Revisiting 10 Bold Miami Dolphins Predictions from the Preseason
Teams shatter expectations every year, and to serve as a measuring stick of my own expectations, I decided it would be fun to look back at my own expectations and see how the team fared by comparison.
The Miami Dolphins, for the most part, exceeded those expectations this year. A losing record is nothing to write home about, but the Dolphins have a lot to be proud of this year.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill's rookie season wasn't a complete success, but laid the foundation for his future as the face of the franchise. The same could be said for Joe Philbin's first year as head coach. Now, with the two most important positions (seemingly) filled, the Dolphins can begin to build toward the future.
First, in the interest of accountability, here's a look back at what I was looking for from the Dolphins in 2012, with a look at the final result and whether I was right or wrong.
Reggie Bush Will Be the Team's Leader in Touchdowns: True
What I Said: "Not only is Bush the Dolphins' best running back, he's also their best weapon on offense. His versatility in catching passes out of the backfield provides another method in which Bush can put points on the board."
What Happened: Bush scored eight touchdowns—six rushing, two receiving—while the Dolphins struggled to the league's 27th ranking in points scored.
On an offense that lacked almost any semblance of a big play threat, Bush produced more than his share of highlights, including one of the most impressive touchdown runs of the season (see video).
Bush is not under contract for 2013, so the Dolphins must decide if his presence is necessary to the future success of the team.
Ryan Tannehill Will Throw More Interceptions Than Touchdowns: True
What I Said: "The Miami Dolphins are rolling out a rookie quarterback in a new system with no established wide receivers around him and a zone-blocking scheme with man-blocking personnel. Not exactly a nurturing environment for a rookie quarterback to step into."
What Happened: Tannehill came awfully close to making me look like a complete idiot, although the fact he had his team in contention for a postseason bid so late in the season did a good enough job of that.
His TD-INT ratio wasn't that far off, but the Dolphins rookie threw 12 touchdowns against 13 interceptions, thereby making my prediction accurate.
Tannehill showed signs of growth in the middle and toward the end of the season, putting together two four-game streaks in which he did not throw a single interception. If Tannehill can be that careful with the ball all the time, the Dolphins will be a hard team to beat going forward.
Cameron Wake Will Log 16 or More Sacks: False
What I Said: "Cameron Wake is often regarded as one of the best pass-rushers in the league. ...Putting Wake at the defensive end spot in the 4-3 defense only plays more favorably into his strengths as a pass-rusher."
What Happened: Wake finished with 15 sacks and came so very close to making me look like a very smart man.
Much of Miami's success against the pass was a result of great pressure from Wake off the edge. He finished tops in the league among 4-3 defensive ends in ProFootballFocus.com's pass-rushing productivity, which accounts for pressure created on a per-snap basis with weighting toward sacks.
Wake's phenomenal season made him Miami's lone Pro Bowl player for 2012.
Chris Hogan Will Play for the Dolphins in 2012: False
What I Said: "By stashing Hogan away on the practice squad, the Dolphins allowed themselves the opportunity to call him up if any of the other receivers either underperform or get injured. Unless a few receivers really step up their game when the regular season begins, the Dolphins could be looking to turn things over at the position rather quickly."
What Happened: Guess I got caught up in the 7-11 hype train.
The Dolphins entered the 2012 season with a lack of standout talent at wide receiver. They enter the 2013 offseason with a similar lack of talent at the position. Hogan was claimed off the practice squad by the Bills, but he wouldn't be the fix either way. The Dolphins need a physical talent at the position to complement the skill sets of Davone Bess and Brian Hartline (should he remain with the team in 2013).
Chad Johnson Will Not Play for the Dolphins in 2012: True
What I Said: "Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland went to great lengths to portray the Dolphins for the high-class organization they want to represent. Bringing back Johnson would undo a lot of the work they've done to build that image."
What Happened: Ochojohnson didn't play a down for any team this year. We'll just file this one under "no duh" and move on.
New Deal for Jake Long Before the End of the Season: False
What I Said: "Jake Long enters the final year of his deal, where he is slated to be the top-paid Dolphin at a $12.8 million cap hit, according to Spotrac. He is the most valuable player on the Dolphins roster, and he plays arguably the second-most important position on the field."
What Happened: This went much differently than I expected. Not only did Jake Long struggle in 2012, but he also ended the season on injured reserve after tearing his triceps muscle.
The Dolphins must now decide whether they want to keep him on the franchise tag, which would give him around $15.36 million for next year (via NFL.com). They run a big risk of losing him if they allow him to hit free agency; teams that are desperate for help at tackle may spare no expense in reeling in the big fish.
It comes down to how the Dolphins feel about Jonathan Martin's ability to fill the void at left tackle, but having allowed a team-high six sacks and 47 pressures, they may not feel very good about it.
The Safety Position Will Continue to Be a Trouble Spot: False
What I Said: "The Dolphins have changed defensive scheme, so that could mean good things for their pass defense. However, this is a unit that gave up the third-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (63) and also gave up 10 pass plays of 40 or more yards. They were also exposed for an average of 7.2 yards per pass attempt, ranking 17th in the league."
What Happened: I pretty much rolled over and died on this prediction when I said Reshad Jones was turning into, and had already become a top 10 safety in the NFL. Safeties have blossomed under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle in the past, and Jones should be a building block for the foreseeable future.
That being said, there were still considerable struggles in defending the long ball this year. The Dolphins allowed 60 pass plays of 20 yards or more, the fourth-highest total in the NFL this season. They ranked eighth in scoring defense, indicative of stingy play, but they'll need to stop getting burned for long gains through the air.
Vontae Davis' Presence Will Be Missed: True
What I Said: "The Dolphins had a formidable trio of cornerbacks when their depth chart consisted of Vontae Davis, Richard Marshall and Sean Smith. Once they traded Davis, though, the position got a shake-up that the current depth chart may not be able to withstand. ...the Dolphins currently don't have a physical presence like Davis in their secondary, and they currently don't have a corner they can match up on an opponent's best receiver with confidence."
What Happened: "Missed" might be an understatement here, missing a strong adverb at the very least. Davis, himself, didn't have a great season, but between injuries and a lack of talent, the Dolphins could have used him in some way shape or form.
While Nolan Carroll and Sean Smith both flashed potential, they simply were not good enough to make the Dolphins feel comfortable with the cornerback position moving forward, even when Richard Marshall returns to the team.
80 Receptions for Davone Bess: False
What I Said: "Bess logged a career-high 79 receptions in 2010 catching passes from Chad Henne. He should be able to surpass that total with a more talented quarterback. The Dolphins offense plays directly into Bess' skill set, and he was one of the few receivers that actually looked worth keeping on the roster this preseason."
What Happened: I may have been a victim of circumstance, but I was wrong nonetheless. Bess had 61 receptions on the season, and may have had more had he not missed the final three games of the season with a back injury.
Brian Hartline emerged as the Dolphins' top pass-catcher at wide receiver, hauling in 74 passes.
Bess still figures to be a central part of the Dolphins offensive game plan going forward; his ability to get open underneath and pick up yards after the catch will only come in more handy when the Dolphins get a legitimate deep threat in the passing game.
Final Record of 6-10: False
What I Said: "The Dolphins have a relatively easy schedule, as does the entire AFC East, and for that reason, what looks like a 3-13 team from our experience with the Dolphins on Hard Knocks will actually avoid being the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft."
What Happened: I wasn't far off in predicting the record, but I didn't expect the Dolphins to look this good in going 7-9.
Miami had a chance at a postseason berth when sitting at 4-3 after seven games, but a three-game skid put the brakes on that bus rather quickly.
The Dolphins are trending upward, though, and thus while the Dolphins didn't get enough actual victories, the moral victory they carry into the offseason could be enough to finally generate some buzz in South Beach.
Final Score Card: 5 out of 10
Depending on how you look at it, I either finished with a flunking grade or I finished at .500.
Not awful for my first go of things, but as always, mediocrity is unacceptable.
Hopefully, I'll do better next time. Hopefully for Dolphins fans, the team will do better in 2013.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.