As we sit today in early July this is the best Miami Dolphins roster top to bottom since the mid to late 90’s. The skill positions on offense are very talented and have tremendous depth, the defensive end talent is plentiful, and the depth we now have at cornerback and safety is the best this franchise has had in those spots in a long time. With all of that said though there is one glaring area of concern while looking over this roster that could very easily derail this upcoming season. Defensive tackle is not a settled position and could be the area that holds this team back this year.
After last years loss in the playoffs to Pittsburgh this Dolphins roster had many areas of need to be addressed and the front office and coaching staff did a very good job addressing those needs. They added a tight end who has the ability to get down field and make plays in the passing game, they went out and used their 1st round pick to get a pass rusher with very high upside and who showed in college the ability to get to the quarterback, they brought in two veteran safeties to secure the secondary, and added a proven veteran middle linebacker. What was surprising is Miami ignored the defensive tackle position.
Let’s look at what we have currently at defensive tackle as to me this is the #1 area of concern heading into the season. Yes, Ndamukong Suh is a monster and one of the, if not the, best defensive tackle in the NFL today. After him there is a drop off and Miami has Jordan Phillips who we all know isn’t consistent and doesn’t bring it on every play. Yes, we have read all offseason that Phillips has heard the critics and criticism of his play and has vowed to change that this year and be more mature and more consistent on the field but honestly until I see it I don’t believe it. I hope Phillips proves me wrong, I am just not holding my breath. Philips has the skill set to be an above average NFL defensive tackle and at times is already a very good NFL defensive tackle. Until he proves he can do it on a consistent basis though he is just a run of the mill defensive tackle in this league and not a building block you are looking at as a long-term fixture on your defensive line.
Even with Phillips being an inconsistent player he is still pretty good. So ok that’s a good starting defensive tackle tandem and Miami is looking OK there. Let’s now talk about the depth behind those two starters…oh wait, there is no depth! Literally after those two players there isn’t another proven defensive tackle on the roster.
|Rookie Vincent Taylor|
In the late rounds of the draft Miami took Vincent Taylor and Davon Godchaux but both are major projects and will most likely be on the practice squad this year. In mini-camp (granted no pads were on) from reports both were overmatched and neither flashed any signs of being NFL-ready. The other two names on the depth chart are a who’s who of WHO?! Nick Williams and Lawrence Okoye are it as the other defensive tackles on the roster today. Not exactly names you plan on hearing after training camp ends and in fact they are the poster children of training camp bodies.
Now yes of course when the games start for real on passing downs you will see defensive ends William Hayes slide into the defensive tackle position and even last year at times Andre Branch moved in and played DT on passing downs in certain packages so there are ways to be creative and mask the problem here. The big issue and question mark is when you play the “WHAT IF….” game which is what all NFL GM’s and Head Coaches do all the time. WHAT IF Suh or Phillips blow out a knee? Or hurt their back? Or essentially go down to any injury that puts them out for multiple weeks or even worse the entire season. You can’t play Hayes or Branch at DT full time, you need a legit proven DT to step into that role and Miami doesn’t have one.
Do I expect Miami to go dumpster diving for a DT once training camp starts and look for a more proven guy who is cut by another team; yes of course. And there are some veterans still on the open market who Miami could sign today to fill in as a third defensive tackle for depth. Mind you these guys are well past their prime and on the downside of their career. They are Dan Williams, Paul Soliai, Jared Odrick, and Vance Walker to name a few.
The fact remains that Miami let this area go unaddressed this entire offseason and that is a bit surprising. While Miami has two starters at this position that are capable we all know injuries happen in this league and Miami is one injury away to Suh or Phillips from having a giant hole in the middle of their defensive line that might destroy their entire 2017 season. The Dolphins need at least one and probably two veteran defensive tackles to add to this roster and I am not sure why they are waiting to bring at least onet in. I am sure they want to see what the rookies they drafted do when the pads go on and the hitting begins but even if one stands out I still think they will need a veteran who has been around the block once or twice at DT on this roster to back-up the position.