Now that the 2012 season is finished, we will take a look at the roster by positions and start to narrow our focus in on what the Dolphins need to do this offseason to get Miami back into the playoff mix for 2013 and beyond.
Our first look begins with the weakest unit on the team, receiving options.
MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
WR Brian Hartline
Brian produced a career year for the Dolphins with his first 1,000 yard season, the tenth highest total in Dolphin history. He notched 1,083 yards on 74 receptions but the one number that plagued the Dolphins receiving corps all year, just one touchdown, an 80 yarder on busted coverage against the Cardinals. Hartline was the de facto #1 receiver this season but should really be a team’s third best receiver. If the Dolphins can add one receiver in free agency, and one in the draft, that will slide Hartline down in the pecking order, while also matching him up with other teams third best and sometimes fourth best corners, that is a matchup the Dolphins can then exploit, and the touchdowns should increase in that situation. He should be re-signed to a manageable contract this offseason, as it would only worsen the issue if he were allowed to leave and end up latching onto a team such as the Patriots who would probably turn him into a pro bowler with their system. (See: Wes Welker)
WR Davone Bess
Bess was his usual productive self this season and even saw his workload increase due to the lack of talent at the position and it might have worn on him towards the end of the year as he missed the final 3 games of the season due to a back injury. Bess is still a perfect WR in the slot for the Dolphins and is best suited for matching up against lesser corners who cannot stay with him in space off the line of scrimmage. Being one of only two viable options however left him matched up plenty this year against starting caliber corners and limited the damage he could do. If Miami upgrades the position during the offseason, Bess could flourish next year and give Tannehill the release valve he’ll need when plays break down.
WR Rishard Mathews
A seventh round find that exceeded what most seventh round picks do, outside of when Marcus Colston burst onto the scene. Mathews was the best receiver in the preseason and was hopeful to get some playing time early however the Dolphins tried to fill the third receiver position with veteran free agents such as Legedu Naanee, Anthony Armstrong and Jabar Gaffney. Once that trio failed to provide anything for the offense, the Dolphins finally went to Mathews and he was able to show a couple of flashes. He shouldn’t be in position to start next year or anything, but he could be a serviceable fourth or fifth wide receiver as long as the Dolphins upgrade the position depth overall. That will allow Mathews to hold a job and continue working and maybe in a couple years he will make a jump and earn a bigger role within the offense. Sad as it may sound, he was likely the third best receiver the Dolphins had this season.
WR Marlon Moore
Moore’s value was more on special teams than that of receiver and despite being given every chance to take the job as #3 receiver and make it his, he was never able to do that and saw only a few snaps here and there before eventually giving way to Mathews late in the year. If the offseason goes according to plan, Moore will struggle to stay on the team next year outside of being kept on as a special teams ace, he should not have any room at WR unless the Dolphins decide to go six deep at the position for given weeks.
WR Armon Binns
Binns was another late season free agent grab as the Dolphins searched to find someone to help them out. Binns made a couple of nice receptions in traffic but also had a couple of key drops in the final game of the season including one at the goal line, so his status still remains very much in the air going into next season. Miami could attempt to keep him as a developmental project as he is still very young and has ideal size at 6-3 210 lbs., but if Miami is able to add 2-3 receivers through free agency or the draft, then he may be deemed expendable and released. Until such players are acquired, the Dolphins figure to hold onto him and see if they can tap into his potential.
TE Anthony Fasano
Fasano was once again his usual reliable self, however he is far from dynamic and better suited as a second tight end at this point than a starter. He led the Dolphins in receiving touchdowns with five however as he was the one player that could be useful within the red zone. Miami should try to upgrade the position and did try in last April’s draft with the third round selection of Michael Egnew, however he failed to impress the coaching staff and Fasano was thrust back into the mix. If Miami goes heavy at the position in the offseason, it is possible that they will not bring Fasano back at all. I for one have hopes that Miami could nab Jermichael Finley out of Green Bay in free agency and then take Jordan Reed out of Florida in the draft to give them a strength at the position. That would effectively end Fasano’s career in Miami.
TE Charles Clay
Miami fans and coaches alike had high hopes for Clay who came on late in his rookie season. Clay was expected to be a seam stretcher and versatile in the passing game as a TE/FB hybrid who would punish linebackers that tried to match up with him and out physical safeties who tried as well. Instead, Clay struggled to pick up the playbook and the emergence of Javorskie Lane in the run game limited his snaps until the midway point when he started to come on and make some of the plays we all expected when the season began. Fasano had over 20 more receptions than Clay, but only 100 more yards, showing that all of Fasano’s work was near the line of scrimmage while Clay did his damage much further down field. If Miami is able to upgrade the position, and somehow get Egnew on track to start contributing, Clay’s role could decrease even further and his job may be in jeopardy. If Miami does not focus on the TE spot however, and Clay can come in stronger in the playbook, he may be able to help fill the TE void from week 1 in 2013.
TE Michael Egnew
A complete disappointment for what the Dolphins were hoping from him when they took him in the third round of the 2012 draft. At 6-5 250, and having caught 90 passes his JR. season at Missouri, it was thought that he would be able to stretch the seams for Tannehill and even become a red zone weapon in the Jimmy Graham mold used out in New Orleans. None of that happened, not even close. Egnew was awful in preseason and never showed enough to even be on the active roster until late in the season and when he was on the field, Tannehill never attempted to find him. It is too early to give up on him now as some rookies take a year or two to start to earn their keep, but the clock is ticking. Egnew needs to have a tremendous offseason to get himself ready for training camp to show the coaches that he can make an impact at the position going forward. If he can’t do that, his days could be numbered in Miami.
Jeron Mastrud and Kyle Miller are blocking tight ends or projects that don’t figure to have a place in this offense as it begins ramping up in speed and receiving demands at the position. They should be longshots to make the roster in 2013 and beyond outside of emergency purposes.