Friday, April 10, 2009

Reader Mailbag: Wilford's worth

Since I've been saying that wide receiver is pretty much tied with cornerback as the Dolphins' biggest area of need in this coming draft, a reader sent me the following question:

I take it that you think Ernest Wilford will not do that well again this year? With Wilford would it make any difference if Henne was the QB since he has better arm strength than Pennington?

At this point, it's hardly a certainty that Wilford will even be on the team when the season begins. Sure, he'll stick around for training camp, but that's only because his contract has made it prohibitively expensive to cut him. That's right, we are still going to have to pay for this free agent mistake whether we keep him or not.

That being said, it's possible that he could turn things around and actually prove that he deserves a spot on the roster, but that just seems so far-fetched to me right now given what he did last year.

I can't think of any other WR who had the type of consistent career that Wilford was having, only to completely fall off the face of the earth after signing with a new team while still under 30 years old. It doesn't make much sense, but I don't think last year can just be written off as a fluke. It's quite possible Wilford just hit his career wall much quicker and much harder than most guys who saw as much playing time as he did before the drop-off.

As for a future quarterback switch, I don't think that would make any difference in Wilford's case. Arm strength is definitely not the problem for his game. Wilford was never fast to begin with and he looked incredibly slow last year. He's never going to stretch the field deep, that's just not his game. But with his size, he makes an attractive target on intermediate routes and especially going over the middle. And those are exactly the routes that Pennington is so good at.

So while Henne may markedly improve Ted Ginn's game, he's not going to change Wilford's. The problem with Ernest as I saw it last year (aside from losing a step or ten) was that he became completely unable to create any separation from his defender. This sounds like a joke, but I honestly think most linebackers could have lined up across from him one-on-one and defended him without much problem. Without the ability to separate, he's a lost-cause.

I'm glad that the team is giving him another opportunity to prove himself. I think he deserves that much, and besides, cut him or keep him the team is going to have to pay either way. Still, after such a colossal failure, it's hard to be optimistic about any future returns on this investment.

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