2008 Season Review
The 2008 campaign was a story book season for the Miami Dolphins.
At the start of training camp many questions surrounded the 'Fins.
Can their defense step it up? Can they even win more than one game?
But arguably the biggest question was that of the quarterback situation.
Journeyman Josh McCown appeared to be the guy to start with John Beck and rookie Chad Henne also in the mix.
But then, former New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington landed right in the Dolphins' laps.
Pennington was the victim of the Jets' mid-summer acquisition of Brett Favre.
Miami did not hesitate to scoop up the veteran and Pennington was quickly named the starter.
Pennington started all 16 games and threw for a career high 3,653 yards with 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He was named the 2009 NFL Comeback Player of the Year for the second time in three years; the first player ever to win the award twice.
Under rookie head coach Tony Sparano, the Dolphins got off to a slow start. After a loss to the Jets and a blowout defeat in Arizona, Miami was 0-2.
Then they went to New England to play against the 2-0 Patriots. It seemed certain the Dolphins would lose again.
However, what happened next turned their season around and perhaps changed the NFL forever.
Late in the first quarter with the game scoreless, the Dolphins had second-and-goal inside the five yard line. Ronnie Brown lined up as the single-wing with Pennington split out wide and took the direct snap and ran into the endzone.
What was later defined as the "wildcat," the Dolphins used variations of the formation six times for four touchdowns throughout the game.
From there, the wildcat took off.
Miami used the formation multiple times every week and was very successful.
Their final game was a return to the Meadowlands for Pennington. The Dolphins knocked the Jets out of playoff contention and clinched the AFC East title for the first time since 2000.
Behind the two-headed monster in the backfield with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, the Dolphins ranked 11th in rushing with 1,897 yards on the ground. Patrick Cobbs and Lousaka Polite also contributed to the ground game.
The offensive line was much improved from 2007 to '08. Their sacks-allowed total dropped from 42 to a respectable 26.
The offense also ranked 10th in passing and 21st in points scored.
Defensively, linebacker Joey Porter dominated and finished second in sacks with a career high 17.5.
As a unit, the defense ranked 10th against the run, and 25th against the pass. They ranked ninth in terms of points allowed.
The most impressive statistic though, was the 13 giveaways.
In 2008 the Dolphins turned the ball over just 13 times, an NFL record for a sixteen game season.
Their remarkable ball protection was crucial to their success in 2008.
In the playoffs, however, they seemed to forget how to protect the football. Against the Ravens in round one, the Dolphins turned the ball over five times in a 27-9 loss.
OLB/DE Jason Taylor, OLB/DE Cameron Wake, S Gibril Wilson,CB Vontae Davis (draft), CB Eric Green, C Jake Grove, QB Pat White (draft)
S Renaldo Hill, CB Andre Goodman, OL Al Johnson
After their record turnaround in '08, the expectations are tremendously high for the 2009 Miami Dolphins.
The 'Fins didn't see too many personnel changes for '09.
They brought back the 2006 defensive player of the year and the franchise's all-time sacks leader Jason Taylor after he spent one season with the Washington Redskins.
Taylor might be used as a situational pass rusher, similar to John Abraham's role in Atlanta.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells went outside the box to find outside linebacker/defensive end Cameron Wake to add to the Dolphins. Wake comes over after two seasons with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League (CFL).
In each of his two seasons in the CFL, Wake led the league in sacks with 16 and 23 respectively. Wake is not expected to be in the Dolphins starting lineup to begin the '09 season.
The additions of Taylor and Wake will finally add pass rushers not named Joey Porter to the defensive unit.
With the 25th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Miami selected cornerback Vontae Davis in an effort to upgrade a secondary that was towards the bottom of the league in '08.
Safety Gibril Wilson and corner Eric Green were also added to help improve the defensive backfield.
Yeremiah Bell and Wilson are both very good run supporters from the safety position but sometimes struggle with pass coverage.
On offense, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will continue to share time in the backfield and lead the rushing attack.
Second round pick Pat White was brought in to add another dimension to the wildcat offense.
White, who ran the spread offense as a quarterback at West Virginia, has very good speed and also showed he's more than capable of throwing the ball at the NFL Combine in February.
The offensive line saw an upgrade at center when the team brought in Jake Grove.
Grove will join an improving o-line.
First overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft Jake Long will once again start at left tackle with Justin Smiley at left guard, and Vernon Carey at right tackle.
Right guard will see a battle between Shawn Murphy, Donald Thomas and Joe Berger for the starting honors. Brandon Frye, Ike Ndukwe, and Andy Alleman could also factor in.
Pennington and the Dolphins need a "go-to" wide receiver in the offense.
Will Ted Gin Jr. finally emerge as that No. 1 guy? Or will it be Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, or someone else? One of them has to step into the role.
The Dolphins have the toughest schedule out of all 32 NFL teams in '09.
With a schedule that includes vastly improved teams such as New England twice, Buffalo twice, New Orleans, and Houston, plus six '08 playoff teams such as San Diego, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Carolina, Tennessee and the Super Bowl champion Steelers, the Dolphins have a tough road back to the playoffs.
The Dolphins are slightly improved on paper but can they get through the NFL's toughest schedule? I expect them to take a step back and tally around seven or eight wins in '09.
32. Detroit Lions
30. Cleveland Browns
29. Oakland Raiders
27. St. Louis Rams
26. Denver Broncos
23. Seattle Seahawks
22. New York Jets
Be sure to check in tomorrow for the unveiling of team 20.