Well Dolfans, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a column. I apologize for not getting part II of my draft series up. Work got in the way, but in the end it paid off as I’m now working full-time for Anthony Munoz’s Foundation in Cincinnati. So now, I’ll have a little bit more free time for some columns. For this entry, since I didn’t get my part II draft column up, I’ll do a brief review of the Dolphins picks, followed by a quick glance over the roster while looking at some intriguing battles for training camp, and finish off with a way-too-early 53 man roster prediction. Just a little something to pass the time between now and the start of training camp.
As CK and many other draft experts have previously alluded to, each NFL team has a perfectly good reason/explanation as to why they drafted a particular player over another at a particular spot in the draft. Just from my personal draft board and various mocks I’ve done, I’d give the Dolphins draft a solid B for a grade, even though an accurate assessment should come sometime in 2011...but what the heck, it’s my column right?
Vontae Davis: Prior to the draft, I’d listed Vontae Davis as one of the players I’d have liked the Dolphins to stay away from during draft day. Most of that feeling was stemmed from his inconsistent play and benching during his senior season. I had Malcolm Jenkins tabbed as the top CB on my board, but I acknowledge that Davis is a much smoother, pure athletic talent - he just needs the right coaching. I think Todd Bowles is up to that task, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Davis in the starting lineup against the Falcons. I think the pick was a great value, and has the potential to be a homerun if Davis can become more consistent. Jake Long and Vontae Davis make a pretty fine pair of 1st rounders in back-to-back drafts, especially if Long continues to progress his game and Davis becomes our future #1 CB.
Pat White: No expletives came out of my mouth when the pick was announced…there was a moment I sort of just sat there looking at the TV until my phone blew up. I probably had 15 text messages within 2 minutes of pick being announced, and the more I talked about it with my football buds, the better and better I feel about this pick. Looking at it this way, Pat White is essentially free. The pick we used for him was acquired from the Redskins for Jason Taylor. Now we have Taylor back, at about $7.7M less than what he was due to make, and still have a 6th rounder in 2010 from Washington, plus Pat White.
Now, I fully believe that unless Pennington is injured, there’s no way he’s not the starter in 2009 - whether he stays there all year remains to be seen. A bad start to the season, or injury, and I think this team becomes Chad Henne’s. Now, I know a lot of people are clamoring for White to get a chance, and that Coach Sparano has said he’ll work exclusively at QB, but I don’t believe it. Just look at this regime - Jeff Ireland said the 1st overall pick in 2008 would be a “pillar of defense” (hello Jake Long), and Bill Parcells said he wouldn’t draft Pat White this year (hello WildPat) so perhaps it’s Sparano’s turn to disguise the truth. Pat White is too short for my liking as an NFL pocket passer, and can’t make all the throws with the same velocity AND consistency that Henne can. Make no mistake, I’m saying this will be Henne’s team, BUT Pat White will certainly be a key cog in it. I’ll admit, I’m still slightly puzzled as to why Clint Sintim wasn’t the pick, but getting Jason Taylor back and having young guys to choose from to develop (Anderson, Walden, George, Wake, Moses, etc.) alleviates my concern. I think this regime is pinning some of their hopes into Cameron Wake and that he can develop into a solid OLB. Realistically, what more of a role than a situational pass-rusher would a guy like Sintim or Barwin have played this year barring injury to Porter and Roth? Heck, even JT’s pretty much being relegated to that role.
Sean Smith: Many people had this guy pegged as the Dolphins 1st round selection, so to get him here was an excellent value. He’s pretty raw, but displays very good man-to-man skills. At 6’3”, the last CB I can remember playing at that height or above was Lenny Walls of the Broncos. I’ll admit, the only two times I saw Utah play last season were when they went into the Big House and beat the Wolverines, and when they beat up ‘Bama in the Sugar Bowl, the latter game in which Smith held freshman phenom Julio Jones in check all night and had a sack if my memory serves me correctly. Also, if you haven’t noticed, there’s two pretty big, pretty tall receivers in the division named Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Smith seems like he’s a much better red zone matchup against those two than Jason Allen, when he got the chance against Moss in the 2nd Patriots game. Ideally, I’d like to think Vontae Davis develops into a true #1 CB, as his overall skill package is better than Smith’s, but Smith should be a fine #2, and with some luck, maybe this pair will remind us of two guys named Madison and Surtain from not too long ago.
Patrick Turner: I know he wasn’t in my 20 names contest, but in one of preliminary mock drafts, I had Miami taking him in the 4th round. So he was a round early for me. But I like this pick. He’s got the potential to be what Ernest Wilford wasn’t in 2008, and might be more NFL-ready than trying to wait on Brandon London, who had all of 7 catches if you count the Wild-Card game last year. Turner’s not fast, but all of the DB’s have raved about his route running ability, and at 6’5” he’s a perfect red zone target. Was he the consolation to not getting Ramses Barden? I don’t know, maybe. But I like the fact that this regime went out and got us a tall, Plaxico Burress (hopefully, minus the gun jokes) - like receiver in Turner. He may need a little seasoning early on, but I think he can have a nice career in the NFL. He might not be a number 1 WR, but I like the thought of maybe two or three years from now of he and Ted Ginn on the outside with Bess in the slot and Fasano at TE.
Brian Hartline: Okay, I’ll admit there were a few expletives thrown here. This one was a pretty questionable pick in my book - that is until it was revealed over this past weekend that Chad Henne pretty much handpicked Hartline out of the group of WR’s that he traveled around to workout prior to the draft. Now, I’m a big Ohio State fan, and Brian Hartline most certainly suffered from Terrelle Pryor (who I still think is way overhyped) playing QB most of 2008. I’ll say this, I’ve never seen Hartline not go hard every time he’s been on the field, and I don’t remember many, if any, dropped passes during his Buckeye career. He was susceptible to leaving himself open to the big hit every now and then, but he always seemed to be a reliable target. His special teams play is pretty good, and he offers something as an option in kick and punt returns. In my opinion, best case scenario is he turns out something like Anthony Gonzalez with Indianapolis or our very own Greg Camarillo. I think he’s somewhere around that if he can get the most out of his game, but having developed a rapport with Henne prior to the draft will certainly help his chances of sticking around for a while.
John Nalbone: Props to Boomer for nailing this one in one of his Draft Winds columns leading up to draft weekend. He mentioned John Nalbone, and sure enough, the Dolphins picked him. With Fasano and Martin due to be free agents, I can see the need for a TE. Joey Haynos wasn’t anything special last year, and so far the camp reports haven’t mentioned much about him other than a couple drops. With a big target like he is, you’d expect a little more - at least I do. Nalbone seems like he’s okay at both receiving and blocking, but coming from a small-school program like Monmouth, he’s going to have his work cut out for him. I think he can win that 3rd TE spot this year, and eventually develop into a #2 TE down the line (I’m hoping Fasano, along with guys like Ronnie Brown and Matt Roth, are given extensions at some point in 2009).
Chris Clemons: Really liked this pick, even if we’re set at the top of the depth chart with Wilson and Bell. Clemons sort of jumped out at everyone with that blazing 40 at the combine (I still contend something had to be wrong with the timers, at least on the day the DB’s ran it). Having done some research on him, he’s quite the player in his own right, even if he was overshadowed by Michael Hamlin. But he does fit the “Parcells type” mold of being experienced, a team leader, productive, and durable. He seems like he can team with a guy like Tyrone Culver to form a nice backup pair of safeties while contributing as a core special teams player. If something did ever happen to Bell or Wilson, he might have the potential to come in and see time.
Andrew Gardner: Another player that Boomer hit on leading up to the draft. And again, another player with experience and durability (up through tearing his labrum his senior year - which I can tell you from experience, is no fun). I’d like to think that he can be that swing tackle player that we’d never really need unless Long or Carey got hurt, but would dress on game days and play on special teams. He’s got pretty good feet and was very durable too before opting for shoulder surgery to cut short his senior season.
J.D. Folsom: Kind of the attitude like pick we saw in Lex Hilliard in the 2008 draft. His chances of making the 53 man roster are slim and none (I’m leaning toward none), but he’s probably a guy that can be stashed on the practice squad and eventually develop into something of a special teams contributor.
A couple of the undrafted free agents I’ve got my eye on are NT Louis Ellis from Shaw, and Brennan Marion, the WR from Tulsa. I think Ellis is probably destined for the practice squad if Paul Soliai comes into camp in shape, and Marion could probably be stashed on the PUP or IR while he fully recovers from his nasty ACL injury.
Now, for the way-too-early prediction of the 53 man roster. After last year, it’s not too hard to pick out the bulk of it, but the fringe guys make it tough. I know I missed last year on not having Patrick Cobbs and David Martin on my roster, but I did get Lionel Dotson - let’s see how I do this year.
I’ll summarize each position, and put the starters in bold, with the overall roster number in parentheses.
Quarterback: Well, one has to feel pretty good about seeing Chad Pennington revive his career in 2008. However, he’s never really strung back-to-back years like that together. But if he plays the way he did last year, Miami’s in good shape. As I said before, I still contend that Chad Henne is the future of the Miami Dolphins at the QB position. What better player to learn from than Pennington, and when he does take over the controls, he’s got a much livelier arm than Pennington does; which I think will really allow Ted Ginn to live up to his billing.
Chad Pennington (1)
Chad Henne (2)
Pat White (3)
Runningback: If you combine the 2008 seasons of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams into one player, you’ve got a pretty good back. Now with Brown hopefully fully recovered form the ACL injury he will return the form we saw in the first 7 weeks of 2007, where Brown was the only bright spot in an otherwise forgetful time. Williams still has some burst and is a nice number two back, and Patrick Cobbs proved me wrong and was very adept and being 3rd down pass catcher, Wildcat weapon, all while still maintaining his special teams prowess. Lousaka Polite is one of the underrated FB in the NFL, and was very good at converting 3rd & 4th and 1 situations.
Ronnie Brown (4)
Ricky Williams (5)
Patrick Cobbs (6)
Lousaka Polite (7)
Wide Receiver: This is probably one of, if not the biggest battle going into training camp. Ted Ginn, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo all caught over 50 passes last season. I think Turner will provide us with what we thought Ernest Wilford would’ve last year. Hartline was hand-picked by Henne from the workout tour, so I think he sticks as well. The battle comes down to whether or not Miami keeps 6 WR’s on the roster (remember they only went with 3 active WR’s in the Wild-card game, and often only activated 4) and the combatants appear to be Brandon London, Anthony Armstrong, Ernest Wilford, and Brennan Marion, if he’s healthy. Just for the record, I think Camarillo will return to the starting lineup allowing Bess to succeed in the slot once he’s fully recovered, but for now I’ll go with Bess.
Ted Ginn (8)
Davone Bess (9)
Greg Camarillo (10)
Patrick Turner (11)
Brian Hartline (12)
Tight End: Anthony Fasano finally got out of Jason Witten’s shadow and he was very effective for us last year, especially in the red zone. David Martin stayed healthy (though now he’s battling through a sports hernia) and was productive as well. Joey Haynos eventually phased out Sean Ryan and stuck on the roster and even hauled in a TD for his first NFL reception against the 49ers. John Nalbone has been added to the mix now, and was a hand-picked guy, so I’ll give him a slight edge over Joey Haynos. However, if Martin doesn’t recover from the sports hernia, I think Haynos, or some player not currently on the roster, will lock up that #2 TE spot. But for now I’ll go with the following.
Anthony Fasano (13)
David Martin (14)
John Nalbone (15)
Tackle: This spot isn’t really a worry for Miami. Jake Long looks to be a cornerstone of the franchise for the next 10-12 years, and was already a Pro Bowl alternate. I think he’s got the work ethic to be one of the elite in this league, and we should see him take another step this year. Vernon Carey was given the league’s heaviest RT contract and remained a Dolphin giving us a very nice set of bookends, who’ve also been very durable. If Carey can drop his weight back down to 340, I think we’ll really be onto something. Andrew Gardner was a solid late-round pick, so the question becomes, do we really need a 4th T on the 53 man like last year? I’ll go a little risky and say no - sorry Nate Garner, especially since Brandon Frye can handle the tackle duties as well.
Jake Long (16)
Vernon Carey (17)
Andrew Gardner (18)
Guard: RG seems like it’s been cursed ever since we lost the likes of Kevin Donnalley and Todd Perry back in the early 2000’s. Donald Thomas looked to be the answer, but only played one game. I’ll assume, if he’s recovered from the pectoral injury, he’ll work his way back into the starting lineup by week 1. Justin Smiley is already back after that gruesome broken leg suffered against the Rams. He and Long give us a very nice left side. Brandon Frye actually saw some time on special teams last year, and can play some T as well, so there’s position flexibility. The last spot is going to be hard-fought between Andy Alleman, if healthy, Ikechuku Ndukwe, and Shawn Murphy - we’ll see what happens. Note, I’m counting Joe Berger as a C since that’s where he’s worked thus far.
Justin Smiley (19)
Donald Thomas (20)
Shawn Murphy (21)
Brandon Frye (22)
Center: Much has been made about the addition of Jake Grove - and I think rightfully so. A lot of the O-line play hinges on his ability to keep the likes of the following (and it’s brutal this year) in check: Wilfork, Jenkins, and Stroud - all twice, Jamal Williams, Casey Hampton, Sedrick Ellis, Ma’ake Kemoeatu, Peria Jerry, and John Henderson. If he does that - he’ll certainly earn his pay. Joe Berger can play all 3 of the interior positions, so that’s some solid depth there.
Jake Grove (23)
Joe Berger (24)
Defensive End: Kendall Langford exceeded almost everyone’s expectations last year, and Tony Sparano said he’s developed some nice pass-rush moves. He might be one of my favorite Dolphins on the roster having come from a small school and started every game as a rookie. Phillip Merling survived the rookie wall and should be the starter that replaces the departed Vonnie Holliday. Randy Starks came up with timely plays all year, and barring legal ramifications, should do so again this year and see ample time in pass-rushing situations. Tony McDaniel and Lionel Dotson have some potential. I think the odd man out, as we won’t keep 6 again this year in my opinion, is Rod Wright. I really like Ryan Baker if he can stay on the practice squad for a year or two.
Phillip Merling (25)
Kendall Langford (26)
Randy Starks (27)
Tony McDaniel (28)
Lionel Dotson (29)
Nose Tackle: Miami only kept two last year, but I think with the two young guys in Cohen and Ellis, I think one will have to be this year’s Lionel Dotson and Rod Wright and be “stashed” on the 53 man, but remain inactive come game day. Ferguson played well at times, but it’s clear he needs to be spelled to stay effective. Soliai was tough for stretches, but was suspended twice and has already shown up overweight this year - so his situation is worth watching a little more closely. I think Cohen will be that 3rd guy this year, but I think Ellis is the true project for down the road.
Jason Ferguson (30)
Paul Soliai (31)
Joe Cohen (32)
Outside Linebacker: If any position rivals WR in terms of training camp battles - it’s the OLB. The starters appear set with Joey Porter, who revived his career last year, and Matt Roth, who might be the best OLB at setting the edge in the NFL against the run and is playing for a new contract - I hope he gets it. Jason Taylor was brought back from being loaned to Washington to select Pat White. Cameron Wake is thought to be analogous to a first day selection, though I think he will need some time to develop. Charlie Anderson and Erik Walden were good special teamers last year, but they’ll still have to battle the likes of Quentin Moses and Tearrius George. One thing I noticed, is that Miami kept 6 OLB’s last year, so I’ll assume they do again this year. Mine are:
Joey Porter (33)
Matt Roth (34)
Jason Taylor (35)
Charlie Anderson (36)
Cameron Wake (37)
Erik Walden (38)
Inside Linebacker: I clamored all offseason that Channing Crowder would be brought back - and he was, so that’s a small victory there. He had a career-high in tackles, but still needs to add more game changing plays. One thing I did notice is that he was better at dropping into coverage last year, and his key play may have been stuffing LT on that 4th and goal from the 1. Akin Ayodele was good in coverage and is steady in run support. Reggie Torbor played decently in certain nickel packages and is special teams demon.
Only 3 ILB’s were kept until the William Kershaw/Derek Smith experiment was put in place after Crowder missed the KC game with the knee injury. However, I don’t see Kershaw, Folsom, or Orion Martin sticking.
Channing Crowder (39)
Akin Ayodele (40)
Reggie Torbor (41)
Cornerback: Will Allen was given an extension. Eric Green was signed in free agency. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are hopefully the next potential Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain - a few years from now. Nathan Jones, Jason Allen, Joey Thomas, and Will Billingsley round out the group, but I think only 5 stay. The Turk finally comes for former first round pick Jason Allen, as I think Nathan Jones did enough last year in nickel and dime packages, and better LB depth for special teams makes Allen very expendable.
Will Allen (42)
Vontae Davis (43)
Eric Green (44)
Sean Smith (45)
Nathan Jones (46)
Safety: Yeremiah Bell finally got a full season of starting duty under his belt and promptly lead the team in tackles. Gibril Wilson, who starred for the Giants in a Super Bowl win was brought in to play FS for the departed Renaldo Hill. Wilson, who I think is underrated, should provide a nice upgrade. Tony Sparano already alluded to having a plan for Tyrone Culver, who was pretty decent in nickel and dime packages, even turning in an INT against Denver, and the speedy Chris Clemons should be the top two backups. Ethan Kilmer, who hasn’t played since 2006 and Courtney Bryan, are probably the odd men out.
Gibril Wilson (47)
Yeremiah Bell (48)
Tyrone Culver (49)
Chris Clemons (50)
Special Teams: Jy Bond was recently cut, so I think it’s safe to assume that Brandon Fields has the job locked up unless someone becomes available in July or August cuts. Dan Carpenter was a steal as an UDFA, but he could be a little more consistent on kickoffs. John Denney had never been noticed, which is a good thing, until the week 17 game against the Jets. Frankly, I’m a little surprised some competition wasn’t brought in, but I think Denney’s solid.
Dan Carpenter (51)
Brandon Fields (52)
John Denney (53)
Game Day Inactives: It’s odd, but it’s a part of the game. Chad Henne will be one of them to allow Pat White to play until he’s the starter. As for the rest I’d tentatively have to go with Brian Hartline, John Nalbone, Brandon Frye, Lionel Dotson, Joe Cohen, and Cameron Wake for now.
Practice Squad: This is where some of the tough cuts go, most notably for me Anthony Armstrong again. He’ll have to show a lot in the preseason to garner a roster spot, but for now, I’ll go with these 8:
RB Lex Hilliard
WR Anthony ArmstrongTE Joey HaynosNT Louis EllisDE Ryan Baker
LB Tearrius George
LB J.D. Folsom
CB Will Billingsley
For the record, I’ll stick Brennan Marion on the PUP or IR list as I think he’s got some pretty good potential - I’d just like to see him get fully healthy before he’s thrown right into things.
The top names cut would have to include Ernest Wilford, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow with his salary, as is Jason Allen. Andy Alleman, Ike Ndukwe, Brandon London, Quentin Moses, Joey Haynos, and Joey Thomas are all guys that played at some point in 2008 not to make it back in 2009, but the overall talent at their positions has improved as well, so something’s got to be done (I had a real tough time keeping Murphy over Ndukwe and Alleman - I think that’s a wrong call, but I’m not editing it at this point. Besides, Murphy was hand-picked in the ‘08 draft, so I think if anything, they’ll stash him again like last year until someone better comes along). Nate Garner didn’t play in 2008, but I don’t think he’d last on the practice squad, much like last year’s RB Jalen Parmele who was snatched up by the Ravens in the middle of the season. Same goes for Brandon London, who for all that potential we saw in the practice videos, only caught a total of 7 passes if you count the wild-card game, otherwise it was 3 for the season.
The Bubble Guys: These guys are the last 10 guys I’d pick to be on the roster if I had to go 1 through 53 and make the 2009 Miami Dolphins. #1 is the safest bet of these 10, and #10 would’ve been the next man cut. Obviously, it’s hard to judge as we could still, and probably will, pickup some guys cut by other teams.
1. David Martin - only because of injury.
2. Nathan Jones
3. Brian Hartline
4. Lionel Dotson
5. Joe Cohen
6. Brandon Fields
7. Brandon Frye
8. John Denney
9. John Nalbone
10. Shawn Murphy
Well Dolfans, there you have it. My reaction to the draft picks and my initial stab at the way-too-early 53 man roster. If you want, please leave some suggestions for columns you’d like to see before the start of training camp. Hope you enjoyed this one!
Kevin is a columnist for FinHeaven.com and has been a long time member of the site.He is an avid fan and brings a real fans perspective to you through his commentary. You can find him around on our boards as RoninFin54. Send him a PM and let him know what you think of his article