10 Signs Miami Dolphins Ready to Be a Contender

Devin Noonan@@devinnoonanCorrespondent IIIMay 28, 2012

10 Signs Miami Dolphins Ready to Be a Contender

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    Miami Dolphins fans have had little to cheer for since Dan Marino left the NFL in 1999. Since his retirement, the team has started 16 different quarterbacks and has advanced to the playoffs only three times.

    Even the great Dan Marino failed to win a Superbowl, and as the team nears what will soon be 30 years without a ring, the historic franchise continues to struggle in a highly competitive AFC East.

    With an entirely new coaching staff under the direction of rookie head coach Joe Philbin and the addition of quarterbacks David Garrard and Ryan Tannehill, hardly anybody knows what to expect from this Miami Dolphins squad.

    Here are ten signs that the Miami Dolphins are ready to finally make some noise this season.

Defensive Maturity

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    The Miami Dolphins defense ranked amongst the middle of the pack last season. However, most people fail to realize that their rush defense ranked third in the league.

    With the additions of CB Richard Marshall and S Tyrell Johnson to a young secondary led by CB Vontae Davis, this defense looks ready to shock and awe.

Cameron Wake's Extension

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    2010 Pro Bowl selection Cameron Wake has recorded 28 sacks and 122 tackles in his first three NFL seasons.

    After signing a four year, $49 million extension this off-season, you can count on him to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks for years to come.

Competition at Quarterback

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    The Miami Dolphins have long been searching for an answer at quarterback. For the first time in years, it appears that they may have the depth and talent to be competitive.

    Matt Moore played well at the end of last season, and now veteran David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill both hope to compete for the starting spot.

Healthy Offensive Line

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    Miami Dolphins' star tackle Jake Long is coming back healthy after suffering a variety of injuries that ended his season early last year.

    In addition, 2011 first-round pick Mike Pouncey now has a year under his belt at center.

    As long as the rest of the line holds their weight up front, they should be able to provide quality protection all season.

New Head Coach Joe Philbin

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    Joe Philbin takes the reigns this year as the tenth head coach in Miami Dolphins' history.

    If he can bring the success that he had as an offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers to Miami, the team should see instant results. 

Brandon Marshall's Departure

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    Don't get me wrong, Brandon Marshall is a very talented wide receiver. He is also riddled with psychological problems and off-the-field issues that can easily distract any team.

    Now that he's been shipped off once again to the Chicago Bears, it's time for young wideouts such as Brian Hartline and Davone Bess to make names for themselves.

Solid Draft Class

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    The Miami Dolphins 2012 Draft Class is loaded with potential.

    Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill and Stanford T Jonathan Martin lead the way in this year's group.

    University of Miami stars DE Olivier Vernon and RB Lamar Miller could also make a huge splash this season.

    Another guy to look out for is Missouri TE Michael Egnew, a third-round pick who could easily make an immediate impact.

Offensive Change of Pace

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    New offensive coordinator Mike Sherman helps lead a change of culture for the Miami Dolphins' offense.

    According to Izzy Gould of the Sun Sentinel, the team shows a strong desire to increase their total number of plays each game. Last year the team averaged 61.8 plays per game, this year they hope to bring that average up to 90 plays.

    Needless to say, conditioning will be a focal point all summer long for this revamped Miami Dolphins squad.

Positive Mindset

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    The Miami Dolphins are doing all they can to put a highly competitive squad on the field. Now, defensive captain Karlos Dansby is doing all that he can to motivate his team to succeed.

    According to Steve Waters of the Sun Sentinel, Karlos Dansby expects his team to win, at the very least, the AFC Championship this year.

    A bold statement for a team that started last season 0-7, but with the right work ethic and their new additions, anything is possible.

Reggie Bush

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    Reggie Bush recorded his first 1000-yard rushing season last year. He can run, he can catch, and if the coaching staff lets him, he can change the game with his return abilities.

    Look for Reggie Bush to improve upon his performance from last year and emerge as a top NFL running back this season.