Miami Dolphins: Eight Players Who Need to Prove Their Worth in the 2010 Season
The Miami Dolphins had arguably the best offseason, filling holes with proven free agents and smart draft picks. However, there are still a lot of questions that cannot be answered until the 2010 season gets under way.
Whichever way you split it, there are many players on this roster who need to play with more consistency, or prove that they belong on the field with the other starters.
With the NFL growing more impatient every year, young players are expected to produce yesterday, and veterans are expected put their bodies on the line for an even longer period of time.
These eight players could be the key to the success, or the demise of the Dolphins' franchise this season.
Ronnie Brown is in a contract year. Two of the past three seasons, Brown has been injured, suffering a broken foot last season and a torn ACL in 2007.
His play this year will correlate directly with the Dolphins giving him a new contract. Ronnie will turn 29 in December, which would leave Miami with two veteran running backs. Ricky Williams is in his 30s.
For any team with an inexperienced quarterback, the running game is used as a crutch in case the passing attack turns sour. Miami will be more than capable of running a balanced attack with a healthy Ronnie and Ricky.
If Brown misses any time in 2010, he could likely hit the free agent market in 2011.
Chris Clemons is entering his first year as a starting free safety. He was promoted after former starter, Gibril Wilson, was released.
Clemons was fifth-round pick in the 2009 draft, and wasn't expected to be any more than a reserve player.
Now that he is a starter, he needs to hold down his side of the field and minimize the big play, which was a problem last season for the Dolphins' offense.
Clemons is one of three starters in the secondary who is in his second year. Reserve corner Nolan Carroll is also a rookie, which gives Miami a very young option in its secondary.
If Clemons makes mental mistakes and shows that he isn't ready, he will likely lose his starting spot to veteran Tyrone Culver, in which Miami would be looking for a replacement in 2011.
With the addition of Brandon Marshall, the spotlight will be off of receivers like Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. While Bess already has a defined role as a slot receiver and a go-to option on third down, Hartline will need to show what kind of receiver he is.
If Brandon Marshall gets double or triple teamed, Hartline needs to be a viable option who can stretch the field and make plays. Last season, Hartline was great at producing yards after the catch.
This preseason, Hartline has struggled catching the ball in traffic. He has had several drops, and has not done well gaining separation.
Though it usually seems to be the case, Miami better hope that its offense performs light years better than it has this preseason.
With guys like Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace making a push to make the roster, if Hartline doesn't prove to be a reliable target for Chad Henne, these young speedsters could see some decent playing time.
Joe Berger/Jake Grove
Before training camp and the preseason, the Dolphins were predicted to have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL.
Throughout training camp, both Jake Grove and Joe Berger have gotten reps with the first team. Grove, entering his seventh season, would be the favorite to start just because of his five-year, $29.5 million contract.
If Grove is overtaken by Joe Berger, he will likely be traded, or released at the end of the season. If Miami doesn't see what it wants from Berger, in that case, the Dolphins would likely be in the market for drafting a center in the draft.
Since the play starts in the center's hands, this is a crucial battle that will largely effect the offensive line as a whole.
Former CFL star Cameron Wake will enter his first season as a starting outside linebacker. Wake, normally viewed as a three-point pass rusher, will now be responsible for dropping back into pass coverage and providing help in run support.
Wake, who is 28 this season, would have a lot more time to prove himself if he was younger. After attending college at Penn State University, he tried his luck in the NFL, and eventually found himself playing football in Canada.
If Wake is unable to be an every-down outside linebacker, Miami will have a definite hole to fill. Outside linebacker is one of the thinnest positions on this Dolphins' team, and Wake will have a big part in the success of the defense.
Entering his first season as a full-time starter, Chad Henne is getting a lot of recognition as a quarterback who could propel his team from good to great.
With that recognition, Chad Henne will need to put up better numbers than he did last year. Before the final three games, Henne was 7-3 as a starter. He had brought the Dolphins from an 0-3 football team, to playoff contention.
With the addition of Brandon Marshall, and a healthy Ronnie Brown, if Chad Henne doesn't lead this team to the playoffs, there will be some doubt in his ability to be the franchise quarterback.
Nonetheless, Chad should be fine, especially with Chad Pennington giving meaningful words of advice.
Channing Crowder has been a solid player for the Dolphins since he was drafted in 2005. Crowder has never been an impact player, and he seems to play as well as the players around him.
Needless to say, Crowder did not seem to play well being paired next to the likes of Akin Ayodele and Reggie Torbor. With the addition of Karlos Dansby, Crowder should be able to play without the spotlight on him.
Crowder signed a three-year contract extension last season, but no job is safe on this Dolphins team. The best players will play, and if Crowder lives up to his name, he will be a starter. If he misses tackles and doesn't make plays on the ball, he could be playing for a different team in 2011.