I am also obsessive about Miami's need to improve its pass rush.
I am also obsessive about Miami's need to get better play at center.
I am also obsessive about Miami's need to upgrade the secondary.
I am also obsessive about Miami's need to add a young nose tackle.
And, oh by the way, the Dolphins have to draft a fullback, too. Did I forget anything?
The fact of the matter is the Dolphins have a ton of needs, many more than a typical 11-win, defending division champion should have. Big Tuna Bill Parcells and Tuna Helper Jeff Ireland know this better than anyone and so the Indianapolis Combine that begins Wednesday will help them sort out which players fit and which don't.
Let me throw out some names and pre-combine facts at you before I get to the list below. The Dolphins are deeply interested in drafting a premier outside linebacker to rush the passer. I made the mistake a couple of days ago of suggesting it's not a huge need because the team signed Derek Cameron Wake.
A source has since told me the Wake signing showed how much Miami is concerned about the position. He said the Dolphins are spending tons of time trying to unearth the next DeMarcus Ware and the Wake signing was by no means the final step in the process.
The Dolphins have studied and spent time with a couple of guys you may not have heard about. Connecticut's Cody Brown (pictured) is an athletic kid from South Florida that lit up the Big East with 11 sacks and 16 tackles for losses in 2008. Because he's local, he was at a Dolphins practice in late December and Parcells and Ireland asked him to stick around so they could, "talk," to him. Hmmmm.
Brown is a second-rounder type depending on how he performs at the Combine. Remember his name.
Also remember Cincinnati's Connor Barwin, which the Dolphins spent time with interviewing in Mobile. The Combine could very easily thrust Barwin from a little-known, undersized defensive end who actually was ordered to play tight end at the Senior Bowl, into a full-blown first rounder.
At 6-3 and about 253 pounds, Barwin is undersized at end. But as an OLB in a 3-4 he seems perfect. And although he typically runs in the high 4.6s, I am told Barwin's trainers have him breaking into the 4.5s this past month. If he runs anything under 4.6 in Indy, alarm bells will go off and suddenly, Miami's little secret about this guy will not be so secret anymore.
At the nose tackle spot where Miami has starter Jason Ferguson pushing 35 years old next season, the Dolphins have taken a liking to Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace. Brace is 6-3 and 329 pounds and is built like a prototypical 3-4 NT. It doesn't hurt his cause that he was second-team All-ACC in 2008 after collecting 11 tackles for losses and three sacks.
Brace projects between a second and fourth rounder, depending on his Combine and Pro Day workouts the next two months. He's also on Miami's radar.
The Dolphins have every intention of looking for interior line help in free agency. Baltimore's Jason Brown has been rumored to be on Miami's wish list for weeks. But the bidding for Brown might be high once free agency begins Feb. 27. Some folks guess he will get the biggest payday of any center in free agency, including former Pro Bowl players such as Jeff Saturday and Matt Birk.
So the Dolphins must have a draft fallback position.
That is where Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs enters the picture. The Dolphins spent much time with him at the Senior Bowl and are expected to talk to him again at the Combine. The fact former Arkansas assistant and now Miami's QB coach David Lee apparently loves the kid doesn't hurt, either.
I would tell you the Dolphins will not be looking for a starting guard in free agency. They will be looking for a backup guard they can develop and possibly turn into a starter when the draft comes around. That's because more often than not, a team's backup guards play significant snaps in the NFL.
Yeah, I said it, an offensive line is only as good as its backup guards. Wasn't that the case with the Dolphins last year? Same thing in two dozen other NFL outposts. It's just the way things are in the trenches that bodies break down.
And while the Dolphins hoped to address that need with Shawn Murphy last year, he was a major disappointment and might struggle to make the team this year. The Dolphins like Oregon State's Andy Levitre, not so much because he's a physical specimen or a gifted technician, but because he is a clamp of a human being when he gets his hands on defenders in tight spaces.
OK, those are the guys that do not play receiver you should be paying attention to during the Combine. Because the Dolphins will be paying close attention. I will tell you about the cornerbacks and safeties Miami is interested in later this week as I have to keep you coming back.