Miami Dolphins: 5 Individual Performers to Watch out for in 2012
Despite an appearance on HBO's Hard Knocks and some big changes to the coaching situation, there still seems to be a lot of negativity surrounding the 2012 Miami Dolphins.
Most aren't expecting too much out of this team, and in all likelihood, the Dolphins will probably end up as one of the worst teams in the league—much like they were last season.
But despite all this, Dolphins fans still have reason to be excited about the upcoming season, with more than a few talented players to watch over the course of the season.
Here are five players that Dolphins and NFL fans alike should expect big things out of in 2012.
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Reggie Bush shocked everyone last season, when he proved the Dolphins' front office right by becoming a true every-down running back.
The USC product completed the first 1,000-yard year of his career and will be looking to build on that in his second campaign with the Phins.
Still only 27, Bush is at an age where he can still develop from year to year, so if he stays healthy, we should expect even more from him in 2012.
Bush has said as much himself, telling reporters he wants to lead the entire league in rushing next season, according to USA Today.
Though that goal may be a little too far out of reach for Bush, a solid season should still be expected, as he looks to become one of only three running backs in franchise history to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons—the others being Ricky Williams and the legendary Larry Csonka.
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Jeff Ireland showed a lot of faith in Sean Smith and free-agent signing Richard Marshall when he decided to trade away Vontae Davis for a second-round pick last week.
The pair are two of only three cornerbacks currently on the roster, and though the Phins will pick up a couple more off of the waiver wire or free agency, a lot will still be needed from Smith and Marshall.
Smith in particular is a young player who is looking to finally break out after flashes of excellence during the 2011 season.
Though picked in the second round of the 2009 draft, Smith has actually looked a lot more worthy of the first-round pick that Davis was in the same draft, and this should show in 2012.
Maturity has been an issue for Smith in the past, but it looks like that is truly behind him, as he even cut off his signature braids to symbolize his new direction.
Look for Smith to have a big year in 2012 and emerge as one of the best corners in the AFC this side of Darrelle Revis.
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There is no doubt whatsoever that Jake Long is the best player on the Dolphins right now, and in his contract year, Long should show as much in 2012.
Long has been a Pro Bowl-caliber player since the day he stepped onto an NFL field and predicting for him to make the cut again this year is hardly a bold statement.
With the added incentive of possibly becoming one of the highest-paid players in the league come season's end, we could see Long playing even better than usual, which is a frightening thought for anyone that has to line up opposite him.
Making one of the All-Pro teams for the first time since 2010 shouldn't be out of the question if Long can stay on the field for all 16 games.
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A nice, big contract extension was waiting for Cameron Wake in May, and it was well-deserved considering that he had led the team in sacks for the last two years.
According to NFL.com, Wake and the Dolphins agreed to a four-year, $49 million deal for his services, keeping the former CFL star in South Florida for the foreseeable future.
Wake is not the kind of player who is going to stop working just because he's got his money and the fact that he's even in the NFL after all he went through is proof of just how hard-working he is.
With the retirement of Jason Taylor in January, Wake is looking to become the next great Dolphins pass-rusher and leading the team in sacks for a third consecutive time is something that will put him in very good company.
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Karlos Dansby has a big mouth and a big salary, but what he really needs to have is a truly big season, which he is yet to have as a Dolphin.
The former Cardinal had a great second half in 2011, but as a leader and one of the better players on the team, that type of play needs to come in all 16 games.
Dansby came into the season overweight last year, and thus wasn't as mobile as he had been, which really hurt his ability to be effective.
Looking good in camp and preseason, Dansby should be ready to perform from Week 1, which is exactly what the Dolphins need from him.
The linebacker recently labelled himself a future Hall of Famer (via FSFlorida), but now that he's 30 years old, he really needs to start proving himself sooner rather than later if he's ever to reach his goal.