You know that immediately after the draft, general manager Jeff Ireland referred to players the Dolphins can pick up here and there as "acorns."
Chad Pennington was an acorn last year. Jason Taylor was an acorn this year.
Well, the Dolphins are a few acorns short of a full bushel.
Looking at the roster as it is currently constructed, one would have to agree the Dolphins have upgraded at various positions. They've improved (potentially) their pass-rush with the additions of Jason Taylor and Cameron Wake. They've improved (potentially) the anchor of their offensive line with the replacing of center Samson Satele with center Jake Grove. They've addressed (potentially) the secondary by adding free agents Gibril Wilson and Eric Green and drafting Sean Smith and Vontae Davis and Chris Clemons.
But there are two areas of concern to me now that were areas of concern to me when the offseason began. And I am having a hard time believing either has been significantly improved.
One area that hasn't even been addressed is the right guard spot. Right now the spot that was a revolving door problem for the Dolphins last year continues to look that way this year. Yesterday's news that Donald Thomas has a torn pectoral muscle means the Dolphins once again are without their starter at the spot. Furthermore, the injury raises questions whether Thomas can be counted on at that spot.
Thomas, in his second season, has exactly one quarter of NFL regular-season football experience. And he also has a major foot injury that caused him to miss all of 2008 and now the pec issue that will cause him to miss valuable time in the offseason program and camps. The Dolphins might think they have no recourse but to wait on him to get healthy and plug him back in, but I say the team needs an acorn at that position.
The Dolphins will/should scour the waiver wires and weigh trade possibilities leading up to the season to try and plug the leaking hole at RG.
It is fair to suggest the team doesn't need to do this because there are bodies already on the roster who can fill the void. Andy Alleman is still on the team as is Ikechuku Ndukwe -- both of whom started games last season. But that is hoping for a solution. Neither excelled at the spot last year and while the hope is they improve and become exclamation points, today they remain as question marks.
The Dolphins also have free agent signee Joe Berger and second-year player Shawn Murphy on the team as possible solutions. More hoping here. Berger has never been an NFL starter and while that doesn't mean he won't be, it says something about him that Brandon Frye, a former tackle, was running with the first team at right guard Tuesday while Berger was backing up at guard and center.
Murphy is intriguing in that he was a fourth-round pick last year. The Dolphins have high hopes for Dale Murphy's son. But he hasn't hit it out of the park yet, if you get my drift.
“With Murph, really one of the things that he needed to do, he was very young at the position," coach Tony Sparano said. "When we took him he started out on the other side of the ball and then we took him, so he didn’t have a lot of experience maybe playing the offensive line, but he has good mentality. I think what we didn’t see out of him or what we would like to see is the game being able slow down a little bit in there if that makes sense, so he can play a little bit faster.
"[Monday] he had a real good day out here, he did a nice job yesterday, did some things, played a little bit faster. You can see that he’s got a pretty good understanding [of] what’s going on, so that process I think is what we want to see him take the next step with, really the game slowing down for him so we can see the physical things come out that we seen in the draft.”
Ah, the physical things. The fact is Murphy was surprisingly soft last year. He was overweight. And he combined that with below average strength. Not a good combo.
The Dolphins are hoping that is being addressed this offseason.
“When he came in, we took some weight off of him, then when he got down in body weight, we brought him back up the right way so his body has completely changed since the time that he walked in the building here," Sparano said. "[He's] much stronger now physically, without a doubt and I think in a lot better shape, so I think we are going to see him take some steps forward here.”
[BLOG NOTE: Later this afternoon, I'll update you with the other position that remains unsolved. Yes, the Dolphins did things they hope will cure their ills at the spot, but we'll discuss if you believe that's been done. So discuss the right guard spot and can you guess the other position that needs HELP in my opinion? And why?]