The Dolphins love depth. No, I mean, they really love depth.
The Dolphins love depth so much, they spent much of this offseason and the entire NFL Draft adding, well, depth. Depth was the Dolphins’ first-round pick. And maybe the second-round pick. And the third-round pick. And the fifth-round picks.
Depth was such a priority, the Dolphins didn’t sign one free safety, they signed two in Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald, and also kept Michael Thomas because if having one backup is good, having two or maybe three must be awesome!
The Dolphins sought depth on the offensive line.
They added depth on the defensive line.
Unlike last season, they now boast depth at linebacker.
Wide receiver? The Dolphins re-signed Kenny Stills to keep their starting receiver group intact for the first time since 2011. Then they drafted a receiver and signed four undrafted receivers — because you can never have enough depth at receiver.
So, Mike Tannenbaum, what did the Dolphins add during the draft last month?
“Generally, just competition and depth,” the Dolphins executive vice president of football operations said following the April draft.
Now, let that marinate.
The Dolphins did not win any championships last season. They didn’t really come close to winning their division. They had by their own admission a flawed roster in 2016.
So amid all that, why did the team think adding depth was so important?
Well, it’s obvious the Dolphins like what was established in coach Adam Gase’s first season. That was a foundation. But if you saw the team at the end of the season — playing a backup quarterback, and backups at cornerback, linebacker, safety and tight end, you can better understand why adding depth was a thing for this team.
So that’s the direction the offseason took.
Yes, the team considered signing star linebacker Dont’a Hightower away from the New England Patriots and that would have been an earthquake move. But instead the Dolphins kept costs down, signed Lawrence Timmons, extended Kiko Alonso, restructured Koa Misi and drafted Raekwon McMillan.
And now that Miami has four linebackers who will compete for playing time when only two are on the field about 70 percent of the time in nickel (passing-downs) situations, the Dolphins suddenly have some linebacker depth.
Dolphins fans spent much of this offseason bemoaning the team’s situation at guard. Well, in his first press availability of 2017, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen spent part of the time happily recounting how deep the team is at that position.
“At guard, I think we really wanted to get some depth in there,” Christensen said. “Now we have a bunch of guys who can swing inside and play center. … I feel good. I think we’ve got some good, solid players in there. I think the competition will be high, which always makes people better, and we’ll come out of the thing with, I think, a good, deep inside bunch, which will be great.”
The Dolphins did good work in the depth department. No doubt. But there is one spot that still could use some backup help now.
The Dolphins have a budding star in Jay Ajayi at running back. So what happens if he has to miss multiple games?
Miami obviously has bodies to throw at the problem. The team can point to Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake or even Senorise Perry, who played for Gase in Chicago. But this team that has six running backs on the roster, lacks a good plan if Ajayi is not available for any extended period because none of the three backups just mentioned seem like viable carry-the-load guys.
The Dolphins have $9.6 million of cap space invested in the running back spot. That is the least of any of the eight position groups on offense and defense.
So what can be done to address this admittedly small issue? (Yeah, small issue now, but if Ajayi were to strain a groin and miss four weeks, you’ll be worrying the season is over.)
The time to address the issue was probably not long after the draft when LaGarrette Blount was still available. Now? The best approach is probably to wait until roster cuts begin in early September to find a viable candidate on the waiver wire.
If that is indeed the only issue the Dolphins have in finding fill-ins during 2017 then this team did accomplish one of the offseason’s main goals: It established depth.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero