A confession: I may be somewhat — no, make that blatantly — predisposed to approve wholeheartedly of the Dolphins’ first-round selection of Missouri pass rusher Charles Harris in the NFL Draft on Thursday night. I happened to predict Harris-to-Miami in my annual Mock Draft (luck my Daddy would have referred to as a blind squirrel finding an acorn), so I love the pick first because it makes me look good, I’d admit. My nitpicking and yeah-butting what Miami did would be a little like a man who just hit the lottery complaining about the winning numbers.
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But I love the pick for other reasons, too. By dumb luck it might make me look good, but by calculated reasoning and logic it makes the Dolphins look good. Makes this look like a team that has an understanding of its fundamental imbalance and has set out to correct that.
Miami has begun to show the signs of the maturity and self-awareness that capably run franchises tend to. This was a team, with reason, that spent a lot of years and capital trying to grow an offense — mainly trying to surround quarterback Ryan Tannehill with enough talent to erase all of the excuses why he might not be good enough and replace them with all of the reasons he could be.
Now, finally, it is time to turn attention to the neglected other side of the line of scrimmage, and the Dolphins are doing so. Unmistakably. Pretty impressively, too.
It is worth noting that Dolphins, a franchise most associated with Dan Marino’s bombardier attack, have a deeper heritage of stopping the other guys. The No-Name Defense. The Killer B’s. More recently, the prideful epoch fronted by Hall of Famer Jason Taylor and by Zach Thomas. The Dolphins used to make a point of making busy days for the other teams’ punters.
Miami won’t be more than what it is presently — a pretty good team that barely makes the playoffs then bows out quickly — unless its improving and potentially formidable offense is balanced by a new-era defense good enough to, I dunno, maybe even inspire a nickname or something.
The Dolphins recently made a clear emphasis of defense in free agency, led by the signing of longtime Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons, and the draft opened with Miami continuing that emphasis. It should continue Friday and Saturday as the seven rounds play out. Other than stockpiling talent on the interior offensive line (guard, center), defense should remain the imperative. A cornerback should arrive Friday.
I mean, seriously, if Tannehill can’t fly with the surrounding cast he’s been given, then that’s on him, on his own right wing. He has a young Pro Bowl running back in Jay Ajayi. They targeted improvement at tight end. He has Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker and Kenny Stills to play catch. Three-fifths of his blockers are first-round draft picks.
The offense seems set, solid.
Charles Harris, the new No. 1, is not a perfect candidate or certain star because players selected 22nd overall seldom are. If 21 times other teams could have had you but said nah, that’s either a stupendous draft or you have a flaw or two. Harris may be slightly undersized. He isn’t great against the run. What he is great at is deploying that spin move of his to get to the other team’s quarterback, which in the modern NFL, increasingly, is paramount.
Cam Wake is 35. Miami needs its next great sackman. Harris is a promising candidate. And that’s good enough for now. Notice how Miami used very little of its allotted clock time to make its pick? Harris was their guy. That was clear.
The Dolphins could have given Tannehill another gift Thursday by drafting UM tight end David Njoku, but that would have been the luxury pick this club cannot afford. The Fins could have taken Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp at a need position but a first-round guard almost always is a reach. (Miami last drafted a pure guard in the first round with Roy Foster in 1982).
No, this draft needed to be about defense first, and promisingly it has begun that way. Harris can play defensive end. He can play outside linebacker. Mostly, he can find the pocket and pick it clean, make QBs quiver.
“I’m going to ball,” Harris told local reporters by way of introduction Thursday night. “I’m going to come into the league and I’m going to dominate”
Hey, if it starts with attitude, that’s a good start, right? “
Dolfans should like Harris as the pick, as a player, but mostly they should like that their team seems serious about getting back in balance with a credible defense.
Think of it like this, if you wish:
An appreciably better defense would rank way up there among all of the gifts this club has provided to make Ryan Tannehill’s life easier.