Miami Dolphins: 5 Players Who Will Make or Break 2011 Season

John MoorheadContributor IIIJune 29, 2011

Miami Dolphins: 5 Players Who Will Make or Break 2011 Season

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 12: The Miami Dolphins celebrate the touchdown of Brandon Marshall #19 against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    In 2010, Miami Dolphins fans saw a team with a ton of talent that did not reach its potential.

    This can be attributed to a number of things such as Dan Henning's play calling, Chad Henne's lackluster play, aging running backs, an inexperienced defense, and poor calls by the referees.

    No matter. It is behind the team now and we must look forward to the upcoming season.

    After the draft, this season has a very bright outlook. Miami added some much-needed talent on the offensive side of the ball and is not losing any key players to free agency.

Worth Mentioning

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    Anthony Fasano 

    It has been reiterated over and over through every article: A potent offense needs a Pro Bowl-caliber TE. 

    Fasano has reliable hands and is a serviceable tight end, but needs to make a big step in order to become an elite TE.


    Paul Soliai

     The Miami nose tackle broke out and had a great season in 2010, but it was his contract year.

    Miami needs the same production out of Soliai again this season if it wishes to continue to have a punishing run defense.


    Mike Pouncey

     The Dolphins' first pick in the 2011 draft will be an immediate starter and is going to have to make an impact.

    Based upon his twin brother's success, Pouncey should not have a tough time making the adjustment to the NFL, but nevertheless he will have to be a force on the interior line.

Coach: Brian Daboll

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    CLEVELAND - 2009:  Brian Daboll of the Cleveland Browns poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    Brian Daboll has the most responsibility of any coach on the Miami Dolphins staff.  

    After a season with one of the worst offensive coordinators in the league Daboll has much work to do. He will be working with an offense that ranked 21st in the league in yards and 30th in points scored. 

    Daboll will have to transform this offense from anemic to potent and do it all with Chad Henne at the helm—not an easy task, but that is all Daboll has to work with.

    Daboll needs to build a system that utilizes the strengths of the offensive players, something Dan Henning had no clue on how to do.

    With a rebuilt offense, Miami could certainly be a playoff contender this season.

5. Koa Misi

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    Cameron Wake had an incredible breakout season in 2010—one that landed him at No. 63 on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2010 list.  

    Wake's production fell off a bit towards the end of the season, perhaps because he had made a name for himself and opposing teams were aware of his presence.

    This will likely carry over into next season and Wake will be drawing double teams every week. If Wake is not going to be able to be the sack machine he was in 2010, someone will have to be.

    That man is Koa Misi. Misi had a pedestrian rookie campaign but showed potential as the season progressed.  

    Now that he has a year of experience under his belt, Misi will have to prove that he is an OLB that opposing offenses will have to pay attention to.

4. Richie Incognito

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    Many fans and analysts are saying how upgraded the Miami offensive line is after the draft. In reality, the Dolphins only added one player: Mike Pouncey.

    It has been said several times that Richie Incognito will be starting this season somewhere on the interior line alongside rookie Pouncey and a guard yet to be named.

    I am not yet sold on Incognito and think he is one of the players on the line attributed to Miami's abysmal run game.

    Incognito was one of the players that was constantly being switched from position to position last season and never had the chance to settle in and get used to his surroundings and teammates playing.

    This season if he can be kept at the same place each week he will need to be a blocking machine.  

    In addition to improvement from Incognito, Miami could also use an upgrade on the interior line such as Justin Blalock.

3. Chris Clemons

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Chris Clemons #30 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Last year the Miami's passing defense ranked eighth, rushing defense seventh, and total defense sixth.  Yet in points allowed Miami ranked 14th, a much more accurate stat in determining a team's defensive success.

    These points allowed were caused by two things: lack of offensive prowess that led to opposing teams starting in good field position, and long plays. Miami's pass defense ranked 26th in the league in pass plays of 40+ yards and 28th in interceptions.

    These stats portray sub-par play from Miami's safeties, namely Chris Clemons.

    Playing alongside aggressive corners Vontae Davis and Sean Smith means that Clemons will have to make plays when his corners cannot.

    It is the responsibility of the safeties to prevent the long ball from being completed, which was one of the few holes in the Miami defense.

    According to the stats at the bottom of this article, Clemons did not perform well in his run defense either.

    If Clemons plays up to snuff it is likely that Miami will have a top 5 defense in 2011.

2. Daniel Thomas

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Daniel Thomas #8 of the Kansas State Wildcats is pursued by Jess Ward #52 of the UCLA Bruins in the third quarter at the Rose Bowl on September 19, 2009 in Pasadena, California. UCLA defeated Kansas State 23-9.  (Photo by Jef
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Miami needs a run game to be successful and Daniel Thomas is Miami's run game right now.

    It is very likely that both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will not be in aqua and orange next season, which leaves Thomas as the man to run the ball.

    Other than Thomas, the roster also lists Kory Sheets and Lex Hilliard, but they will not likely see time as the featured back.

    If Thomas does not turn out to be a high-quality back there is no telling what Miami's offense will fall to. Last season Dolphins fans saw what happens when their team does not have a top-tier run game.

    Hopefully this is not the case and Thomas is worth the second-round pick Miami traded up for.

    If Thomas has a rookie-of-the-year showing this upcoming season, pressure will be taken off Chad Henne and the passing game.

    If this happens there is no doubt that the Dolphins will be headed to the playoffs.

1. Chad Henne

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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 02:  Quarterback Chad Henne #7 of the Miami Dolphins  during a preseason game at Cowboys Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The success of this season rides on Chad Henne's shoulders.

    Hopes were high for Henne heading into this past season, and although the lack of success on offense was not entirely Henne's fault, he still did not perform very admirably. 

    This season is a new story: Henne has the tools he needs to thrive, and with the help of his new offensive coordinator he can play in a system that is made around his skill set.

    Mark my words: If Henne plays well this season, the Miami Dolphins will win the AFC East and make it deep into the playoffs.

    On the other side, if Henne does not make progress the Dolphins will be staring down another 7-9 season. 

    The Miami Dolphins are a step away from being an elite NFL team, and improvement from Henne is that step.

    If he does not pan out, is it time to take a first-round QB in the 2012 draft?