Last year the Dolphins took a step back from their 11-5, AFC East winning 2008 season. Mostly because they lost some key games due to some big mistakes (hey, is that Ted GInn in San Francisco?!) and some attitude problems in the locker room. (Look, its Joey Porter and he is no Arizona Cardinal!)
For this year to be a good one for the Dolphins, they need some key players to step up.
This one is a given, but with good reason. Last year Henne flashed brilliance, but he still made some costly mistakes. I know, it was his first year as a starter, so some believe that we can forget about those mistakes.
However, now he enters training camp as the starter, has Brandon Marhsall to throw to, and will be joined in the sideline by veteran Chad Pennington, which wasn’t the case last year.(The Dolphins don’t allow injured players to be in the sideline during games or to even be in the meeting room.)
Basically, if Henne has an average to good year, then the Phins will be in the playoffs. If he has the same type of season as he had last year, or worse, then the Dolphins will not.
With no Joey Porter or Jason "Backstabber" Taylor in the mix, the Phins will look for the former CFL standout and the Utah product to create consistent pressure.
Wake showed that he has the ability to do just that last year, however, this year he will be asked and expected to play the run and drop back in coverage.
Koa Misi, on the other hand, comes from playing (mostly) DE in college, However, he did play some OLB during his senior season and also during the Senior Bowl. His work ethic and athleticism should get him ready to drop back in coverage soon enough for him to be a consistent player for the Dolphins early in the season.
If the Dolphins are to keep opposing offenses honest, they will need Wake and Misi to create havoc on their backfields, while not being a vulnerability when they are asked to cover.
Ok, so I listed four players instead of one, so let’s say that two of them should play well enough for the Dolphins to be successful.
Justin Smile, who served as the starter on the left, is on his way out, and Donald Thomas struggled to keep his right guard spot late in the season against Nate Garner.
So for argument’s sake, let’s say the Dolphins don’t have a starting guard on either side of the line.
Early offseason projections say Richie Incognito should beat out rookie John Jerry on the left guard spot, but if he doesn’t, then he will join Thomas and Garner on the battle for the Right Guard spot.
How can a player who was on the verge of being in the Probowl be on this list? Simple, he switched positions.
Last year Starks was the most consistent player on the D-line. From his spot as a Defensive End he caused havoc, constantly stopping the run and, more often than not, rushing the QB’s into making bad throws.
This year, Starks will play the NT position. Starks has the size (6”5, 305 lbs) to play inside. However, he is still new at the position and we will have to see if Starks is able to consistently fight off double teams.
Yes, I know he doesn’t exactly qualify as a player, but he was the Dolphins biggest acquisition during the offseason (Brandon Marshall was a huge upgrade as well but bearwith me.)
Mike Nolan made Elvis Dumervill into the sack machine he is. Despite popular opinion, the Dolphins under Nolan will not be running a traditional 3-4 defense, but rather a hybrid. (This was one of the problems Nolan had in Denver, because Josh McDaniels refused to let him install it.)
In this defense, the NT doesn’t line up over the center’s helmet bur rather over one of his shoulders. Nolan will need to once again prove he is an elite defensive coordinator and make former mediocre players (see Channing Crowder) play like all-stars.
If his defense plays well, then the Phins will have a shot at success. If it is Paul Pasqualoni’s second coming, then no matter how well the offense plays, the Phins will head for an 8-8 season.