One hit wonders.
A lucky season.
If the Miami Dolphins don’t make the playoffs in 2009 the above phrases will be the nicest things people will say about them.
Now that the well known “worst to first” season is long gone, it’s what the Dolphins do now that will make or break the next few years in Miami.
You see, last year’s Cinderella can always become this year’s punchline. Allegiances and loyalties no longer apply and this is the year the Dolphins must put up or shut up.
The Dolphins most publicized offseason acquisition, Jason Taylor, needs to have an impact on this team in order for the ‘Fins to be successful.
But how much will he play?
It’s been speculated that he will not be an every down player and will not start, but as of now, Coach Tony Sparano has other ideas.
Sparano says that that there is no doubt Taylor will be used as a pass rush specialist, but that he may be needed more than that.
“I think that anyone in our system, our defensive system right now has to be more of an all down player,” Sparano said. “This is just another way for us to get a guy that has those kinds of skills of his caliber and be able to bring him in here and throw him in the mix and let him compete.”
Taylor’s relationship with linebacker Joey Porter will also play a major role in how well the defense works together.
Sparano says that he isn’t worried and hasn’t even looked at film from them playing together in 2007. He is more concerned with how the whole defense meshes together now.
“We are a couple of years later and we have our system in place right now and I think more importantly in this whole process it was where we see him fitting into our system and how we see him fit into our system,” Sparano said.
Things will definitely be different for Taylor this season. Although he is well known throughout Miami as a star football player and philanthropist, he’s also well known on the nightclub circuit and is one Noxzema commercial away from turning away the most hard core fans.
Let’s get real.
Taylor returns to a completely different Dolphins team, where some of his very young teammates and female fan base know him more for Dancing with the Stars then as a Pro Bowl pass rusher.
Another major factor to the new season will be if Ted Ginn Jr. can become the Ted Ginn Jr. we all thought he would be.
Last season, Ginn Jr. ended on what some critics said is an upswing and many expect this year to be his “breakout” year. If that’s the case there are some specific things Ginn Jr. will need to improve on.
“I think the way that Ted attacks coverage's and what he is seeing out there will help him to play faster and play with a little more confidence,” Sparano said. “I think the run after catch for all receivers is something that you would like to see them get better at, and with Ted, he has the ability to make some people miss at times and be able to take it the distance.”
To the delight of ‘Fins fans everywhere, Sparano says that Ginn Jr. has done a nice job this offseason.
“It's like honestly night and day from where we were when we came into this,” Sparano said.
At quarterback, Chad Pennington did a solid job last season and surprised everyone in his weekly battles. But the future of the Dolphins is without a doubt Chad Henne.
In March, ESPN reported that the Dolphins intend to have Henne be the starting quarterback by the 2010 season. Henne is reported to receive about 12 quarters of play this preseason.
Sparano says that Henne has completely changed his body physically and has been working on his mechanics and location. Henne’s stride is different and the ball is really jumping out of his hand.
“What I have seen is him change his body completely physically, he's a much stronger player now,” Sparano said. “I see location being better and anything we have done from a competitive situation and his decision making process is better.”
It’s been widely reported that the spread offense and the media darling “wildcat” formations are dominating early practices.
For rookie fans or fans that have been living in a cave, the “wildcat” can have many variations, but most commonly it involves a direct snap to the running back.
Reporters are trying not to talk about all they see at the OTA’s so they don’t get beat up and just give away the team’s playbook. But early rumors have names like Henne, Pennington, White, Brown, Williams, and Cobbs all involved.
Weather may not play a factor this year. The Dolphins only play one possibly really cold game this winter in the regular season.
In December, when the ‘Fins usually collapse in the blizzards of the Northeast, they play two home games in the warm December South Florida sun, one in Jacksonville (still warm-ish) and one in Tennessee.
Lastly, we have the Super Bowl.
Usually not a factor for any team starting the season, the Super Bowl for the Dolphins is a major elephant in the room. The reason, of course, is that Miami is hosting the big marketing and media circus.
If the Dolphins become the first, that would obviously quiet the critics and keep the “flash in the pan” chatter at bay.
And with the rest of the AFC East’s questions marks (Brady’s return, Sanchez’s rookie year and the “you never know what they could be” Bills) this season is sure to be a hit.
Even if it’s just a one hit wonder.
-- Sparano quotes from a team released transcript.