Barry Jackson

Talent is the biggest issue, but Dolphins believe this problem also needs to be solved

Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks to the media after the season. Gase and Dolphins executives are changing the locker-room, with better leadership among the goals.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase talks to the media after the season. Gase and Dolphins executives are changing the locker-room, with better leadership among the goals. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

▪ Many people — myself included — probably roll their eyes when we hear about the Dolphins wanting to change the culture inside their locker-room.

Talent remains the biggest factor in winning and losing.

But know this: The front office and coaching staff aren’t the only ones who believe this team needs better leadership.

One current player bemoaned how one offensive player who tried to be a leader last season did so mostly by yelling at teammates, and said that approach simply didn’t work. That player is no longer on the roster.

Another prominent player tried to show leadership by encouraging a younger player to watch film with him. But that young player declined the invitation to watch film, leaving the older player unsure how to show leadership.

In other words, there’s a leadership void on this team. And the Dolphins are trying to solve that.

Offensively, they hope guard Josh Sitton becomes a vocal leader. Ryan Tannehill, who couldn’t lead last year because he wasn’t playing, had become more of a vocal leader in 2016, according to teammates, and needs to build on that.

Defensively, there’s no clear-cut choice to fill the leadership void. Andre Branch was an emotional sparkplug for this team in 2016 but less so last year.

The Dolphins released Ndamukong Suh primarily because his salary and cap hit exceeded his production, in the Dolphins’ eyes. But let’s be clear on this: The Dolphins also believed a player earning as much as Suh should be more of a leader. He improved somewhat in that area but never fulfilled the Dolphins’ expectations.

▪ The Dolphins took South Carolina State linebacker Darrius Leonard to dinner the night before his Pro Day on Tuesday, and he’s on Miami’s radar for day two of the draft if they don’t fill their linebacker need in the first round.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein projects Leonard as a second- or third-round pick and says this about him: “Long and twitchy with athletic ability and straight-line speed that should light up the combine. Leonard has packed on the pounds since hitting campus, but it hasn’t compromised his play speed as he has posted dominant production throughout. He lacks play strength and there are times you want to see more nasty in his field demeanor, but he has the traits and talent to become a good, three-down linebacker who can play 3-4 inside backer or 4-3 WILL.”

Leonard had 114 tackles, 8.5 sacks and two interceptions last season. He followed up with a game-high 14 tackles in the Senior Bowl. He had 19 tackles in a loss to Clemson in 2016.

Zierlein notes that Leonard, “as the half-brother of former Clemson linebacker Anthony Waters, expected to one day suit up for the Tigers. Clemson only offered him a preferred walk-on invitation, however, so he decided to take the ride at SCSU. Leonard has played like an FBS recruit for the Bulldogs, playing the run inside, coming off the edge as a pass rusher, and making plays in coverage.”

▪ The Dolphins have begun booking their 30 permitted draft visits (for non-local players) and TCU guard Matt Pryor is among those invited to team headquarters. The Dolphins have told people they will be looking to add interior line help in the draft (likely in the late stages).

▪ According to a North Carolina State athletics web site, the Dolphins met this week with Wolfpack defensive tackle Justin Jones.

He had 34 tackles and 8.5 for loss last season.

Zierlein projects him as a sixth round pick, with this assessment on NFL.com: “Strong player who plays his role along the North Carolina State defensive front, but he doesn’t really shine in any single area. He’s tough enough at the point of attack to give him a shot as a rotational defensive lineman if he’s able to add a little more size, but his shot may come late or undrafted as he lacks the athletic traits and overall production teams will be looking for.”

▪ The Dolphins’ free agent options to replace kicker Cody Parkey are pretty limited. The top kickers remaining: Sebastian Janikowski (age 40 and missed last season with back issues), Blair Walsh (21 for 29 on field goals), Nick Novak (9 for 13 on field goals and had a back injury).

Last week, the Dolphins worked out Ryan Santos, a former University of Minnesota punter and kicker who won the Kohl’s kicking school and Gridiron Showcase.

The top three kickers in the draft, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, are Auburn’s Daniel Carson, San Jose State’s Bryce Crawford and Utah’s Matt Gay.

▪ Pro Football Focus gave a B to the Danny Amendola/Albert Wilson signings. Here’s what the web site had to say:

“Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson compete for touches in what has quickly become a crowded Miami Dolphins wide receiver room, whether it be along the boundary or in the slot.

“Dolphins wide receivers DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should maintain starting roles in 2018, forcing the team’s two newcomers to compete for third and fourth wide receiver snaps. If either of the two incumbents were to take a backseat to Wilson/Amendola, Stills would be the first to go, as he was tied for 39th among the 45 wide receivers with 82-plus targets in yards per route run [1.36] in 2017.

“In shippingJarvis Landry to the Cleveland Browns earlier this month, Miami also shipped 40.5 percent of the team’s 2017 wide receiver targets, forcing the Dolphins to fill Landry’s shoes with not one, but two capable slot receivers in Amendola and Wilson.

“Amendola will see a higher percentage of his offensive snaps lined up in the slot compared to Wilson, but the two will still see a lot of targets inside of outside receivers Stills and Parker. Amendola averaged 2.03 yards per route from the slot (includes postseason) to rank sixth among qualifying slot receivers in 2017 while Wilson ranked 31st at 1.45 YPRR.

“Though it’ll hard to replace Landry’s overall impact, Amendola and Wilson should do a good enough job to smooth out the transition at a much cheaper cost, collectively…. Though both deals are a bit steep when looking at Amendola and Wilson’s career production, Miami deserves credit for working quickly to fill Landry’s shoes before scrambling later in free agency and the 2018 NFL Draft.”

Here’s my Tuesday post with news from the first day of UM’s quarterback battle.

Here’s my Tuesday post with lots more UM nuggets from the spring day of spring ball.

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