For the past decade, the Miami Dolphins have fielded several mediocre No. 2 receivers, and dressed them up as No. 1's. Some of them, like Chris Chambers, were able to fool some fans into thinking they were No. 1's. Others, like Ted Ginn, did not fool us, but somehow fooled the regime that drafted him into thinking he was a No. 1.
As fans, we have figured it out. The Dolphins have not had a legitimate No. 1 receiver in quite some time. This is obviously a major reason why the Dolphins haven't possessed a consistent passing game in more than 10 years.
That all changed on April 14, when the Dolphins traded two second-round picks for wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Coming off of his third consecutive 100-catch season and second straight Pro Bowl, Marshall is the best receiver to play in Miami since Irving Fryer played with the club from 1993-95.
Now, before Marshall "brought his talents to South Beach" as it were, he did rack up a troubling list of indiscretions in Denver, so he does not come to the Dolphins without red flags. However, that seemed to have a lot to do with his unhappiness in Denver. He does not seem to have that problem yet in Miami. His relationship with head coach Tony Sporano is already leaps and bounds ahead of what he had with Denver coach Josh McDaniels (and really, how could it not be?). It appears that as long as Marshall continues to keep his head on straight, he will make the best use of his immense talent in Miami.
Of the No. 2 receivers, Brian Hartline looks to have the most upside, his potential impending legal problems notwithstanding (at the time of this writing, police have been waiting to contact Hartline about a potential hit-and-run incident after discovering his abandoned truck on the side of the road). Hartline doesn't run all that well, but he has a knack for always being in position, and that allows him to make plays.
Greg Camarillo has a similar skill set to Hartline and better hands, but he is older and is only two years removed from a torn ACL. Although he may be a more viable option for 2010, Hartline has a brighter future on the squad. The two will battle it out in camp for the right to be Chad Henne's second option come September.
Davone Bess will own the slot receiver spot for the fish this season. Although he struggled in the first half of 2009, Bess turned it around in the second half and resembled his breakout rookie form from 2008.
It appears that his early 2009 struggles were due to the quarterback change in Week 3. It took him longer than others to adjust from Chad Pennington's light touch passes to Henne's 100 mph bullets. Once his hands caught up to the change, he was off and running. Since it is feasible to believe that Henne to Bess will be a weekly connection for the better part of this new decade, I am unconcerned with Bess having to make any more physical adjustments.
The wild card is Patrick Turner. He still sits as the odd man out, but if Miami decides to dress five receivers, Turner would jump at the opportunity to finally live up to the incredible potential he once possessed. Although he underperformed greatly in college at USC, and looked so lost in practice last year that he barely made it on the field, he is still the same guy who was one of the top receiving recruits out of high school only a few short years ago. If he can get any of that back, he should contribute to this roster.
The tight ends remain the same on this team. Anthony Fasano and Joey Haynos will both get playing time, but how well they make of that playing time has yet to be seen. Fasano looked to be on the verge of breaking out in 2008, but he took a major step back in 2009. His hands were not reliable and he had a hard time hanging onto the ball when he did catch it. His fumbles were major contributions to key losses last season. If he wants to remain as a valuable member to this team, that will have to stop.
Haynos doesn't have the natural ability, but he's a hard worker. Like Fasano, he is a good run blocker, something that was very valuable in the type of offense Miami ran. If the Dolphins look to make use of Henne and Marshall's abilities, look for them to spread the field more often in 2010. This could allow the tight ends (and the other receivers who are finally in their suitable roles) to get a lot of good looks underneath.