in a time when you could actually hit the quarterback, never mind mugging the wide receivers. Ryan Tannehill is the latest quarterback to try and fill his shoes. I do not think anyone could ever replace him.

Then you come to ‘The Don’. Don Shula’s shadow is the longest. As it should be. Winningest coach in NFL history. Perfect season. He won games with a staunch defense, power running and a conservative passing game. Then he turned around and won on the golden arm of Marino.

Bum Phillips once said of Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”

So once again the Dolphins looked to find a new coach, more importantly they looked to find the next ‘Don’.

On January 9th, 2015 the Dolphins made Adam Gase their new head coach. Last season he was the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.

Adam Gase will never be Don Shula. That is asking far too much. If he won ten games a season he would need 35 years to break Shula’s NFL record 347 wins.

What Gase can be is very good. While he only has 3 years experience as a coordinator he has an extraordinary amount of experience for a 37-yr old. He started his career as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban. Thing is Saban was not the coach at Alabama at the time, he was not coaching LSU either. He was an assistant for Saban way back in Michigan State. Gase was also the only assistant Saban took with him to his next stop. Gase has impressed at every stop of the way. He has called plays, developed quarterbacks and worked with some of the best in the league(Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler).

His first job in Miami will be figuring out whether Ryan Tannehill should be the quarterback going forward.

He is not the ‘Don’ but I believe he is up to the task.