Miami Dolphins: Who To Look for in the 2011 Pro Bowl
It may be a bit early to start making predictions such as these, but I will anyway. Based on performances from last season, as well as predictions for this season, I've compiled a list of Miami Dolphins players who could see playing time at the Pro Bowl this year.
Since not every great player has the same odds of making the Pro Bowl, they have been grouped by different skills in accordance with their chance of making it to Hawaii. Ranking from most probable to least probable are definite, likely, possible and outside shot.
Definite: Jake Long
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To put it short, the man is a stud at LT.
The first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft has turned out quite nicely for the Miami Dolphins, being selected to a Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons as a pro.
There is no indication that this season will be any different. Long has been taken off the PUP list and will start the season at left tackle.
Long was selected as the best offensive lineman by the players in the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2010 and was 28th overall.
He is the most dominant player in the league at his position and will definitely be selected to a fourth straight Pro Bowl.
Definite: John Denney
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John Denney, that's who. He made the Pro Bowl last season unbeknownst to most Miami fans. Denney is the long snapper for the Dolphins and perhaps the most underappreciated player on the roster.
Long snappers only make a name for themselves by messing up; the reason you've never hear of Denney is because he does his job well.
Denney is as consistent as they come, and if his performance follows that of last season, he'll be on his way to the Pro Bowl.
Definite: Brandon Fields
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Fields is arguably the best player at his position on the Dolphins' roster. He is the one player that you could never complain about last season.
He alone won last season's Week 14 matchup against the Jets with his brilliant performance (and a little help with poor QB play from New York).
In addition, Fields landed four more punts inside the 20 than AFC Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler in four fewer attempts. The two matched up evenly in touchbacks and were close in average yards per punt, with Lechler getting the edge by .8 yards.
Lechler outperforms Fields in net average by three yards, but that responsibility falls more on Miami's coverage than on Fields' punts.
Although Fields has yet to make a Pro Bowl, you should find him there this year.
Likely: Brandon Marshall
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Brandon Marshall accumulated over 1,000 yards receiving last season and most would say he underachieved. A thousand yard year isn't too bad for an "off" season if you ask me, especially when you consider that he missed two games to injury.
Nevertheless, fans had higher expectations of Marshall and hopefully he can regain the form that earned him his nickname "The Beast." He is plenty capable of doing this, and if you watch the replay of his 60-yard TD catch against the Bucs from a few weeks ago, he shook off a corner, juked a safety and stiff-armed a linebacker en route to the end zone.
Marshall claims that he and QB Chad Henne have improved their chemistry and has been singing his praises all preseason.
If Marshall can get his hands on a few more passes this season and spend some quality time in the end zone, he can make it to the Pro Bowl, as he did in 2008 and 2009.
Possible: Davone Bess
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Davone Bess is quickly earning himself a name as one of the best slot receivers in the league. He is one of the best third down receivers in the league and has a pair of reliable hands.
He is also closer to making it to the Pro Bowl than you would think. Last season, Wes Welker made it to the Pro Bowl by catching 86 passes for 848 yards and seven TDs. Bess caught 79 passes for 820 yards and five TDs. Bess also averaged a higher YPC than Welker (if only by a half yard, he still did it).
Bess have improved every season and, if his trends continue, he could be on the verge of a 1000-yard, eight TD season.
Bess could truly breakout this season under Daboll's new offense and earn himself a ticket to play alongside the AFC's best.
Possible: Mike Pouncey
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I predicted in an earlier slide that a Dolphins rookie would make it to the Pro Bowl, and Mike Pouncey is that player. His twin brother made it as a rookie and so can he.
Pouncey earned himself the starting center spot as soon as he was drafted and has not left a question about it in anyone's mind.
Analysts have claimed that Pouncey is not as skilled a player as his brother, but all that talk is talk. Those who think he cannot be as good as his identical twin brother can take their half thought-out ideas to the nearest mental institution and donate them, because he has all the potential in the world.
If Sparano can show Miami fans that, for once, he actually knows something about offensive lines he could coach rookie Mike Pouncey to the Pro Bowl.
Possible: Vontae Davis & Sean Smith
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Vontae Davis has already claimed that he and Sean Smith are the "best tandem in the league." His defense of the argument may have only been "because I feel that way and I know it," but he is onto something.
If Davis and Smith really want to prove they are the best tandem in the league, they will have to get their hands on a few more passes this season.
Few players respect how much Davis and Smith have grown since they were drafted, but make no mistake, they are the real deal. With another year of experience under their belts you can expect the Miami CB duo to turn some heads this season.
The tandem may even turn more then heads, they may force offenses to try their luck against last season's seventh ranked run defense.
Here's to the league's best CB tandem pairing up together in Hawaii
Outside Shot: Paul Soliai
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Paul Soliai burst onto the scene of the Miami Defense last year after being previously considered a bust. His performance in 2010 earned him the franchise tag and a large paycheck.
If the 350 pound DT can be the run-stuffing machine he was last season, and post more impressive numbers, he could gain wide recognition as one of the league's elite.
I consider him an outside shot simply because of the other elite DTs in the AFC such as Vince Wilfork, Haloti Ngata, Kyle Williams and rookie Marcell Dareus.
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WHAT!? Call me what you want, but I don't expect Wake to have the same season he had a year ago. Referring back to my predictions I claimed that he would not meet his 2010 sack total, so it would be foolish to go against that.
Wake's production fell off in the second half of the season and he failed to record a sack in the final three games of the season. Wake will be the subject of many double teams this season and the team will have to rely on other pass rushers to get to the QB.
Anyone on the D-Line:
Randy Starks may have made it to the Pro Bowl last season as a replacement, but don't expect any Miami D Lineman to make it.
It has nothing to do with a lack of talent, but with Starks, Langford, McDaniel and Odrick rotating in and out they likely won't be able to post big numbers.
Dansby posts solid numbers every year and is a great playmaker. He is one of Miami's leaders on defense and one of the better ILBs in the league.
Problem is, he is due for a slight drop in production due to the increase in the talent around him. With Kevin Burnett next to him there will be less for Dansby to take care of.