By Chad Holloway of Predictem.com
2009 Record: 7-9 (Third in AFC East)
Stadium: Sun Life Stadium, 2269 Dan Marino Boulevard (NW 199 St.), Miami Gardens, FL 33056
Head Coach: Tony Sparano
Superbowl Odds: 30/1
Odds to Win AFC Title: 16/1
Training Camp Site: Nova Southeastern University in Davie
Training Camp Date: July 30, 2010 for both rookies and veterans
In 2008, Bill Parcells, Executive vice president of football operations, General Manager Jeff Ireland and new head coach Tony Sparano surprised the football world by leading the Miami Dolphins to an 11-5 record, the AFC East title and a Playoff appearance. After the season, the staff admitted that the team was still in a rebuilding phase and it wasn’t surprising to see Miami drop to 7-9 last season.
The Dolphins have focused on developing the talent they have while bolstering their roster with sensible free agent pickups. Over the past few seasons, their talent has been cultivated and the free agents have assimilated well into the team.
Slowly but surely, Parcells and company are building a solid team from the ground up. They are not looking for quick fixes or players to simply fill in for a season or two. The Miami faithful should feel confident in what Parcells is doing in South Florida; after all, his track record speaks for itself. The Miami Dolphins are on their way up.
Who’s New? WR- Brandon Marshall; G- Richie Incognito; LB- Karlos Dansby; LB- Brian Johnston; OL- Cory Procter
ROOKIES: DE- Jared Odrick (Round 1, pick 28); OLB- Koa Misi (Round 2, pick 40); G- John Jerry (Round 3, Pick 73); ILB- A.J. Edds (Round 4, pick 119); CB- Nolan Carroll (Round 5, pick 145); FS- Reshad Jones (Round 5, pick 163); OLB- Chris McCoy (Round 7, pick 212); ILB- Austin Spitler (Round 7, pick 252)
Who’s Gone? LB- Joey Porter; LB- Akin Ayodele; S- Gibril Wilson; LB- Jason Taylor; WR- Ted Ginn Jr.; OL- Justin Smiley; DT- Jason Ferguson (retired)
Offense: The Dolphins’ “Wildcat” formation wasn’t as effective last season as it was in 2008, mainly because it didn’t catch teams unaware. With that said, Miami is committed to the Wildcat, which is why it seems to work for them while it doesn’t for other teams. Behind the Wildcat, the Dolphins were able to finish fourth in the league in rushing, averaging 139.4 yards per game. Likewise, the team finished fourth in the NFL with scoring touchdowns in the red zone, occurring an impressive 61.1% of the time.
The Dolphins’ rushing attack was led by the one-two punch of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Brown was averaging 4.4 yards per carry after amassing 648 yards and eight touchdowns before being lost for the season. This was a huge loss for the Dolphins as Brown was on his way to an all-star year. Luckily, Williams was able to step in and carry the load. He rushed 241 times for 1,121 yards, an average of 4.7 per carry, and scored 11 touchdowns. If Brown can stay healthy this season, Miami’s rushing attack will be fierce and feared. Not only were they already good, they’re going to get better as opponents will be forced to deal with new threats in Miami’s receiving corps. The addition of Marshall will force teams to devote resources to the secondary, opening things up for the running game.
Last year, Chad Henne, Miami’s second round draft pick in 2008 out of the University of Michigan, took over the reins after Chad Pennington went down early in the season. Henne showed he is the quarterback of the future by going 7-6 as a starter for 2,878 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Granted, these numbers aren’t overly impressive, but they’re not hideous either. Given that he stepped in off the bench and performed as well as he did, he should only continue to improve as he gathers precious experience. Speaking of experience, Pennington has decided to return as the Dolphins’ back-up to serve in a mentoring role for Henne. With an improved receiving corps, Henne will have the opportunity to show off his golden arm with long, down-field passes; in addition, if he can learn from Pennington, who is known for his short outside throws and completion consistency, Henne will become a threat all over the field.
Miami’s receiving crew got a huge boost with the signing of Brandon Marshall in the offseason. He instantly becomes the “go to guy” for the Dolphins. Ted Ginn Jr. is gone, leaving the number two slot open to competition. Believe it or not, Miami’s receiving corps was fairly decent in 2009. Davone Bess (undrafted out of Hawaii in 08) reminds many of a young Wes Welker with his consistent hands, ability to play from the slot and wide-out positions, and rare dropped passes. Last year, he led the Dolphins with 76 receptions for 758 yards, averaging 10.0 yards per catch. Likewise, Miami had two other receivers who had at least 500 receiving yards and averaged more than 10.0 yards per catch; Greg Camarillo (11.0 average) and Brian Hartline (16.3 average). TE Anthony Fasano also became a receiving threat last year, although he has room for improvement when it comes to rush/pass blocking. The addition of Marshall adds a whole new dimension to the receiving game. It means teams will be forced to focus on Marshall, leaving Henne to take advantage of his numerous aerial options. You heard it here first; Miami will have one of the best receiving corps (and possibly offenses) in the NFL.
Miami’s offensive success is built on the offensive line. For years, the O-line was an issue for the team and was one of the first needs addressed when Parcels and company took over. Jake Long, the No.1 overall pick in 2008, was the major step in fixing the problem. He has since proved he is an excellent run blocker and pass protector; in fact, he did so well that he managed to make the Pro Bowl in 2009. The loss of OLG Justin Smiley to the Jacksonville Jaguars will hurt, but the team drafted John Jerry in third round and signed Richie Incognito in an attempt to fill this need.
The Dolphins lost their first coach of the offseason-outside linebackers coach Jim Reid-on January 8 to the University of Virginia. Later that week, inside linebackers coach George Edwards was named defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. The defensive shake-ups continued when the Dolphins fired defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and replaced him with former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan. With a new defensive coaching staff, the Dolphins seem intent on improving their 2009 performance, where they finished 25th in the league in points allowed during the season and gave up a franchise-record, and NFL high, 140 points in the fourth quarter.
Miami’s investment and dedication to the traditional 3-4 system is starting to come together; although, the loss of Jason Ferguson to retirement will surely be detrimental to the run defense. Ferguson was a veteran run-stopper who anchored the defensive line. Likewise, the Dolphins are going to miss Akin Ayodele, who had the third most tackles on the team, and Joey Porter, who led the team in sacks with nine. The signing of Karlos Dansby was a huge addition to this defense and there will be a lot of expectations on him. He ought to be the center of the defense, and will have a strong supporting cast in Channing Crowder, Randy Starks, Kendall Langford and Yeremiah Bell, who led the team in tackles last season and earned himself a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Further back in the defense, Miami has struggled in the secondary against the pass, allowing an average of 234.6 yards per game through the air, which put them 24th in the league. This year the Dolphins’ young cornerbacks will have a little more experience under their belts and should show an improvement, but it could still be an issue. In addition, the Dolphins will need to address their safety needs, especially after the departure of Gibril Wilson, who was released after a disappointing season.
The old saying goes that the key to a good offense is a great defense, and Miami is a firm believer in this motto. Luckily for them, the opposite may come into play this season where the offense actually helps out the defense. In recent years, the Dolphins’ defense has spent a lot of time on the field since their offense has been largely ineffective moving the ball. So much time on the field obviously wears down a defense, which became quite common for the Fins squad, especially in the fourth quarter. This year just might be different. Miami’s offense has improved tremendously and should really become potent with the addition of Brandon Marshall. If Miami can move the ball on offense, the defense won’t have to carry as many games and should be capable of holding strong throughout the game’s entirety (thus avoiding their league worst fourth quarter points allowed designation).
Miami’s special teams have improved over years past. PK Dan Carpenter made the 2009 Pro Bowl having made 25 out of 28 field goals (86.2%) with a long of 54 yards. Likewise, P Brandon Fields has been consistent, averaging 46.3 yards per punt. Although Miami’s kicking roster is set, their return team is not.
Ted Ginn Jr., who handled the majority of the team’s kick returns (with mixed results), has been traded to San Francisco. Last season he fielded 52 kicks, a far cry ahead of Patrick Cobbs, who fielded just 16. Who exactly will be returning kicks and punts isn’t clear at this point. Devone Bess, who fielded punt returns last season, did a decent job and may find himself on kickoff duty. There is also the possibility that Miami will utilize some of their other options in Cobbs, Hartline and Camarillo.
2010 Miami Dolphins Preseason Schedule:
August 14- TAMPA BAY 7:00 PM
August 21- at Jacksonville 7:30 PM
August 27- ATLANTA 7:00 PM
September 2- at Dallas 8:00 PM
2010 Miami Dolphins Schedule
September 12- at Buffalo 1:00 PM (CBS)
September 19- at Minnesota 1:00 PM (CBS)
September 26- N.Y.JETS 8:20 PM (NBC)
October 4-NEW ENGLAND 8:30 PM (ESPN
October 10- BYE
October 24- PITTSBURGH 1:00 PM (CBS)
October 31- at Cincinnati 1:00 PM (CBS)
November 7- at Baltimore 1:00 PM (CBS)
November 14- TENNESSEE 1:00 PM (CBS)
November 18- CHICAGO 8:20 PM (NFLN)
November 28- at Oakland 4:05 PM (CBS)
December 5- CLEVELAND 1:00 PM (CBS)
December 12- at N.Y. Jets 4:15 PM (CBS)
December 19- BUFFALO 1:00 PM (CBS)
December 26- DETROIT 1:00 PM (FOX)
January 2- at New England 1:00 PM (CBS)
Betting Odds and Projections
Over the past three years, Miami has went from 1-15 to 11-5, claiming the AFC East title and making the playoffs, to a mediocre 7-9 last season. The 2008-2009 season drop was largely expected by the experts, but predicting just how’ll they’ll fare in 2010 is a bit tricky. Most Las Vegas and online sports books have the Dolphins winning the Super Bowl somewhere between 35/1 and 30/1, putting them on the same level at the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins.
As the season approaches, these odds will likely change. I personally placed a futures bet in Las Vegas on the Miami Dolphins to win the Super Bowl at 36/1 odds, believing they are a much better team than those odds suggest, and then watched the odds at the same sports book change to 16/1 just two weeks later. The general consensus among sports enthusiasts is that the Miami Dolphins have improved . . . just how much remains to be seen.