Miami Dolphins (Last Year: 7-9) - Buy Tickets
2011 NFL Season Preview:
OC Brian Daboll, QB Matt Moore, RB Reggie Bush, OT Ray Willis, OT Marc Colombo, NT Ronald Fields, DE/OLB Jason Taylor, ILB Kevin Burnett, ILB Jason Trusnik.
Early Draft Picks:
G Mike Pouncey, RB Daniel Thomas, WR Edmond Gates, FB/TE Charles Clay.
OC Dan Henning, QB Tyler Thigpen, RB Ronnie Brown, RB Ricky Williams, G Pat McQuistan, ILB Channing Crowder, ILB Tim Dobbins.
2011 Miami Dolphins Offense:
It's amazing that the Dolphins plan on rolling with Chad Henne as their starting quarterback again. It's inexplicable - almost as if the entire front office didn't watch its own game tape. Henne has the arm that would make Al Davis sacrifice a few virgins, but his leadership is lacking, his inaccuracy is glaring and his inconsistency is even worse. He was putrid down the stretch, tossing just four touchdowns to seven interceptions in his final five games, three of which came against inept defenses (Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit's secondary).
However, Henne's a young quarterback - he should have worked hard this offseason to reach his full potential, right? Not according to this picture. Rather than study film and work on his accuracy, Henne thought it would be a great idea to travel down to the Bahamas and dress up like a woman. That's fantastic - exactly what Miami fans want to see.
There's a reason Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc. would never do something like this. It's because they care about football and want to win. Henne, apparently, is more focused on partying and making himself look stupid. And that's why this is his final season as a starting quartebrack in the NFL - assuming newly signed Matt Moore doesn't win the job outright.
With that in mind, Miami is really going to struggle to score points this year, though that shouldn't come as a surprise because the team was held to 14 or fewer points in six of its final nine contests. Stud receiver Brandon Marshall will rebound off his three-touchdown 2010 campaign, but his production will be limited by Henne's struggles. The same goes for Davone Bess, who is a terrific slot receiver.
As for the rest of Henne's targets, Brian Hartline is an inconsistent, mediocre No. 2 wideout. Edmond "Clyde" Gates was selected in the fourth round, but doesn't figure to pass him on the depth chart until 2012 because of the shortened offseason. Anthony Fasano isn't a reliable pass-catching tight end despite his solid blocking.
One player Henne will utilize heavily is Reggie Bush, who was acquired from the Saints for a late-round pick. The Dolphins are mistaken if they think Bush is an every-down runner, but they'll be able to use him as a versatile weapon all over the field. The running back who will get most of the carries is second-round rookie Daniel Thomas, who is pretty much an unknown at this point.
It won't be a surprise if Miami can't run the ball because of its offensive line situation. Marc Colombo, a Dallas Cowboys reject, is penciled in at right tackle, which will prove to be disastrous because he's one of the worst starting linemen in the NFL. Not only was he guilty of nine penalties and seven sacks in 2010; he also was poor in the run-blocking department.
Colombo is slated to start at right tackle because Vernon Carey is coming off major knee surgery. The Dolphins asked Carey to take a paycut and moved him to right guard. The ineptness continues at center with first-round rookie Mike Pouncey. Mike isn't as good as his brother, Maurkice, but should still be a solid pro. The problem though is that this brief offseason has stunted Mike's adjustment to the NFL. He'll be much better in 2012.
At least the left side of the line will be able to block. Left tackle Jake Long is one of the premier players at his position, while left guard Richie Incognito was solid in 2010.
2011 Miami Dolphins Defense:
Since the offense won't be able to do anything, Miami's defense will have to do all of the work in 2011. That was basically the case last year, as the stop unit finished third versus the run (3.5 YPC), 12th in sacks (38) and 20th against the pass (7.1 YPA).
The former statistic was made possible by a talented and deep defensive line that returns all three starters, including nose tackle Paul Soliai, an elite run-stuffer. Soliai's issue is conditioning, so if he can stay in shape, he'll continue to be a force for Miami.
Soliai is flanked by Kendall Langford and Randy Starks, with 2010 first-rounder Jared Odrick as a reserve. Both Langford and Starks can get decent pressure on the quarterback, as each accumulated three sacks in 2010 - a solid amount for any five-technique. The Dolphins are expected to give the former a long-term contract extension sometime soon.
Speaking of sacks, rush linebacker Cameron Wake led the team with 14. He's come a long way from his CFL days, and could be even more potent if Miami could find a consistent pass-rusher across the field from him. A second-round rookie last year, Koa Misi had 4.5 sacks, but 3.5 came in the first five games. Misi should be better in his second season, though his second-half dropoff is a bit of a concern.
The rest of the linebacking corps is comprised of stud Karlos Dansby, who signed a 5-year, $43 million contract the previous offseason, and newly signed Kevin Burnett, who had a good 2010 campaign with the Chargers. The issue is that Burnett may have just gone for the money. He did nothing prior to last season, and then proceeded to leave a winning organization for a declining one, so his motivations have to be questioned. As the retired Channing Crowder's replacement, it should surprise no one if Burnett regresses in 2011 because of his new contract.
Miami's secondary is also packed with talent. The cornerback tandem of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith is among the AFC's best in terms of pure talent, but their maturity is questionable; they were benched for the opening series of a game in November because they were repeatedly late to team meetings. Unfortunately, the Dolphins had nothing behind them; nickel Benny Sapp was often torched last year.
Rounding out the secondary, strong safety Yeremiah Bell is solid in run support and doesn't get embarrassed in coverage. The free safety position, however, is a huge question mark, as Reshad Jones, who has one career start, is penciled in for the job over pedestrian veteran Chris Clemons.
2011 Miami Dolphins Schedule and Intangibles:
Dan Carpenter hit 25-of-28 field goals in 2009, but wasn't nearly as good last season, converting on just 30-of-41 attempts. He was 8-of-9 from 40-49 in 2009, but just 11-of-18 from that distance in 2010.
Punter Brandon Fields had another terrific year, maintaining a 46.2 average with 31-of-73 attempts inside the 20.
Miami really struggles in the return game; the team didn't score a single touchdown last year, while allowing three to the opposition.
The Dolphins figure to be in a hole early, as four of their first five games are against the Patriots, Texans, Chargers and Jets. It gets easier after that though, with the Broncos, Chiefs, Redskins and Raiders as cupcake non-divisional opponents.
2011 Miami Dolphins Analysis: The Dolphins have major issues that go beyond what should be a dreadful year. Owner Stephen Ross is turning the franchise into a joke, surrounding himself with B-list celebrities in order to get more fans to his stadium. Jerks like Celebrity Man may disagree that this is having a negative impact, but it seems as though Ross is sacrificing football for entertainment, which could have disastrous repercussions.
As for the 2011 campaign itself, Miami should be one of the worst teams in the league. Yes, the Dolphins went 7-9 in 2010, but finished 3-6 down the stretch. Don't discount the possibility that the team could quit on Chad Henne and lame-duck head coach Tony Sparano, knowing very well that Andrew Luck and perhaps someone like Jeff Fisher could be obtained after the season.
Projection: 3-13 (4th in AFC East)