10 Miami Dolphins Who Could Drop Down Depth Chart in 2012
Since 2004, six different head coaches have manned the Miami Dolphins sideline. If there's anything we can learn from this constant turnover, it's that new coaches aren't loyal to incumbent players.
It's like when Dan Devine refused to honor Ara Parseghian's promise to Rudy Ruettiger in Rudy. Parseghian promised Rudy that he could suit up for one Notre Dame home game, but he steps down and new head coach Devine refuses to honor the deal.
Now that Joe Philbin is in town, no player's job is safe.
Each Dolphin has to prove himself to Philbin this summer. If a player gets complacent, he could face demotion, or, worse, the unemployment line.
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Moore played exceptionally well last season. Had he started from Week 1, the Dolphins could've easily won two or three more games. But, Moore is a notoriously bad practice performer, and that could severely hinder his chances of retaining the starting job.
How can Joe Philbin confidently start Matt Moore if he practices poorly?
David Garrard is a polished, consistent veteran, and if he outperforms Moore in practice, then Joe Philbin will have a serious dilemma on his hands.
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Reggie Bush and Steve Slaton weigh an average of roughly 200 pounds, and Lamar Miller weighs in at 212 pounds.
Meanwhile, Daniel Thomas boasts a 230-pound build.
Because Thomas is so much bigger than the rest of Miami's running back corps, he's almost guaranteed a significant role in the offense. The Dolphins will need Thomas in pass protection and when they want to control possession, run the clock out and convert short-yardage situations.
But, Thomas didn't show much physicality last season. He was ineffective in short-yardage situations and looked hesitant running between the tackles.
Reggie Bush might not be your traditional every-down running back, but if Thomas doesn't elevate his game, then Bush might inherit many of his responsibilities.
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Brian Hartline has amassed a modest 109 receptions in three NFL seasons, yet he's in line to play a huge role this season.
Unless a player like Legedu Naanee outperforms Hartline in training camp, then he'll line up as one of the Dolphins' starting wide receivers this season.
Hartline has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, and he certainly has the potential to become a productive, reliable NFL wideout. And, the Dolphins would've pursued another wide receiver in free agency if they didn't believe in Hartline.
But, there's no guarantee that he will fulfill these expectations. Hartline was the No. 3 wideout on a run-heavy team last season. This year, he'll be the No. 1 or 2 wideout on a more passing-oriented team.
That's a huge leap for any player to make, let alone a young, mostly unproved player. If Hartline falters, then one of Miami's many wide receivers will seize his spot.
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Anthony Fasano's numbers are nothing to write home about, but he's produced fairly well in three of his four seasons with the Dolphins.
Although Fasano's reliability makes him valuable to Miami's offense, his lack of versatility and athleticism could cost him playing time.
Charles Clay has been one of the standout performers at OTAs, and he is far more dynamic than Fasano. Clay can threaten defenses with his speed and, based on his play at fullback last season, serve as a reliable blocker as well.
Fasano is very one-dimensional, but Clay can keep defenses guessing. Assuming Clay can find a balance between blocking and receiving, then he could push Fasano for the No. 1 tight end job.
Photo via PhinPhanatic.com
If you thought John Jerry was under a microscope now, just wait until the regular season rolls around—it'll only intensify.
Jerry is currently slated to start at right guard (that could change if the Dolphins sign a veteran), which is a scary thought for Dolphins fans. The former third-round pick has been a monumental bust thus far, though he did play he did play well down the stretch last season.
Last season's performance won't buy Jerry much leeway, though. He'll be on the tightest of leashes, and if he struggles early on, then the Dolphins will either pursue a free agent or promote a backup like Nate Garner.
Photo via SI.com/Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMI
Richie Incognito's 6'3", 324-pound build made him the quintessential Tony Sparano offensive lineman. He's a "meat and potatoes" blue-collar player, and he enjoyed a solid 2011 season.
But, Tony Sparano is gone, and the Dolphins are transitioning to the West Coast offense—a scheme that requires athletic offensive linemen.
Can Incognito and his massive frame pull and trap? Can he get to the second level and block linebackers?
We'll find out during training camp. But, if Incognito struggles with the athletic demands of the West Coast offense, then the Dolphins will be in trouble.
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Nobody knows what role Olivier Vernon will play this season, so I'm going out on a limb here.
I suspect Vernon will play a fairly large role due to his ability to play against the run and Miami's shortage of pass-rushers.
However, Vernon may need a few years to transition to the pro game.
For starters, Vernon is a bit undersized for a NFL linebacker at 6'2". Only three of last season's top 20 sack leaders measured in below 6'3".
Plus, Vernon missed six games during his senior season.
Vernon is loaded with potential, but he, like most stud pass-rushers, may need a year or two to hone his skills and adapt. That transition may be especially difficult given his height.
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The Dolphins tried to mold Koa Misi into a 3-4 outside linebacker, but that experiment was ultimately a failure. Misi, though capable of generating a pass-rush, has a run-stuffer's skill-set.
Hopefully, Misi can better exercise those skills in the 4-3 and re-establish himself as the promising linebacker we saw in 2010.
But what if Misi didn't struggle last year because of Miami's scheme? What if he's a bust?
It's a viable question given his poor performance last season. There's no reason to even consider Misi a bust yet, but if he struggles early next season, then the Dolphins could shuffle their linebackers around.
Photo via MiamiHerald.com
Is this the end of the line for Tyrone Culver?
I ask that question every summer, yet somehow, Culver always manages to retain his roster spot.
Culver has been solid when called upon (started four games at safety last season), and he's a valuable special teams asset. But now, entering his sixth NFL season, Culver needs to prove that he's more than a special teams aid.
The Dolphins signed safety Tyrell Johnson in April, and Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones and Jimmy Wilson aren't going anywhere. So, is there a spot for Culver?
Theoretically, Miami could keep five safeties and four cornerbacks, allowing Culver to play at either position when needed.
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According to reports from Dolphins' OTAs, Reshad Jones is off to an erratic start.
He grabbed three interceptions during Tuesday's practice, making him one of the team's top performers. But, Davone Bess also burned him for a pair of touchdowns.
Jones has garnered a reputation for his aggressive, ball-hawking style of play, so this up-and-down practice shouldn't come as a total surprise. It's encouraging to see Jones making plays, but it's discouraging that he's still a liability in pass coverage.
Jones struggled mightily at times last season, but he did improve as the season wore on. He's one of the biggest wild cards on the roster, and if he doesn't shore up his pass coverage issues, then another safety could steal his job.