The Atlanta Falcons are playing in the Super Bowl and they have quietly built themselves a nice little team down in Georgia. In fact the way they built that team is a blueprint Miami should follow as there are a lot of similarities.
1) Quarterback–The early years of Matt Ryan’s career were up and down. Yes his team had success but in the playoffs Matt Ryan came up a little short. Now Ryan Tannehill hasn’t had the team success that Matt Ryan had but he has gradually improved each year like Matt Ryan has. While one will admit Matt Ryan is a better QB than Ryan Tannehill it isn’t by much. The Dolphins have their QB in place to build around.
2) Wide Receiver- Julio Jones is an all time great and Miami doesn’t have anyone on his level. But Jarvis Landry is pretty damn good and the group of Landry/Parker/Stills (if they re-sign him) is better overall than the group of WR’s Atlanta has with Sanu and Gabriel behind Jones. To me, yes Jones is a huge difference maker but both teams have above average WR Corps.
3) Running Back-Jay Ajayi is probably a bit better than Devonte Freeman and Tevin Coleman. But overall the teams are equal here.
4) Offensive Line/Tight End–Neither team has anything special at Tight End and when Miami’s offensive line is healthy they are a Top 5 unit in the NFL. Atlanta’s is also a very good offensive line unit. Both teams are pretty equal here.
Why did I do that rundown of offense head to head Miami and Atlanta? Because it shows the Dolphins offense if they can re-sign Stills and get the offensive line healthy is not that much different than Atlanta’s. Yes, Julio Jones is better than any WR on Miami, no doubt. But (assuming Miami re-signs Stills) a group of Landry/Parker/Stills is a top WR unit in the NFL. So while Jones is the best, Miami’s WR corps is damn good. And yes, Matt Ryan is better than Ryan Tannehill but again, Tannehill has improved each year and until he got hurt this year he made major strides. A second year for everyone in Miami’s offense under Adam Gase and I think Miami’s offense can be almost as good (not as good or better, but close to) as Atlanta’s. To me there isn’t a big gap to what Miami’s offense “could be” and what Atlanta’s offense “currently is.”
The defense is where there is a huge gap. The Falcons defense the past few years has been awful. They were old, slow, and had no playmakers. What did they do, while they invested big money into the offense to solidify that (sort of what Miami has done paying Tannehill, Pouncey, Albert, and soon to be Landry) they built the defense through the draft and with speed.
For the Dolphins to make that next step on defense they need to draft young fast guys who can run all over the field and make plays. That’s the blueprint Atlanta followed and the one Miami needs to copy. Atlanta’s defense isn’t all-world or some fierce defense that will win games. They are good at overwhelming bad offense’s with their speed and ability to make enough stops to let their offense win games.
Miami has Suh, Wake, and Reshad Jones, three guys who are better than anyone on Atlanta’s defense currently. If Miami can surround those 3 players with some youth and speed they will have something on defense. It might take a couple years and two more drafts to build up the defense that way but that has to be the game-plan moving forward for Gase, Tannenbaum, and Grier.
Miami doesn’t need to break the bank on defensive players, they just need to copy the Falcons blueprint of adding as many young fast guys who can fly all over the field as possible.
The Falcons blueprint has worked and gotten them to a Super Bowl. The offense has been together for a few years and grown as a unit, Miami can hopefully do the same and become a great offense as I think the pieces they need are already here. Just a matter of staying healthy and getting more games under their belt as a unit. The defense is where Miami must build like how Atlanta has built. And if they do the Dolphins might be in a Super Bowl in two or three years from now.