« Jonathan Martin traded to San Francisco | Main | Hickey on Starks return, Revis rumors, Dolphins future »

On Ben Tate ... run defense ... need for more upgrades

In the last two days, the AFC East has seen the departure of Antonio Cromartie from the Jets, Jairus Byrd from the Bills and Aqib Talib from the Patriots. So until Darrelle Revis is cut by Tampa Bay today and decides whether to go to the Patriots or not, the airways promise to be kinder to Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Doesn't matter.

My column in today's Miami Herald says the Dolphins need to improve the ground game -- on both sides of the football.

Yes, the Dolphins signed Brandon Albert to their left tackle job (press conference today) and agreed to terms with defensive tackle Earl Mitchell on Monday. But that better be a start rather than a finished work.

With all due respect, the Albert signing replaces Jake Long one year later. It doesn't make everything better. He's not by himself getting the Dolphins to the playoffs. The Mitchell signing may or may not be an upgrade over Paul Soliai.

So the Dolphins have to giddyup and do more to make their rushing attack and poor run defense -- neither of which was even remotely close to mediocre last year -- a team strength rather than an obvious weakness.

They're not getting Austin Howard. He's gone to the Raiders. Howard will reunite with his former New York Jets offensive line coach who is now the Raiders OL coach -- Tony Sparano.

So ... Zach Strief, please.

[Update: The Dolphins have shown interest in Strief but at this point there is no further movement on the issue. Stay tuned as I work to get more. No visit is planned at this point. Strief wants to return to the Saints.]

Older?

He's 30 and will be 31 in September. I get it, that's not what the Dolphins like to do. So get him for two or three years if possible. Geez.

I give you compelling examples of how improving the running game and run defense can help a cellar dweller become a playoff caliber team and how a good team goes to a championship right here.

And I give you one name that could go a long way in helping the Dolphins improve their rushing attack ... Ben Tate.

The Dolphins have shown lukewarm interest in Tate, I'm told. Not surprisingly, most NFL free agent running backs don't exactly break the bank these days. Donald Brown, for example, signed a three-year deal for $10.5 million Tuesday night.

Tate might get more. But not necessarily a ton more.

So why not?

By the way, Dolphins new offensive line coach John Benton should be able to give the Dolphins a solid report on Tate's practice habits, on his affect on the locker room, things that in the wake ofthe Wells report are important to the Dolphins.

Use that information.

If not Tate, would it kill the Dolphins to check in on LeGarrette Blount?

He is a known player to Hickey, who was in Tampa when Blount played for the Bucs. Yes, he knows Blount punched that kind while at Oregon and another one as a rookie while with the Titans. But I imagine he also knows Blount can return kickoffs because he runs a 4.5 in the 40 and is a LOAD at 248 pounds. Blount is a career 4.7-yard-per-carry back.

Blount has seven 100-yard rushing games since 2010 -- as a part-time player. The Dolphins have had a player turn in a 100-yard rushing games only nine times since 2010.

On another front, there is no way the Dolphins don't need to keep addressing the run defense that has gotten progressively worse the past two years ... from No. 3 in 2011 to No. 11 in 2012 to a disappointing and unacceptable No. 24 last season.

Losing Randy Starks (might happen, might not as team has an offer in for him) and Paul Soliai (to Atlanta for a reunion with former coordinator Mike Nolan) while adding Mitchell doesn't exactly scream upgrade. It suggests holding your ground while paying less for the players involved.

But it is not a certain upgrade.

More must be done.

Maybe on Day Two of free agency.

Comments