Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Return of Jason Taylor

Jason Taylor returns! Less than a year after the Dolphins traded him to the Washington Redskins, the man is back in aqua and orange. Past Interference’s reaction to the 2008 Taylor trade was mixed; I approved of the move, Jeff hated it. But all Dolphin fans agreed it was a sad day to see the greatest defensive player in Miami Dolphins history leave to play for another team. But Taylor is back and his return not only washes away all that bad feeling, perhaps more importantly it sends yet another signal that this franchise has completely turned around under the leadership of Bill Parcells. You may recall the Dolphins received Washington’s 2009 second-round pick in exchange for Taylor, a pick subsequently spent on QB Pat White. In exchange, Washington received Taylor’s services for 2008 and those costly services wound up being nearly nonexistent. Taylor missed half the season with an injury and when he did play he wasn’t much of a factor. And Miami, finishing with their best season in years, certainly didn’t miss him. Now just a year later Taylor’s back as a free agent while costing Miami very little to sign. So essentially Miami got a second-round pick for free. Do you know how incredible that is? For most of this decade the Dolphins were known for trading away valuable draft picks for virtually nothing (see A.J. Feeley, Lamar Gordon). Even if Pat White or Jason Taylor do little in 2009 the team at least won’t have lost anything (and I believe White will in fact make important contributions). It’s just nice to see the Tuna emphatically end the team’s era of trade futility. Plus Jason Taylor’s a Dolphin again. Good times.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Miami Dolphins Draft 2009

I’m not going to offer an idiotic grade to evaluate the Miami Dolphins’ 2009 draft. Miami needed cornerbacks and they drafted cornerbacks. They needed wide receivers and they drafted wide receivers. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith sure seem like good picks to me. They were drafted where they were supposed to be drafted anyway. And Patrick Turner. I know he earned an underachiever label in college but damn, 6’5”, 223! Miami really, really needs a wideout that size who can play. He supposedly lacks speed but Miami’s got a guy with blazing speed right now who hasn’t done a whole lot in his first two seasons. I’ll take size and good hands any day over speed. (Though the whole package would be nice). After last year, Parcells, Ireland and Sparano certainly earned the benefit of the doubt on all personnel decisions so let’s trust the triumvirate that these selections will pan out.

The most intriguing pick is clearly Pat White. Quarterback was the last position you’d expect Miami to go for, especially using their second pick on one. Chad Pennington played like an MVP last year and Miami spent a second-round pick on Chad Henne just a year ago and he hasn’t played a down yet. So the White pick immediately meant two things: (1) John Beck was toast; and (2) White’s going to be running the wildcat. On the second point, teams started figuring out the wildcat as the year went on and they countered it by blitzing. If your RB has got the ball and the defense stuffs the middle, he has to beat them by throwing. Ronnie Brown isn’t really the guy to do that on a consistent basis but Pat White sure could be. If he can catch as well then I’m really looking forward to see this offense in 2009.

As for Beck I suppose I ought to say a few words here. I posted favorably on him awhile back after reading a nice write-up about his drive, desire, and dedication to the game. But it turns out that while those qualities are very important, they aren’t quite as important as things like being able to throw and complete passes on a consistent basis. Playing for the 2007 Miami Dolphins wasn’t exactly the situation a young quarterback could be expected to thrive in but you at least have to see the occasional flash of brilliance here and there. Instead, Dolphin fans just got a lot of turnovers from a guy who looked lost out there. Once when examining Jay Fiedler’s career I noted his problem of not getting any real playing experience until he was in his late 20’s. The late start gave him only a tiny window to improve his play before the inevitable age-related decline of his physical skills. And that’s what happened. Fiedler did improve somewhat after a couple of seasons but he plateaued before ever reaching championship-caliber level. Now 28, Beck’s suddenly in the same boat; if he gets to start now that is (something that’s not going to happen). Miami should never have drafted him if they didn’t plan to start him right away. Beck I think also illustrates a slightly different age-related problem.

Beck became BYU’s starting QB as a freshman…at age 21(!), about the time most college players are graduating (or at least ending their college careers). As a senior, Beck was ranked as the country’s second-best college QB. And he was 26(!), a good five years older or more than most of the guys lining up across from him. So was Beck’s great collegiate performance a result of superior skills and determination? Or did Beck’s age just give him a huge advantage due to his greater physical and emotional maturity and life experience? Probably some combination of the two but still, honestly evaluating Beck as an NFL prospect in 2007 was complicated by his age. Literally, as a mature man against boys how could he not have a leg-up on the competition? Call it the “Chris Weinke problem”. Generally you want to draft guys who play with the poise and skill you’d expect from a much older player. You don’t want to draft an actual older player.