10 Players Most Responsible for the Miami Dolphins' Success or Failure in 2012
Expectations aren't high for the Miami Dolphins in 2012, but that doesn't mean this team isn't capable of surprising everybody just like it did in 2008.
Compare the rosters.
This 2012 team has the potential to win eight or nine games, but these 10 players will make or break Miami's chances of finishing above .500.
The Starting Quarterback: Matt Moore, David Garrard or Ryan Tannehill
The quarterback is, bar none, the most important player on a football team.
So naturally, Miami's quarterback play will dictate the team's success in 2012.
Matt Moore, David Garrard and Ryan Tannehill will compete for the starting job in training camp, but the veterans have a significant edge over the raw, inexperienced rookie.
Reggie Bush probably won't win the rushing title, but he should produce another extraordinary season. The West Coast scheme will allow Bush to further utilize his soft hands and unique versatility, which should translate to a stellar year.
But, if Daniel Thomas doesn't rebound from a disappointing rookie season, then Bush and the Dolphins offense will struggle as a whole.
Bush is a phenomenal player, but he really isn't an every-down back. He can't shoulder 20 carries a game, and he can't be relied on in short-yardage situations.
Thomas, on the other hand, has the anatomy of an effective short-yardage runner. Moreover, Thomas' deceptive speed and shiftiness makes him usable in virtually any scenario.
Injuries and poor offensive line play hindered Thomas last season, but it's pivotal that he gain confidence, improve his vision and succeed this season.
Davone Bess just posted the worst statistical season of his career, yet he's being promoted.
Now that Brandon Marshall is gone, Bess is the best wide receiver on Miami's roster, and consequently, will become the team's go-to wideout.
Bess is best suited playing in the slot, but he'll have to improve his play on the numbers in order for the Dolphins passing game to reach its potential.
Next to Davone Bess, Brian Hartline is the only other wide receiver on Miami's roster who is a lock to make the team.
And, unless a surprise candidate emerges, Hartline will also start alongside Bess.
Hartline has shown flashes of brilliance, but hasn't received enough playing time to reach his potential.
He'll have every opportunity to do so next season, and given the Dolphins' shoddy wide receiver corps, he must elevate his game.
The Dolphins are hosting Pro Bowl fullback Ovie Mughelli this week, and it's becoming increasingly safe to assume that Charles Clay will move to tight end.
Given Anthony Fasano's limitations and rookie Michael Egnew's inexperience and blocking ineptitude, Clay might be the team's most well-rounded tight end.
Miami desperately needs a reliable seam-threat tight end, and Clay needs to fill that role this season. If he can transition to tight end smoothly and swiftly, then he'll become a vital piece of the Dolphins passing game.
The Starting Right Tackle: Jonathan Martin or Lydon Murtha
Second-round pick Jonathan Martin and fourth-year veteran Lydon Murtha will compete for the starting right tackle job in camp.
Both are inexperienced wild cards, but the winner must play like a polished veteran this season.
The right side of Miam's offensive line was a huge liability last year, and it must progress this season. If Martin or Murtha struggle, then the Dolphins offense will as well.
Third-round draft pick Olivier Vernon will enter training camp with big expectations.
Vernon joins Cameron Wake as Miami's only pure pass-rushers.
We know Wake will wreak havoc on opposing offenses, but Vernon has to generate a pass-rush as well.
If he does, then offenses can't focus all of their efforts on stopping Wake, which will help the Dolphins pressure the quarterback more easily. But, if Vernon struggles, then opposing quarterbacks will be able to sit back and slice up Miami's secondary.
Despite their best efforts, the Dolphins couldn't turn Koa Misi into a pass-rusher.
This is because, at his core, Misi is a run stuffer.
Misi will most likely start at either the Sam (strong side) or Will (weak side) linebacker in Miami's 4-3 alignment, where he can re-establish himself as a solid NFL player.
After two mediocre seasons, there's no guarantee this will happen. But, the Dolphins are thin at linebacker, so Misi must thrive.
Three seasons into his NFL career, Sean Smith has been good.
But, the Dolphins need Smith to be great this season.
Smith's 6'3", 215-pound frame makes him one of the most unique and gifted cornerbacks in the NFL, but he needs to mature and play more consistently.
If Vontae Davis can continue playing like he did down the stretch last season and Smith can elevate his game, then the Dolphins secondary will pose serious problems for opposing defenses.
The Starting Safeties: Clemons, Jones, Wilson, Culver or Johnson
Some combination of Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson, Tyrone Culver and Tyrell Johnson will emerge as Miami's starting safeties this season.
Whichever duo starts will be under immense pressure to provide help against the run and adequate pass coverage.
The Dolphins desperately need reliable safeties, or offenses will continue to threaten them with the deep ball.