Respect Your Elders: The Dolphins' Five Most Valuable Veterans
The Miami Dolphins are an exceedingly young football team.
To put it into perspective, the last time the Fins appeared in the Super Bowl, a majority of the players on the current roster were either still in diapers, or yet to be conceived.
Expectations for the South Florida squad are running rather high, and in order for the team not to disappoint, the more experienced players simply must take an active role in the development of some of the younger guys.
Furthermore, they are going to have to do so while at the same time continuing to pull their share of the load.
Here are the top five Dolphins with more than five years of NFL experience who will, in my view, most impact the team's efforts in 2010.
No. 5: Chad Pennington
I honestly considered putting Chad Pennington higher on this list, as I am a firm believer that his role in the development of young gun Chad Henne has been absolutely invaluable thus far, and will continue to be one of the keys to Henne's future success.
I ultimately placed him at number five, because if everything goes according to plan for Miami, there is a good chance that he won't see any playing time at all.
His presence in the locker room and on the sidelines, however, is a precious intangible that simply must be taken into account.
I have an enormous amount of personal respect for Chad Pennington for his decision to remain with the Dolphins, despite knowing that his supporting role would be more like that of a coach than a player.
He is lending over a decade of NFL experience to a young quarterback in Henne, whom I believe to be the final answer for the Dolphins for years to come.
Pennington's actions lead me to the logical conclusion that he believes it as well.
No. 4: Karlos Dansby
Seventh-year linebacker Karlos Dansby registers in the lower portion of this ranking because his prior achievements did not occur in a Dolphins uniform.
That does not make them any less significant.
In his six years as an NFL player, he has established himself as a disruptive force on defense, and is renowned for his ability to constantly get into the middle of the action.
He will be expected to assume a position of leadership over a group of very young linebackers, a few of which have never played a single down in the NFL.
The Dolphins are going to be looking for players to step up and get to the quarterback, and when his number is called for a blitz, Karlos is certainly going to have to be one of those guys.
His 25.5 sacks over a six-year NFL career say that No.58 should be up to the task.
No. 3: Randy Starks
Coming in at number three is Mr. Randy Starks. He's had his doubters with respect to his ability to fill the nose tackle position, but I am not among them.
It is my firm belief that he is going to transition without incident, and end up causing some severe problems for teams rushing up the middle.
His ability to penetrate offensive lines on passing downs will also be called upon, with the Fins continuing to grapple with the issue of creating QB pressure.
Although Joey Porter did register nine sacks for the Dolphins in 2009 to Randy's seven, overall, I viewed Starks as the more valuable player by a long shot.
He made more tackles and forced more throws than the now-departed Porter, and best of all—he did it with his mouth closed.
No. 2: Yeremiah Bell
I don't call Yeremiah Bell a safety—I call him a safety net.
Clearly the Dolphins' defensive MVP in 2009, I shudder to think how many points the Fins would have allowed without his contributions. It was tough for me not to place him at number one, as I expect his impact this year to be huge.
It is my ever-present hope that Yeremiah is working hard with this young secondary, aiding their transformation into a serviceable group.
It will likely fall upon him to once again act as Miami's last line of defense for escaped ball carriers and receivers alike.
Whereas Karlos Dansby will assume the responsibility of captain in the middle-distance, it will be Bell's job to step up as a leader for all of the guys trying to prevent big plays over the top.
He may be the one safety on Miami's roster that makes fans feel, you know—safe.
No. 1: Ricky Williams
I tried to think of a valid reason not to give Ricky the top spot on this list, and was unable to do so.
His performance in 2009 left most people baffled. It is hard to imagine that a contact runner like Ricky Williams could endure for so long, while still being a valuable asset to the team.
The former Heisman winner showed himself to be in top form when he was asked to pick up the slack left by an injured Ronnie Brown, and ended up leaving an entire nation of football fans having to pick up the slack in their jaws.
Will Ricky continue to literally run over players ten years his junior in 2010?
Ronnie's full return is predicated upon a full recovery, and rest assured that Williams will be ready to step onto the field as the Dolphins number one halfback once again, if he is yet required.
One way or another, Ricky is going to play a huge part in the Miami Dolphins' success this year, and depending upon how the season ends up, he may very well be back for more in 2011.
I'm sure that he would like to add "Super Bowl Champion" to an already impressive resume`.