- Doug Kretz, Scouts Inc.
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As the NFL draft approaches, "SportsCenter" is putting every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock," and Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need answering.
Perhaps no team in the NFL has gone through more drastic changes this offseason than the Dolphins. They have brought in a new general manager, new head coach and Bill Parcells to oversee the whole operation. But Parcells relies heavily on general manager Jeff Ireland. Parcells and Ireland hope to change the losing mentality by bringing in players who will be on the same wavelength.
Head coach Tony Sparano will be learning under fire as he directs his first team. He has brought in a quality staff of assistant coaches, with the only holdovers being linebackers coach George Edwards and kicking coach Steve Hoffman. The players have been notified that if they don't produce, they will be gone.
The Dolphins have been extremely active in free agency. They didn't sign many highly recognizable names, but they did sign a lot of quality players who should fit their system. The offensive line got a boost when they signed guard Justin Smiley. The receiving corps was bolstered by the additions of WR Ernest Wilford, WR Tab Perry and TE Sean Ryan. Plus, QB Josh McCown will give them veteran leadership and allow last year's rookie, John Beck, more time to learn the game.
Defensively, the Dolphins looked to improve their secondary by signing free agents FS Chris Crocker, SS Keith Davis and CB Nathan Jones. Miami also re-signed SS Yeremiah Bell and CB Michael Lehan. LB Reggie Torbor should start at inside linebacker, while LB Charlie Anderson will compete to be a starting outside linebacker. Signing DT Randy Starks gives the Dolphins more size up front and the trade for DT Jason Ferguson from Dallas provides Miami with a familiar nose tackle who will fit the 3-4 defensive scheme.
The Dolphins have some holes to fill after losing players in free agency. Probably the biggest name they lost is MLB Zach Thomas, who signed with the Cowboys after being released. It could be argued he would not have been a great fit in their new 3-4 defense, and he has already been replaced with Torbor. Other than Thomas, the only starter the team lost was C Rex Hadnot, but the Dolphins have last year's second-rounder, Samson Satele, waiting in the wings. RB Jesse Chatman, QB Cleo Lemon and LB Derrick Pope were all backup players and should not be difficult to replace. The team also released several players because of salary-cap demands or age, such as WR Marty Booker and QB Trent Green.
The Dolphins' biggest question is what to do with the first overall pick. Regardless of whom they take, the odds are there already will be a contract in place. The Dolphins have already been talking to Michigan OT Jake Long, Virginia DE Chris Long and Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston. Chris Long could be a good fit because he is fairly used to Parcells' system; he played for one of Parcells' disciples, Al Groh, at Virginia. However, the one potentially surprising name is Gholston. He is very similar to DeMarcus Ware, whom Parcells drafted 11th overall in 2005. The Dolphins will draft a player who has a passion for the game and does not mind tough coaching.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
Scouts Inc. puts the Dolphins on the clock, breaking down their offseason moves and looking at what questions still need answers.