Sound Approach

Yes, the Dolphins had Michigan quarterback Chad Henne ready for the taking with the 32nd pick of the 2008, but they instead went with Clemson defensive lineman Phillip Merling. Going with a defensive lineman after the pick of offensive tackle Jake Long with the No. 1 overall pick might not make for a "sexy" draft, but it just might have been the way to go.

Yes, the Dolphins need to settle their quarterback situation for the long term, and perhaps Henne would have been the answer. And maybe the Dolphins won't get another shot to select him.

But the foundation of any great football team has to be the offensive and defensive lines. Say all you want about Tom Brady, but the Patriots have been so successful in recent years because their offensive line and defensive line have been so good.

Now, it's not necessary to have high picks to build a strong offensive line, but it sure doesn't hurt.

It's a little more important on defense. Again, look at New England. Their three starters in their 3-4 are Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. All three are former first-round picks.

That brings us to the Merling pick.

Most observers expected him to be a first-round pick, with Pittsburgh at No. 23 considered a possible destination.

There was talk that the fact he had sports hernia surgery in early March contributed to his slide, but the Steelers probably would have taken him had it not been for the availability of Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall, who filled a major need for them.

Merling looks like a perfect fit at defensive end in the 3-4, and should fit in nicely alongside Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson.

The Dolphins really needed another big body up front with the combination of pass-rushing ability and run-stopping toughness, and Merling should fit the bill.

Free agent acquisition Randy Starks really was the only other D-lineman on the team who could have fit the bill, but Merling looks like a more complete player.

It was just a smart move, clearly in the short run and probably in the long run as well.


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