The Dolphins have been searching for Dan Marino’s replacement since he retired. Desperate for a quarterback, the Dolphins took raw quarterback Ryan Tannehill 8th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and when veteran Matt Moore struggled in the pre-season, they made Tannehill a rookie starter. It’s tough to make much of a verdict on his future because he’s still so raw and because he’s not working with the best group of receivers, but even though he was inconsistent this year, the Dolphins have to be pleased with him and hopeful for the future. Now it’s time to build around him and give him every chance to succeed.
The Dolphins didn’t give Ryan Tannehill much to work with in terms of receivers after trading away Brandon Marshall. They had no proven receivers in the mix coming into the season. He helped Brian Hartline turn into a 1000 yard receiver, but he was really inconsistent. He had 1083 yards, but almost a quarter of those yards in one game. He was limited to 2 or fewer catches in 5 games, including a game against St. Louis in which he didn’t see a single target, and he only scored once all year.
He’s not consistent enough to be a #1 receiver and he’s a free agent anyway. If he leaves, they’ll need two new starters, but even if he returns, they’ll still need a long term #1 receiver, which would allow Brian Hartline and slot receiver Davone Bess to play complimentary roles. They could easily use the 12th overall pick on Keenan Allen.
The Dolphins should make re-signing Jake Long a priority. I know he was just a 2nd round rookie, but if this year was any indication, Jonathan Martin belongs at right tackle long term. He was terrible all year, ranking 76th among 80 eligible tackles on ProFootballFocus, but was even worse on the left side when Jake Long missed time with injury. In just 5 starts there, he allowed 22 total sacks, hits, and hurries. That’s more than Long allowed all year in 11 starts. If he’s not re-signed, they’ll need at least another starting tackle as swing tackle Nate Garner can’t be counted on, but preferably it would be someone who could play on the left side.
Jared Odrick really struggled at defensive end, ranking 59th out of 62 eligible 4-3 ends on ProFootballFocus, but that makes sense since he’s a defensive tackle. I have no idea what the Dolphins were thinking moving him to end in their new 4-3. He’s a much better fit inside, where he’d rotate with Randy Starks (assuming he’s re-signed, more on that later) and Paul Soliai. That leaves them needing a new defensive end, unless they think nickel rusher and 3rd round rookie Olivier Vernon can be a starter long term.
The Dolphins traded Vontae Davis for a 2nd round pick before the season in a surprise move and it looks like the right one. They were right to be concerned about his conditioning and durability as he was frequently injured with the Colts this year and struggled when on the field. However, cornerback is a big need of theirs so they might use that 2nd round pick on another cornerback. Richard Marshall is no sure thing going forward after back surgery. Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson both struggled when counted on. Sean Smith, meanwhile, emerged as a legitimate #1 cornerback this season, but he’s now a free agent.
John Jerry was better than maybe his own team thought he would be. The Dolphins had him behind two veteran journeymen on the depth chart at separate points this off-season before one got hurt and the other retired and they were forced to start Jerry, who showed up overweight to Training Camp and was already a poor fit for their new zone blocking scheme. Though he wasn’t bad, he wasn’t good either and he could be upgraded with someone who is a better fit for the scheme.
The Dolphins used a 3rd round pick on Michael Egnew last year in a very surprising move and almost immediately regretted it once they got him into camp. They were even rumored to be contemplating making him a final cut last off-season, which would have been unheard of for someone who was a 3rd round pick just 4 months earlier. He was kept on the roster, but played just 25 snaps all season and I think it would be a surprise if he were on the week 1 roster in 2013. He’s certainly not going to be seen as a candidate to replace Anthony Fasano, a mediocre starting tight end who isn’t expected to be brought back as a free agent this offseason. They could replace him in house with Charles Clay, who has some promise, but they could easily bring someone else at the position in.
The Dolphins should move Jared Odrick inside, where he could play an expanded version of the role that was played by Tony McDaniel, who really struggled, last season. Even if they do that, however, this could still be a need if free agent Randy Starks is let go. Odrick could move into the starting lineup for him, but they’d need depth at that case.
After a couple years of mediocre play, Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones were a very good safety tandem this year. Both are young and should be retained long term. Jones is heading into a contract year, while Clemons is currently a free agent. They should considering giving Jones an extension and they should definitely try to bring back Clemons. If they can’t, he’ll need to be replaced.