A football team is like a series of links fastened together as a chain. When one link is weak, it weakens the entire chain.
Think of that when considering the Dolphins offense. And now tell me which is the weak link?
Well, the wide receivers, right?
It's not just me saying it. Coach Joe Philbin has made the point that he's not completely comfortable with the group. General Manager Jeff Ireland has said the group has several No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 receivers but he's yet to see someone step up as a No. 1 or No. 2.
So that being established, the receivers are the weak link. And the problem is that affects the other links. And the link I see that could probablly be considered acceptable if the receivers were strong but now gets scrutiny is lacking because the receivers are lacking is the tight end position.
Miami's tight ends have potential. But so far that potential is unmet.
Anthony Fasano is today the best tight end on the team and we all know he is never going to be mistaken for Jason Witten or Rob Gronkowski. He's is a good blocker and would be fine as the second TE behind a dynamic pass-catcher that can threaten the middle of the field and dominate in the red zone.
But the Dolphins don't have that.
"Fasano is very steady," Philbin said. "You kind of know what we have with Anthony. He’s a guy that has good experience, he’s a good in-line blocker, he’s got good hands."
The problem is that while the Dolphins believe they have talent behind Fasano and potential behind Fasano, the production of the players behind Fasano falls off a cliff.
Charles Clay is developing but he was simply terrible the first two weeks of practice. He's been better lately but it's a long way between better and really good and consistent.
"I think Charles Clay has quietly had a good camp," Philbin said. "Early on there were some things that we weren’t totally fired up about, but I think he has really developed the last couple of weeks. The last two or three weeks he has really stepped his game up. We’re going to need him to do that obviously through the course of the year."
The Dolphins drafted Michael Egnew to be an Aaron Hernandez type of player. They want him to tear down the seam of the secondary and make it his personal pass-catching playground. Instead, he's had a terrible first training camp and has been equally bad in games. He's dropped passes, missed assignments and generally not played very fast. He has what I call the thousand yard stare, like he is overmatched with what's going on.
"I said to Mike Egnew on the field today that I thought I saw some progress with him on the tape," Philbin said this week. "Even some more with him blocking wise, where we knew he was going to be behind the curve due to his experience in college, but there are some signs there."
The Dolphins also have Jeron Mastrud and Les Brown in camp. But let's face it, Mastrud is like Fasano except not as productive, not as good a blocker and not as experienced. The team wants to upgrade from him in the best case scenario. If he's on the team, something went wrong with Egnew or Clay.
Brown? He's done. He couldn't block when he arrived in camp and he still cannot. That would be somewhat acceptable if he was a dynamic playmaker in the passing game. He is not. He gets open sometimes but the speed simply does not translate consistently enough. He should strike fear into the hearts of linebackers covering him. But they stay with him.
And I believe the Dolphins are ready to end the experiment. There will be cuts on Monday and I would expect Brown to be among them. He certainly is not making the 53-man roster. It's a shame because I love the idea of a TE that runs 4.4 in the 40 yard dash. (I wouldn't mind re-signing Brown to the practice squad and seeing if he can develop over the next month and give signs of hope.)
"Mastrud is very steady and doing a nice job, and Les, Les is learning day-by-day," Philbin said. "It’s a good group and we’re going to need those guys. We’d like to be a versatile as we can be and get different personnel groups and use them in different spots, so I think they’re capable. They’re smart guys, and they’re giving us a good work ethic, so I think we’re going to be in good shape."
You see, getting back to the chain, the lack of dynamic receivers begs for the Dolphins to find passing yards from the tight ends. If they were great, the need at receiver would be very well hidden. Look at the New England Patriots. Aside from Wes Welker, they haven't had any great receivers on the field for a couple of years. But they've had excellent tight end play from Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. So the problem at receiver is covered up a bit. (Obviously the Patriots realized this and signed Brandon Lloyd this offseason).
But the Dolphins have neither the dynamic receiver nor the dynamic tight end. They have one "steady" tight end and two or three projects.
The hope, obviously, is for Clay to suddenly explode with the advent of the regular season. If he can learn the offense to the point it is instinct to him, I believe he has the potential to be the answer. The Dolphins need that to happen.
They need to tighten up that weakened chain.