by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
On a periodic basis between now and the 2006 NFL Draft, I will take an in-depth look at the Dolphins. This week: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Wes Welker continued his cult status with inspired play that regularly surpassed his physical stature. As a third receiver, Welker (29 receptions, 434 yards) was solid as teams sometimes underestimated his skills. On special teams, Welker finished the season ranked 5th in the AFC and 11th in the NFL in punt returns (9.1 yard average) and was 13th in the AFC in kickoff returns (22.6 yard average). He is, without a doubt, one of the best competitors (and fan favorites) on the team.
Chris Davis, Jason Willis, Kelly Campbell, Fred Gibson, and Cliff Russell round out the roster. David Boston, placed on Injured Reserve last November with ongoing and persistent knee problems, may have played his last game as a Dolphin. It is questionable as to whether the Dolphins will opt to re-sign him.
Strengths: Solid and complimentary talents in Chambers and Booker. Both are legitimate threats that defenses are forced to respect. Welker’s versatility is a big plus.
Weaknesses: Lack of quality depth. Inability to field dangerous multiple WR sets.
Offseason Priority: High. The Dolphins really need to add some young, healthy, quality bench strength to the roster at this vital position. This has been a need for sometime. An upgrade over Welker in three WR formations would be a solid move. As things stand today, an injury to Chambers would cripple the team’s ability to execute their wide open offensive philosophy. This is an unacceptable risk that Nick Saban must mitigate.
However, Randy Mac’s reception numbers do not tell the whole story of his season. Fact is, the best part of his work last season was his blocking, which was noticeably improved over prior seasons. Credit for this goes, of course, to McMichael but also deservedly goes to offensive line coach Hudson Houck who worked with McMichael to improve his technique in engaging and sustaining blocks. Whether in the run game or in pass pro, McMichael was a more dominant presence while managing to cut down on mental mistakes which, in the past, sometimes resulted in stupid penalties.
It will be interesting to see if Culpepper’s presence will help to improve McMichael’s reception numbers and thus put him in better position to garner Pro Bowl recognition.
Alex Holmes, Jason Rader, Teyo Johnson, and the newly acquired Justin
Peelle (free agent from
Strengths: McMichael’s skills as a receiver and blocker make him one of the best all-around and complete tight ends in the NFL. He should be even better in 2006.
Weaknesses: Lack of pass-catching depth, though Peelle could have upside in this regard.
Offseason Priority: Medium. The somewhat surprising early release of Lorenzo Diamond leaves the Dolphins a little thin at TE. Peelle was used extensively by the Chargers as a blocker, which helps when the Dolphins deploy two TE formations. This year’s talent pool is a deep one for tight ends, which should give the Dolphins some decent choices with a mid-to-late round pick.