The Miami Dolphins were the NFL’s biggest surprise last season. From 1-15 to 11-5 and a division title, the Dolphins used a popular college offense known as the “wildcat” and turned it into a weapon that boggled most opponents. Of course, a healthy Ronnie Brown, a renewed Ricky Williams, and an almost mistake free quarterback in Chad Pennington helped too.
The Dolphins finally have stability at the quarterback position, for now. Pennington earned Comeback Player of the Year, not only because of the 11-5 record, but because Pennington threw 16 touchdowns with only 2 interceptions.
Now, Pennington has help running the wildcat offense in second round pick Pat White who runs like, yes I’m saying it, Michael Vick but passes like Daunte Culpepper. The Dolphins were effective with just Chad Pennington and running back Ronnie Brown running the new style offense, but now that they have Pat White it will be even better.
The running backs were a huge surprise last season. Ronnie Brown stayed healthy all season and re-established himself as a top back. The real surprise was how well Ricky Williams ran the ball last season as he showed glimpses of his young, All Pro self.
With Brown back and healthy, and Williams showing some of his true self, the Dolphins will look to run around the tough defenses on the schedule like the Jets’ and Steelers’ and compete in a ridiculously tough AFC.
Who better to open the holes for Brown and Williams than a surprisingly good offensive line?
The line is anchored by tackle Jake Long and the newest Dolphin center, former Raider Jake Grove, who the Dolphins signed in the offseason. Along with healthy guard Justin Smiley, the line will work to improve an already effective wildcat offense.
The part of the team most improved is the defense. The line lost its massive tackle Vonnie Holliday, but all it needs to do is open holes for the heart of the defense, the linebacker core.
With Joey Porter and former now returned Dolphin Jason Taylor on the edges, the Dolphins will look to disrupt the big-time quarterbacks that the Dolphins will face this year.
Do not count out the secondary either, as the Dolphins added corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith through the draft and picked up safety Gibril Wilson via free agency. With these additions, especially Sean Smith who is 6’3 and will be expected to cover the bigger receivers in the league, the Dolphins have an almost-complete defense that should be able to stick with the Dolphins demanding schedule.
The one bad part of the Dolphins team is its receiving core. It is not bad in that it has no talent, but it is bad in that there is no definite No. 1 receiver. Ted Ginn is the hopeful and showed sparks of brilliance, but he has not proven that he is “The Guy” in Miami.
The Dolphins also have very talented receivers in Greg Camarillo and David Bess who are both like No. 2 receivers. This is still a young group, but with a talented tight end in Anthony Fasano it is a good young group. Only experience will help, and I believe this year they will be getting a lot of it.
The surprise team of the year gets the honor of having the most arduous schedule in the NFL, including the first three games being against Atlanta, at San Diego, and a Monday Night Football game against the Colts. The Dolphins will have to bring out the claws in its wildcat offense wants to be able to contend this year.
Ronnie Brown is back and healthy, but he is not a top 5 fantasy back. He is actually available 99% of the time in the second, sometimes third round. He is a No. 1 back, though, because he is both a running and a receiving threat. Plus, he can be a throwing threat as he threw 2+ touchdowns last season.
Ted Ginn is a No. 2 receiver who could be a No. 1 in the latter half of the season when the schedule lightens. Be careful though, as he may drop to a No. 3 if the schedule gets to Pennington.
Anthony Fasano is great for people who like to get great value late in the draft. He is not well known, but he can put up 600 yards and 6-7 touchdowns.
The Miami defense is a high risk, high reward pick as it faces a brutal schedule but might be able to handle it with a great pass rush and a hard-hitting secondary.