Well, there are officially no more legitimate free safety options remaining on the free agency market. With O.J. Atogwe re-signing with the Rams yesterday and Ken Hamlin coming to terms with the Ravens last week, the powers that be are trusting Chris Clemons, or possibly Reshad Jones to hold down the starting free safety job.
I say possibly Reshad Jones because, as far as we know, he could still beat out Clemons, but for all intents and purposes it appears to be Clemons' job to lose. The coaching staff and front office have talked up Clemons ever sense OTA's opened, have praised the progress he has made from a mental standpoint, and point out how he has received more reps than anybody this spring.
The vote of confidence Clemons has got from the Dolphins though, seemed to come out of nowhere, starting at the draft. They could have stayed put at No. 12 and selected Texas' Earl Thomas, but they didn't. They could have traded up a few slots in round three in order to snag Georgia Tech's Morgan Burnett, or picked up Florida's Major Wright in the same round, but they passed on both.
Instead, Ireland and Parcells chose not to address the safety position until round five, when they drafted Reshad Jones. Yes, Jones will compete at free safety, but on paper he appears to be better suited as Yeremiah Bell's eventual successor at strong safety.
Then of course, there was Atogwe hitting free agency earlier this month. The Dolphins were rumored to be in the mix for his services, but really never made a strong push, despite the fact that he would have instantly provided stability at the position. But was that because of how much cash Atogwe was requesting, or was it because the Dolphins honestly think Clemons is the long-term solution at a position that plagued them a year ago?
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The NFL Live crew, Mike Golic and Chris Carter, recently debated which teams had the best and worse offseasons in each conference. You can watch Golic and Carter's reasoning behind their responses on the ESPN's AFC East Blog, but to make a long story short, Golic, who surprisingly diverted away from his Jets worshiping ways, thinks the Ravens had the AFC's best offseason and the Bills had the worse, while Chris Carter gave the Dolphins some love by selecting them as the offseason class of the conference, and gave the Steelers the dead last rank.
So who's right here? Did Baltimore outshine Miami, by solidifying their receiving core with Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth, and selecting Sergio Kindle and Terrance Cody, two prospects could have easily gone on day one, in the second round of the draft? Or does the combination of bringing in Mike Nolan to improve the defense, signing a playmaking inside linebacker in Karlos Dansby, and trading for Brandon Marshall, give the Dolphins the edge?
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When the Dolphins took Jared Odrick 28th overall in this year's draft, many fans were left scratching their heads. When it was revealed that Mike Nolan was planning on shaking things up though, things started to make more sense.
According to reports, the Dolphins will no longer run a pure 3-4 scheme. Instead, when there are three down lineman, converted nose tackle Randy Starks will likely line up to the right or left of the center, contrary to the pure 3-4, which positions the nose directly over the center. This should allow Starks to excel in providing penetration and a interior pass rush.
Also, the new-look defense, is said to be more a hybrid. Meaning, we could see more 4-3 looks on occasion. But how exactly would this affect the defense? And who would line up where?
Click read more to see the Dolphins' projected lineup in a 4-3 defense.
Like I mentioned in the running backs article, there really isn't too much going on right now in the present to discuss. So what better time to turn our attention to the 2011 offseason? Let's shift our focus over to the defensive side of the ball, and a position that is essential for the success of any 3-4 defense.
For the 3-4 scheme to accomplish want it wants to, there needs to be a space-eating, double-team commanding monster manning the nose. With Mike Nolan tweaking the Dolphins' version of the scheme though, they will likely rely on Randy Starks' penetrating abilities, as he lines up on either side of the center, not directly over, like you see in most 3-4's.
That makes things tricky trying to predict if nose tackle will be a need next offseason, or not. Many think Randy Starks is a temporary solution, while Jason Ferguson sits out the first eight games with a suspension. The fact that Starks is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end, and smaller than most 3-4 nose tackles, is probably the main reason behind that logic.
But looking at Jason Ferguson, who is only five pounds heavier than Starks, and Jay Ratliff, another nose tackle product of this regime in Dallas, who is actually two pounds lighter than Starks, it's easy to see why this move could be permanent; if Starks pans out as well as those two, that is.
If that's the case, scratch off nose tackle from potential needs next offseason. However, even with this regime's track record of producing undersized nose tackles, it's always a gamble lining up a true 3-4 defensive end at the position. If Starks struggles, and Ferguson replaces him in Week 10, nose tackle could potentially be the biggest need in 2011, considering how vital the position is to the scheme, and Ferguson's age (36 in November).
With that being said, let's take a glance into the future, and project some of the Dolphins' potential offseason options.
Click Read More to see the top five nose tackle free agents, and projected top five nose tackles in the draft
Huge news out of Miami today; the Dolphins have signed punter Brandon Fields to a two-year extension worth approximately $1.59 million for 2011 and 2012, and long-snapper John Denney to a three-year extension worth $2.65 million in 2011-2013. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but nonetheless, the Dolphins have locked up two key members on special teams beyond 2010.
Actually, Fields has been a pretty productive punter when called upon. In 09', Fields averaged 46.3 yards per punt, which ranked 8th in the entire league. John Denney meanwhile, hasn't had too many mishaps, outside of a bad snap against the Jets in the season finale of 08'. But hey, the Dolphins won that game and the division, so no harm no foul.
One would hope Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter is the next special-teamer to get an extension, as he is in the final year of his contract.