Dolphins Looking to Make Playoffs Again in 2009

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Dolphins Looking to Make Playoffs Again in 2009
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001, winning the AFC East Division with an 11-5 mark.

Baltimore ended Miami's dream season in the first round of the playoffs, but without question, the 2008 season was a success after winning just one game the previous year.

Miami expects to return to the playoffs in 2009 despite having the league's toughest schedule, which includes games against Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and San Diego, all of whom made the AFC Playoffs.

Head coach Tony Sparano is back after becoming the first coach in NFL history to take a team to the playoffs after winning one game the year prior.  Sparano did an excellent job of showing faith in his team throughout the season and worked well with the players.

Offensive coordinator Dan Henning proved to be a great hire as he used the "Wildcat" formation very effectively, which created some buzz around the league as other teams tried it as well. 

Quarterback Chad Pennington returns after one of the best years of his career as he threw for 3,653 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions. 

He makes the Miami offense go and his calm demeanor rubs off on an inexperienced receiving corps led by Ted Ginn, who posted career highs with 56 catches and 790 yards.

Ginn is still looking to break out as an elite receiver who can get into the end zone.  He has just four receiving touchdowns in 32 career games.

Wide receivers Greg Camarillo and Devone Bess also showed signs of being productive players in 2008 and will be counted on in 2009.

It would benefit the offense to have a true No. 1 receiver, something they have not addressed in the off-season. 

Former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, who has a house in Miami, has said he would like to join the Dolphins, although there are reports out there saying the organization is not interested in his services.

Running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams excelled in 2008, especially with the "Wildcat" as the duo combined to rush for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns.  If Miami is going to succeed again this season, these two will need to have solid years.

Miami drafted quarterback Pat White in the second round and he would be a great fit in the creative offense, as he has plenty of running ability. 

With White involved in the offense, even just for a few plays a game, it makes the offense more dynamic, even without a top-flight receiver.

The Dolphins first-round pick in the draft, Vontae Davis, a cornerback from Illinois, is expected to be a key contributor this season.

Miami needed better cornerback play and is hoping Davis, the younger brother of San Francisco's Vernon Davis, can provide steady play.

Another key acquisition in the off-season was bringing back Jason Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler in 11 seasons with the Dolphins.

Taylor was traded to the Washington Redskins last August, but after a lackluster season he was released.  Miami signed Taylor to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, and he is expected to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.

On the opposite side of Taylor is Joey Porter, who racked up a career-high 17.5 sacks as an outside linebacker in Paul Pasqualoni's 3-4 defense last season.  Meanwhile, inside linebacker Channing Crowder posted a career-best 113 tackles.

Miami is hoping the secondary holds up this season, especially with safety Renaldo Hill (78 tackles, 3 interceptions) and cornerback Andre' Goodman (team-high 5 interceptions) left for Denver in the off-season.

It is a lot easier to sneak up on people like the Dolphins did in 2008.  Now they have a target on their back and with the league's toughest schedule this season, it won't be easy to repeat an 11-5 season. 

However, their goals should be to make it back to the playoffs as they continue to build the foundation for a perennial winner.

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