Miami Dolphins: Double Coverage

Branden AlbertPeter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesThe Dolphins bolstered their O-line by agreeing to a five-year, $46 million deal with Brandon Albert.
NFL free agency kicked off with a bang Tuesday, and Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert was one of the biggest names to switch teams. Albert signed a five-year, $46 million contract with Miami Dolphins. He spent the previous five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

One team’s loss is another team’s gain in free agency. ESPN.com’s Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Dolphins reporter James Walker weigh in on both sides of the Albert signing.

James Walker: Adam, the Dolphins are ecstatic to land a player of Albert’s caliber. Pro Bowl left tackles do not grow on trees, and Albert was the highest-rated player at that position on the market. Albert also filled Miami’s biggest need on the offensive line, which was torn apart last season with the bullying controversy. The price tag wasn’t cheap. But the Dolphins feel it was worth the investment, especially after watching their quarterback get sacked a team-record 58 times last season. Albert will protect Ryan Tannehill’s blindside. Adam, how are the Chiefs dealing with the loss of Albert?

Adam Teicher: It’s a loss for the Chiefs for the short term without a doubt. Eventually, the Chiefs should be able to handle his departure. The Chiefs and Albert were so far apart on a long-term contract last year that they knew it was never going to happen. So they began preparing for this day last year by selecting a tackle, Eric Fisher, with the first pick in the draft. Fisher started as a rookie at right tackle but didn’t play well. He was a huge disappointment, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t eventually become the player the Chiefs envision. He needs a year in Kansas City’s weight program. That alone should make him better.

The Chiefs and Dolphins talked about a trade involving Albert last year. How disappointed was Miami they couldn’t acquire Albert then?

Walker: The Dolphins liked Albert last year, but the person calling the shots this year is different. Miami fired former general manager Jeff Ireland and hired new GM Dennis Hickey in January. Ireland liked to acquire picks as opposed to trading them away. So it wasn’t a shock when talks with Kansas City failed. It turned out to be a mistake as Miami’s offensive line was atrocious, which played a factor in Ireland losing his job. Hickey doesn’t want to make the same mistake. It appears he values the perks of a good offensive line and is making it a priority by putting money into Albert.

Adam, the Chiefs’ offensive line appears to be in transition with losses of Albert, Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz. How will they recover?

Teicher: They’ve tried to prepare for this. Over the last four drafts, the Chiefs have used five picks in the first three rounds on offensive linemen. Four of them will start next season. They have three developmental linemen and the Chiefs could slide one of them into a starting spot in the middle of the line. Their depth will definitely take a hit, particularly at tackle. They’ll have to find some backups and perhaps even a starter through free agency or the draft.

With regard to the offensive line, is anything left for the Dolphins to do or are they set?

Walker: The Dolphins are far from set, Adam. Unlike Kansas City, Miami has not invested much in the offensive line in the past year. Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey is the only starting offensive lineman expected to return. Last year’s starting guards -- Richie Incognito and John Jerry -- will not return due to their involvement in Miami’s high-profile bullying scandal. Offensive tackles Tyson Clabo and Bryant McKinnie are both unrestricted free agents who are long in the tooth. Pouncey and Albert are a solid foundation. But the Dolphins still need two starting guards and a right tackle to play alongside their two Pro Bowlers.
Ryan Tannehill and Julio JonesUSA TODAY SportsRyan Tannehill and the undefeated Dolphins will try to upset Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Miami Dolphins are basking in the light of a 2-0 start while the Atlanta Falcons are just trying to find some healthy bodies.

The two teams play each other Sunday in a game that has big implications in the AFC East and NFC South races.

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas examine this matchup:

Yasinskas: James, like many, I thought the Dolphins would be an improved team. But it's looking like they might be even better than I thought. They've gone out and started their season with two big wins on the road. What's going right for the Dolphins and, more importantly, how good are they?

Walker: It's early, Pat, but Miami is already exceeding my expectations. I pegged the Dolphins to be an 8-8 team this year. That still could happen if the team loses focus, but Miami is on pace to do better. I credit two things: improved playmaking ability and the growth of second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami committed more than $200 million in free-agent contracts to players like receiver Mike Wallace, cornerback Brent Grimes and linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. All of those players came up big in last Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts. When you add in the fact Tannehill has improved in his second year, it's easy to see why the Dolphins are also taking the next step. Atlanta is a team many believe is a Super Bowl contender, but the group is banged up. Pat, how much will injuries impact the Falcons in this game?

Yasinskas: Atlanta has some major injury problems. The Falcons had to put defensive end/linebacker Kroy Biermann and fullback Bradie Ewing on injured reserve this week and there are reports that running back Steven Jackson will miss a few weeks. The loss of Biermann means the Falcons will have to play rookies Joplo Bartu and Paul Worrilow at linebacker and second-year pro Jonathan Massaquoi at defensive end. If Jackson is out, the Falcons will have to go with Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling as their running backs, and that's a sharp drop-off. That probably means the Falcons will pass even more than usual and rely on Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is Miami's secondary ready for that tandem?

Walker: I had a good conversation with Miami's top cornerback, Grimes, on Tuesday. He was complimentary of both White and Jones -- and Grimes would know. The former Falcon watched both receivers grow in Atlanta and practiced against them. It will be fun to see who has the advantage between Grimes and White/Jones, depending on the play. Grimes told me they all know each other so well that it's probably a push. The bigger concern for Miami's secondary is the other cornerback spot. Veteran starter Dimitri Patterson didn't play in Week 2 due to a groin injury. He's working his way back and could play Sunday. Rookie corners Will Davis and Jamar Taylor also returned to practice this week, which could provide depth. Similar to the game against Indianapolis, Miami must do a lot of things schematically to cover up its issues opposite Grimes. That includes using the safeties over the top and getting a good pass rush. Speaking of pass rush, the Dolphins have nine sacks in the first two games. Can they exploit the Falcons in this area?

Yasinskas: Miami's pass rush has to be a major concern for the Falcons. Atlanta revamped its offensive line in the offseason and it's taking some time to come together. The right side of the line is of particular concern with guard Garrett Reynolds and Lamar Holmes as the starters. Reynolds is average at best and Holmes, a second-year pro, was thrown into the starting lineup when Mike Johnson went down with an injury in the preseason. Holmes is very much a work in progress, so the Falcons will have to try to give him some help by getting their tight ends and running backs involved as pass-blockers. Still, Atlanta should be able to move the ball through the air because it has Matt Ryan, Jones, White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Has Tannehill developed enough to win a shootout?

Walker: That's an interesting question, Pat. I'm not sure anyone -- even Miami's coaching staff -- has the answer. I did notice the Dolphins' game plan in Week 1 against Cleveland was fairly conservative compared to Week 2 against Indianapolis. Those are two different teams, and perhaps the Dolphins realized they needed to be more aggressive throwing and take more vertical shots deep to match Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. This is a similar type of challenge, because Atlanta's offense is built around scoring points in the passing game. Tannehill is getting better at taking over parts of a game in Year 2. His play in the second half the past two weeks has been terrific. The Dolphins are outscoring opponents 24-6 in the third and fourth quarters, in part because Tannehill is moving the chains, putting points on the board and keeping Miami's defense fresh. I don't expect this game to be all on Tannehill's shoulders. The defense remains the strength of the Dolphins. Keeping Atlanta's scoring around 23 points or fewer, as opposed to having Tannehill throw for 400 yards, is probably Miami's best shot to win.

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