The New York Jets? They recently completed a signature trade for Percy Harvin because their offense had no speed on the outside and obviously not enough playmakers to help quarterback Geno Smith. Great, but that team still has an obvious hole at cornerback, and defending the pass is as important as passing the football.
The Patriots? Their defense was bleeding points and yards before they lost starters Jerod Mayo (for the season) and Chandler Jones (for a month), so coach Bill Belichick signed defensive tackle Alan Branch to shore up the run defense and traded for linebacker Akeem Ayers to improve the pass rush.
Ayers was available because he was coming off two patellar tendon surgeries and had been a healthy scratch in five of the Tennessee Titans first seven games. Branch was on the street because he was cut by the Buffalo Bills after not attending offseason workouts, being arrested for drunken driving and failing a physical.
As for those Bills? Less than a month into their season, they made a quarterback change, benching EJ. Manuel and promoting proverbial journeyman Kyle Orton.
Yes, folks, the other teams in the AFC East have issues. The flaws glow in neon. So those teams are taking significant and perhaps desperate steps to address the obvious defects.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, are so far staying the course with a roster that’s as strong and complete as it has been since the team won the AFC East in 2008.
Thank you, Dennis Hickey.
And a belated thank you, too, Jeff Ireland.
The Dolphins aren’t without flaws. Remember, there was only one perfect team in NFL history. But unlike its division rivals, this team has not shown glaring, egregious, worrisome and possibly irreparable problems with its roster.
This team’s roster, in fact, has actually gotten stronger in recent weeks with the addition of safety Reshad Jones and defensive end Dion Jordan — both back from early season NFL suspensions — and the return to health of erstwhile center-turned-guard Mike Pouncey.
(By the way, Dolphins fans who believe Jordan is a budding draft bust should consider he would probably start for the Patriots and Jets on Sunday if he were on those teams.)
In Miami, Jordan cannot unseat Cameron Wake or Olivier Vernon, and that speaks to the defensive line’s depth. At linebacker, the Dolphins haven’t missed Dannell Ellerbe. In the secondary, coaches have used four different players in addition to the four starters in passing situations, which obviously suggests good depth.
So the Dolphins’ major malfunction is not a lack of available talent. The Dolphins currently don’t have roster holes so large they could sink the season.
“I think we’ve shown across the board, any facet of the game, running the ball, we can run the ball, getting to the quarterback, we can do that, stopping the run, we’ve shown that we can do that, throwing the ball, we can do that,” defensive end Cameron Wake said this week.
“We’ve done that all throughout the first six games. But doing it all consistently, together, collectively as a unit, I think that’s been some of the issues.”
Miami’s lack of consistency being identified as the team’s major failing is, believe it or not, an upgrade around these parts.
This team, unlike past Dolphins teams, is chugging along at .500 because the talent simply hasn’t gelled. But the talent is nonetheless good enough to make for a good team if it does indeed come together.
Past Dolphins teams?
Not enough talent.
Consider, for example, last year’s Dolphins: The offensive line was the NFL’s worst, the worst in franchise history, and the epicenter of a scandal.
Miami’s starting left tackle at season’s end is out of football now. The starting right tackle is a backup in Houston. Both starting guards are primarily backups.
So four of the five players who started on Miami’s offensive line in the 2013 finale are either out of football or mostly on the bench somewhere.
That’s a (lack of) talent issue.
The 2012 Dolphins that lined up for then-rookie coach Joe Philbin? Not enough talent either because that team lacked offensive playmakers.
The situation in ’12 was so desperate Redskins castoff Anthony Armstrong was viewed as an upgrade when he arrived in town and everyone was praying rookie tight end Michael Egnew could help alleviate the problem.
Egnew wasn’t good enough to make it out of training camp on this team.
Prior to Philbin taking over, the biggest failing on the Dolphins roster was at quarterback. Chad Henne started for the Dolphins from 2009 to 2011. He was, unbelievably, the franchise quarterback hopeful at one point.
The Dolphins have come a long way since those disastrous roster deficiencies.
Tannehill still has accuracy flaws and pocket awareness blackouts but he’s the first quarterback since Chad Pennington to hit the magic 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Tannehill has 10 TDs and five interceptions now.
The receiver corps, meanwhile, is so solid with rookie Jarvis Landry winning the slot receiver job, that Brandon Gibson, a solid performer, has become something of a forgotten man. Gibson was inactive last week because coaches decided he wasn’t needed. He remains good insurance to guard against injury but it’s clear he’s Miami’s fifth-best receiver now.
Things are good when the Dolphins have proven veterans providing depth.
“Yeah, I’m excited about the guys we have,” Tannehill said. “I think we have all the pieces in play, from the offensive line to the playmakers outside. I’ve said from the time we started, we came in the spring, that I’m excited about the guys that we have in the locker room — not only their playmaking ability, but chemistry that they bring, the quality of guys that we have.
“And they’re playing well right now. It’s fun to go out there and play when the guys around you are playing with confidence and playing well.”