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AC in the AM: New Vets So Important To Dolphins

Posted Aug 23, 2017

The recent signing of veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga makes it 10 veterans the Dolphins have acquired either through free agency or trade since the end of last season. They could very well hold the key to this season.

I know we talk so much about the returning players, how they are growing together, how they have embraced their second season with Adam Gase and his staff, and that’s so important to the overall picture. But just as important are the new faces, the experienced players brought in to help supplement what this team already had.

One of the 10 veterans, offensive guard Ted Larsen, is expected to miss about half the season with a torn biceps. He looked like the probable starter at left guard prior to his injury. But the other nine will have important roles right away, roles that range from the starting quarterback to the two top tight ends to a pair of defensive players who excel at stopping the run.

Certainly, credit belongs to Executive VP Mike Tannenbaum, General Manager Chris Grier and Coach Adam Gase for taking care of some clear needs earlier in the offseason and then filling some important holes left by injuries as training camp and the summer evolved.

Let’s take a closer look at these nine veterans, in no particular order, and how they are expected to make a difference.

• Quarterback Jay Cutler: This could turn out to be the most significant signing of all. All signs indicate Cutler will be the starting quarterback against Tampa Bay on Sept. 10. Nobody could have seen this coming when training camp began, but a season-ending injury to Ryan Tannehill forced the Dolphins to move swiftly and decisively. How many teams can lose their starting quarterback yet keep the same season-long expectations? Cutler’s signing allowed the Dolphins to do just that.

• Tight end Julius Thomas: Yes, he has had a relatively quiet preseason. But that hasn’t swayed the belief inside this organization that Thomas can be the big-play tight end the Dolphins have been lacking. All you have to do is watch some tape of Thomas with the Broncos in the 2013 and 2014 seasons when he was as dominant as any tight end in the league. Gase is convinced Thomas can get there again and has all sorts of plays designed to help achieve that. The red zone offense just got a whole lot better with Thomas on the field.

• Linebacker Lawrence Timmons: Considering the injuries already suffered at linebacker, where would the Dolphins be without this free agent signing? Timmons gives this defense so much. An 11-year veteran who hasn’t missed a start since 2010. A three-down linebacker who excels against the run. A locker room leader who has a career resume that shouts respect and accomplishment. Every way you look at it, Timmons seems like an excellent fit for this defense.

• Defensive end William Hayes: Another makes-sense acquisition, in this case via the trade route. The Dolphins needed help against the run and Hayes is generally considered one of the best at that from the defensive end position. He has done nothing this summer to change that thinking. With so much talent at defensive end, it’ll be interesting to see how the Dolphins utilize Hayes. But I expect he’ll be on the field quite a bit and, now entering his 10th season, he brings with him plenty of intangibles that can help this defense. 

• Tight end Anthony Fasano: The perfect complement to go with the signing of Thomas. Fasano is as good as any blocking tight end in the league and, because of that, his catching ability is often underrated. He gives the Dolphins a nice alternative in the two tight end alignment and certainly some interesting options in the passing game as well. Since he’s been here before, we know what to expect and this is a signing that should help this team in several important areas.

• Safety Nate Allen: Has been slowed recently by a groin injury, but is now back at full strength and is expected to start alongside safety Reshad Jones. He brings a wealth of experience including 76 career starts and seems to excel guarding the deep end of the secondary, which should free up Jones to play closer to the line of scrimmage. His presence is certainly needed, what with T.J. McDonald beginning the season on an 8-game suspension.

• Safety T.J. McDonald: As previously mentioned, he’ll miss the first half of the season, but the Dolphins already know, based on his training camp performance, that he will be an important part of the secondary upon his return. With McDonald, Allen and Jones, the Dolphins will potentially have their strongest trio of safeties in years. Like Allen, McDonald has plenty of experience, starting all 53 games he has played, his productivity most evident in 281 tackles over four seasons with the Rams.

• Cornerback Alterraun Verner: This one came a little under the radar since the signing occurred just before the start of camp, but the addition of Verner could turn out to be one of this team’s shrewdest moves. An 8-year veteran, Verner made the Pro Bowl in 2013 with Tennessee, his five interceptions having plenty to do with that. Verner is probably best suited to defend the slot receiver, but injuries in the defensive backfield could necessitate some playing time on the outside. Either way, an important addition.

• Linebacker Rey Maualuga: Once again, similar to Cutler, a story of the Dolphins reacting quickly to an injury and bringing in a veteran talented enough to play and play well right away. Once he is settled in, Maualuga is expected to compete against Mike Hull for playing time at middle linebacker. He’s got eight productive seasons in Cincinnati, totaling 584 tackles, on his resume and his strength is stopping the run, clearly a major need for this defense.

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by our columnists and bloggers represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.