Recent indicators of how the Dolphins should build their roster

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On Sunday, we all witnessed a Super Bowl that will be easy to forget. It was a blowout from the very beginning and when you throw in the awful commercials, it seemed like just another Sunday of football. Unfortunately, that’s the last taste we get until August when preseason games begin. Fortunately, there is still plenty to discuss and talk about it in the coming months.

More specifically, we will be talking about free agency and the draft. There will be plenty of discussion of the right way and wrong way to build a team. With a new general manager in Miami, no one is really sure what direction he will take. With that said, is there really a right way and a wrong way to build a team? In order to get a little more clarity, I’m going to analyze the past three Super Bowl matchups.

February 5, 2012: Giants vs. Patriots

The 2011 Giants came into the Super Bowl ranked 9th in total points scored (394) and in 8th in total yards (6,161). They ranked 16th in the league with 24 turnovers on offense. They compiled 4,734 passing yards, which was good for 5th in the league. They rushed for 1,427 yards, which was the worst in the league.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 25th in points allowed (400) and 27th in yards allowed. They ranked 5th in the league by forcing 31 turnovers. They were 29th in the league in passing yards allowed (4,082) and 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,940).

The 2011 Patriots came into the Super Bowl ranked 3rd in total points scored (513) and in 2nd in total yards (6,848). They ranked 3rd in the league with 17 turnovers on offense. They compiled 5,084 passing yards, which was good for 2nd in the league. They rushed for 1,764 yards and were ranked 20th.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 15th in points allowed (342) and 31st in yards allowed (6,577). They ranked 3rd in the league by forcing 34 turnovers. They were 31st in the league in passing yards allowed (4,703) and 17th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,764).

So what does this tell us? Neither team had a very good defense as they were ranked towards the bottom of the league in almost all major categories. However, one thing that sticks is out is that they were both in the top 5 of the forced turnovers category. Both teams had great offenses as they were both ranked in the top 10 of total points scored and total yards. Neither team had a good rushing attack but both of their passing offenses were very good.

So far, the key takeaway is that a team doesn’t necessarily have to be dominant on defense as long as they force turnovers. In addition, a heavy passing attack is going to get you a lot further than a heavy rushing attack. Let’s see if the trend continues in 2012.

February 3, 2013 – Ravens vs. 49ers

The 2012 Ravens came into the Super Bowl ranked 10th in total points scored (398) and in 16th in total yards (5,640). They ranked 2nd in the league with 16 turnovers on offense. They compiled 3,739 passing yards, which was good for 15th in the league. They rushed for 1,901 yards and were ranked 11th.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 12th in points allowed (344) and 17th in yards allowed (5,615). They ranked 14th in the league by forcing 25 turnovers. They were 17th in the league in passing yards allowed (3,650) and 20th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,965).

The 2012 49ers came into the Super Bowl ranked 11th in total points scored (397) and in 11th in total yards (5,789). They ranked 2nd in the league with 16 turnovers on offense. They compiled 3,298 passing yards, which was good for 23rd in the league. They rushed for 2,491 yards and were ranked 4th.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 2nd in points allowed (273) and 3rd in yards allowed (4,710). They ranked 14th in the league by forcing 25 turnovers. They were 4th in the league in passing yards allowed (3,203) and 4th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,507).

What trend do we see here? Neither offense was overpowering – ranking in the middle of the league in most categories. The one thing that sticks out though is that they limited the amount of turnovers they had on offense. Both teams had a pretty good rushing offense with an average passing offense. On defense, the Ravens were again stuck towards the middle in most categories. The 49ers defense was dominant, ranking in the top 5 in almost all major categories.

This is a tough one because there’s not a lot to take away from this matchup. We know the 49ers got to this game based on their defense. The Ravens got there with a lot of luck and a lot of energy and motivation. This matchup throws off our trend from the 2011 teams but let’s see if it was 2011 that was an aberration or 2012.

February 2, 2014 – Seahawks vs. Broncos

The 2013 Seahawks came into the Super Bowl ranked 8th in total points scored (417) and in 17th in total yards (5,424). They ranked 4th in the league with 19 turnovers on offense. They compiled 3,236 passing yards, which was good for 26th in the league. They rushed for 2,188 yards and were ranked 4th.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 1st in points allowed (417) and 1st in yards allowed (4,378). They ranked 1st in the league by forcing 39 turnovers. They were 1st in the league in passing yards allowed (2,752) and 7th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,626).

The 2013 Broncos came into the Super Bowl ranked 1st in total points scored (606) and in 1st in total yards (7,317). They ranked 17th in the league with 26 turnovers on offense. They compiled 5,444 passing yards, which was good for 1st in the league. They rushed for 1,873 yards and were ranked 15th.

On the defensive side of the ball, they ranked 22nd in points allowed (399) and 19th in yards allowed (5,696). They ranked 16th in the league by forcing 26 turnovers. They were 27th in the league in passing yards allowed (4,070) and 7th in the league in rushing yards allowed (1,626).

In this Super Bowl, we saw the top rated offense against the top rated defense. However, do these teams compare against previous Super Bowl matchups and support any trends? Again, it’s very hard to say. The Broncos had an overpowering offense and the Seahawks had an overpowering defense. In 2012, we saw that the 49ers had a dominant defense but neither they nor the Ravens had a dominant offense. In 2011, neither the Patriots or Giants had a dominant defense but their offenses were ranked towards the top of the league. Confused? Me too. Let’s narrow this down a little more.

Out of the past three matchups, we had three teams with a dominant offense (Broncos, Patriots, Giants). We had two teams with a dominant defense (49ers and Seahawks). We had one team that was ranked towards the middle in everything (Ravens). Still confused? Let’s narrow it down even more.

Out of those six teams, one team won with a dominant offense, one team won with a dominant defense, and one team won ranked towards the middle. What are we to conclude? Based on these stats, it shows that there is no right way to build a team. You can build a dominant defense but that doesn’t guarantee anything. You can build a dominant offense but that doesn’t guarantee anything either. You can also build a balanced team on both offense and defense but that doesn’t guarantee anything.

Therefore, the thing that matters most is the chemistry within the locker room, the leadership from the general manager and head coach, the leadership from the players, the ability of assistant coaches to teach and correct mistakes, and the ability for teams to come together and fight through adversity to reach a common goal.

It must be the goal of Dennis Hickey to create a team that can win and get into the playoffs. From there, it’s a completely different ballgame where coaching and leadership takes it to a new level. Can he do that? If he can do that, can Joe Philbin take this team and lead them to the playoffs and eventually to the Super Bowl? We won’t know for quite a while but will start to know what direction the Dolphins are going in within the next few months.

Follow me on Twitter: @PhinManiacs


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