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  Rebuilding the Roster
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Bill Parcells, Miami Dolphinsí overlord, has wasted little time in tearing into the football infrastructure. Scouting, coaching and, now, players are being turned over at an aggressive rate.


Thus far, most of the changes have been no-brainers, though a few have been questionable.


At the top of list was the recent release of Zach Thomas. I could write a whole column about Zach and what he means to the Dolphin franchise. But what could I say that hasnít already been written on the subject? Objectively, there were some good reasons for Parcells to terminate his contract. As for Zach, he insists that he is healthy and has more good football left in him.


I learned a long time ago to never doubt Zach Thomas, and so I cannot help but ask myself the following two questions:


Firstly, do the Dolphins have plans for the estimated $3 million in savings they gain from Zachís release? If theyíre not going to spend it on someone who will upgrade the team, what is the value to the Dolphins in Zachís outright release?


Secondly, why is it that Zach is no longer good enough to play football for the Miami Dolphins, yet good enough to line up for another team?


For now, fans and media will have to figure this all out because Parcells hasnít held a press conference since coming on the job two months ago. What's worse, the best Parcells could do to explain Zachís release was to have puppet GM Jeff Ireland issue a bland and somewhat cowardly statement though the media relations department.


It was one of the lamest things yours truly has seen out of the Dolphins since Dave Wannstedt bungled the Dan Marino situation. Of course, the classy Zach took the high road in contacting media on his own to explain the decision himself.


It reflected well on Zach, but poorly on the Dolphins. Why is it that they cannot seem to handle these things the right way?


Donít expect the oblivious Parcells to second guess himself here. Itís not his way, and Zach wasnít his guy. Cold, I know, but thatís the way it is sometimes in business. All Parcells knows is that there isnít a football genius out there, including himself, that can win a lick without the horses, and that heís going to be judged doing things his way.


So, with free agency set to kick off, the NFL Combine just around the corner, and the draft a mere two months away, we can expect even more sweeping changes as Parcells rebuilds the Dolphins in his image.


On offense, this means power football featuring a big, physical offensive line and tight end. On defense, itís a 3-4 scheme with big LBs and DEs, and a two-gap DT.


Offensively, the Dolphins have just ten players that figure to be a part of a championship foundation. Defensively, thereís a dozen or so.


Overall, there are so many needs to fill that it will take two offseasons before this team will be a serious playoff contender again, and thatís if they solve the quarterback question this season. Unfortunately, it looks like no matter what Parcells does between now and the start of training camp, the Dolphins will be losers once again in 2008. Theyíll be more competitive, and win more games, but wonít seriously content for a playoff spot. The idea for 2008 is to lay the foundation for a championship run in 2010. Anything else is gravy.





Offensive Tackle

Definite Keepers (1): OT Vernon Carey (starter)

Job Openings (2-3): starter, depth


Comment: Carey acquitted himself quite well at LT in his first full season at the cornerstone position. Can he continue to improve there, or is he better suited back at RT? With the release of starter L.J. Shelton, offensive tackle will be very high on teamís shopping list. The mix of new talent will likely dictate where Carey plays in 2008. Michiganís Jake Long is the top rated OT in the draft; he would give the Dolphins a terrific tackle tandem for years to come.


Offensive Guard

Definite Keepers (1): OG Rex Hadnot (starter)

Job Openings (3-4): starter, depth


Comment: Offenses are built from the inside out, and the Dolphins are desperate to find another quality starter to pair up with RG Rex Hadnot (free agent, may be tagged). Last yearís starters at LG, Chris Liwienski and Cory Lekkerkerker, really didnít distinguish themselves in any way and neither may factor into the picture this time around. Given Parcellsí demand for physical football, filling the need at guard will be high on his list. If the Dolphins arenít successful in finding an answer in free agency, expect them to use at least one pick on a guard before the end of round 4.



Definite Keepers (1): Samson Satele (starter)

Job Openings (0-1): depth


Comment: The Dolphins used the 2nd round pick obtained from the Patriots in the Wes Welker deal to draft Satele. He became the only rookie to ever start at center for the Dolphins in their history, an accomplishment that Hall of Famers Dwight Stephenson and Jim Langer couldnít pull off. Satele was one of the best offensive rookies in football, and he is only going to get better; heíll be a fixture on the line for the next ten seasons. Again, great offenses are built from the inside out, and getting a quality center like Samson Satele was important to the long term future of the team.


Running Back

Definite Keepers (4): Ronnie Brown (starter), Ricky Williams, Jesse Chatman, Lorenzo Booker

Job Openings (0-1): depth


Comment: No other team in the NFL has a better situation at RB than the Dolphins do. Ronnie Brown was on his way to a Pro Bowl season before injuring his knee. Hopefully heíll return better than ever. Jesse Chatman showed real ability and toughness between the tackles; the team would like to re-sign him at the right price. Lorenzo Booker, a mismatch against linebackers, proved that he should have been playing much earlier in the season. And Ricky Williams is, still, one of the top 10 talented RBs in football. Parcells loves a tough, punishing brand of ball, the kind that wins games in Foxborough, Buffalo, and New York in December. Heís got the backs to make that philosophy work, plus a terrific change of pace in Booker. The depth is so good, in fact, that Parcells may listen to trade offers for one of these guys, even if he does not re-sign Chatman.



Definite Keepers (1): Reagan Mauia (starter)

Job Openings (1): depth


Comment: Mauia, a sixth round pick last season, was solid as a lead blocker but ineffective as a runner. Given his success in college catching the football, it was surprising that he was a non-factor in the passing game. At 270lbs., Mauia has the size that Parcells is looking for. The Dolphins only carried one FB on the roster last year. That will not likely be the case in 2008.



Definite Keepers (1): John Beck

Job Openings (2): depth


Comment: Once again, the Dolphins are unsettled at the most important of positions. Beck, the first of two second round picks last year, had mixed reviews his rookie season. Right now, it is just too early to know if Beck is the answer. This much is certain: if the Dolphins have doubts about Beckís future, this is the draft to take action. Boston Collegeís Matt Ryan is the clear cut premier prospect, the first since Eli Manning. Heís better than Beck or Brady Quinn last year. Of course, one of the riskiest moves in the player acquisition business is drafting a QB first overall because the failure rate is so high. It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins decide to do here. If Ryan is not drafted by the Dolphins, Beck should be the opening day starter. Cleo Lemon is a free agent who may not be retained, though it is always a good idea to re-sign a young QB who is improving. Trent Green was cut but could be re-signed at a lower salary.


Wide Receiver

Definite Keepers (1): Ted Ginn, Jr.

Job Openings (3-4): starter, depth


Comment: Last yearís opening day starters, Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, are gone. Together, they accounted for an estimated $11 million in cap space in 2007, an exorbitant amount for two average players. Chambers was dealt to San Diego for a second round pick, a steal for the Dolphins, while Booker was recently cut. Ted Ginn, Jr., now Miamiís #1 receiver, has the speed and talent to become special; he has already won Pro Bowl votes on his kick return ability alone. This offseason will be quite important to his development as a WR, and it says here that new receivers coach Karl Dorrell will be the right guy to help him along. Right now Derek Hagan is the most experienced receiver the Dolphins have, though his consistency must improve if he is to have a future on a Parcells-built team. Greg Camarillo (free agent) improved as the season progressed, and is also a special teams contributor. Free agency seems like the best bet for the Dolphins to add some pieces to a very thin corps.


Tight End

Definite Keepers (0): none

Job Openings (3): starter, depth


Comment: David Martin, meet Bill Parcells. Parcells hates tight ends that block poorly, and we can expect that Martin will be closely scrutinized by him. Martin was decent last year as a run blocker, but wasnít dominant. He was also disappointing as an offensive playmaker. Justin Peelle will get very close scrutiny as well. If Parcells doesnít like what he sees, both could be gone.





Defensive Tackle

Definite Keepers (2): Vonnie Holliday (starter), Rod Wright

Job Openings (2-3): depth


Comment: Parcells prefers the 3-4 defense, but will he have the guys to run it? Holliday functioned quite well in the 3-4 under Nick Saban and should do equally well under new coordinator Paul Pasqualoni. Wright should also be an ideal fit for the 3-4; his first season on the field as a pro was most encouraging. Steve Fifita, Chase Page, and Paul Soliai will also get a close look, though Soliai wonít last long if his conditioning doesnít improve. LSUís Glenn Dorsey is the top DT in the draft, but he is a one gap player not ideally suited to the 3-4. Given the presence of Holliday and Wright, and the more desperate need at other positions, it is less likely that the Dolphins will take Dorsey with the first overall pick.


Defensive End

Definite Keepers (3): Jason Taylor (starter), Matt Roth, Quentin Moses

Job Openings (2): starter, depth


Comment: Taylor, the greatest defender in team history, is all but a lock for the Hall of Fame. Yet rumors persist that he will be traded away by Parcells in exchange for a second or third round pick. Let him go, the bleeding hearts say, give him a chance at ring. The Dolphins might just do that, but it would be quite surprising if the Dolphins agree to let their best player get away for anything less than a first round pick. First, Taylor has a lot of miles left. Second, the window on his ability to win a championship in Miami is not yet closed; Michael Strahan (15th season) just did it, and Taylor (11th season) has a fair chance to as well. Third, there has to be a veteran leader in the locker room, someone whose credentials and presence is unquestioned. This is especially true on a young team. Who better than Taylor? He is the consummate warrior, a Parcells-ian player if ever there was one. Look for the Dolphins keep JT and to use him much the same as Saban did in 2006, which was similar to the way that the great Giant teams under Parcells and Bill Belichick (Sabanís mentor) used Lawrence Taylor. Matt Roth had yet another disappointing season (his third as a pro) and must now be considered a bust. Remember, this is the player Saban drafted with the second round pick he got from Kansas City in the Patrick Surtain deal. Ugh! Rookie Quentin Moses, a rookie third round cast off from Oakland, actually outplayed Roth and could have a nice future as a Dolphin. Roth should stick in 2008, if only because of the lack of depth, though his recent arrest wonít endear him to Parcells. One prospect who has an excellent chance of being selected first overall is Virginiaís Chris Long, the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long. He has big play ability written all over him, plays a premium value position, and would be a safer high dollar guaranteed money contract than Ryan. If Parcells is convinced that Beck is the future at QB, and the Dolphins cannot trade down, expect Long to be the choice.


Inside Linebacker

Definite Keepers (1): Channing Crowder (starter)

Job Openings (3): starter, depth


Comment: Channing Crowderís ability to move inside when the defense shows 3-4 alignments will likely mean that his days as an OLB are over, and I so list him here. Derrick Pope (free agent) is too small to play ILB in a 3-4, but could return as a special teamer. Ditto for Edmond Miles (free agent). This is will be a high priority position for the Dolphins to address if they are to field a credible 3-4 scheme. If they had to play a game tomorrow, it would have to be in a 4-3. They simply do not have the personnel right now to do anything else.


Outside Linebacker

Definite Keepers (1): Joey Porter (starter)

Job Openings (3): starters, depth


Comment: Porter is the only veteran OLB on the roster that can line up in a 3-4 and make plays. After a slow start, his game really picked up in the second half of the season; he should flourish under Pasqualoni. If the Dolphins do indeed move Taylor to OLB in 3-4 sets, the need here will be greatly diminished. Otherwise, they will have to rely on free agency or the draft to find additional pieces. Note that if the Dolphins draft DE Chris Long, it makes it easier for Taylor to see more time at OLB. One current player to keep an eye on is Abraham Wright, a converted DE who also played OLB at Colorado. Wright, a 7th round pick, went on IR with a knee injury and thus saw little playing time last year after a solid training camp. At 6-3, 245, he has the size to play OLB full time in a 3-4 set.



Definite Keepers (3): Will Allen (starter), Andre Goodman, Michael Lehan

Job Openings (1-2): starter, depth


Comment: Allen had a fine year overall, his best since coming over from the Giants, with 62 tackles, 14 passes defensed and two sacks. He was especially effective on the corner blitz, usually finding a way to come free and deliver a good lick. Problem is, Allen is the only legitimate starter the Dolphins have right now. While the stats say that the Dolphins were fourth best against the pass, further analysis shows that this is a mirage; the secondary allowed the second highest yards per pass average (7.8) and the 4th highest passer rating (92.4). Expect the Dolphins to take a CB on day one of the draft, perhaps with one of their two second rounders. The Dolphins do have some decent depth in Lehan, Goodman, and perhaps Daniels. Lehan had his best season as a pro, with 56 tackles, seven passes defensed, a pick, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He will definitely be in mix this training camp, provided they re-sign him. Goodman battled through injuries all season, yet continued to play bigger than his size. Goody is a versatile player, especially in extra DB sets, the type of guy all winning teams need. Daniels was disappointing in his third season, and did not play to his ability. This upcoming training camp will be pivotal to his future as a Dolphin.



Definite Keepers (2): Jason Allen (starter), Renaldo Hill (starter)

Job Openings (2-3): depth


Comment: Hill and Bell started the season as the starters, but were both eventually lost to injury. Bellís injury was especially severe (torn Achilles), and his career may be in jeopardy. Bellís loss, and the loss of other players, created an opportunity for 2006 first round pick Jason Allen to finally show his stuff. To Allenís credit, he overcame the now premature cries of ďbustĒ with some solid play down the stretch. Yes, he made his share of mistakes but showed well with 53 tackles, 3 picks, and overall hard nosed play. If Allen can continue to avoid mental mistakes, Parcells should find his game very appealing. One thingís for sure, his days as a CB are over. As for Bell, a free agent, he will have to prove that he is healthy if he is to regain his job from Allen. Without question, a healthy Bell is one of the impact players on this team. His situation will be one of the big questions heading into training camp. Perhaps no other position status will be dependant on the health of returning players than will Safety. If Hill and Bell can return to form, the need here will be low. Cameron Worrell, who was signed for special teams duty, saw more snaps on defense than was expected; he is not an NFL-caliber safety.


Kicker/Punter/Long Snapper

Definite Keepers (3): K Jay Feely (starter), P Brandon Fields (starter), LS John Denney (starter)

Job Openings (0): none


Comment: Feely proved to be a solid upgrade over Olindo Mare from a scoring perspective. Feely only missed two attempts all season and made all his extra points. His work on kickoffs was difficult to judge as Miamiís coverage teams were so poor, though he only managed half of the touchbacks that Mare did. The loss of Donnie Jones to free agency was among the big mistakes made by former GM Randy Mueller. Fields, a rookie, has a strong leg and turned in a decent season but was inferior to Jones in every measurable category. Denney (free agent) was once again steady with his snapping and blocking chores.


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