You must think I am crazy and have no idea what I am talking about by placing the Fins into this year’s postseason. Quite the opposite when it comes to the Miami Dolphins, and if they would have received any play from the quarterback position and won more than once at home last year, they may have snuck in.
They will improve by two or three wins this season by just simply winning more than one home game. Granted, they won't be 6-2 on the road again either, but they did prove to themselves, with boring but impressive defensive road wins against the Packers and Jets, that they can win big games away from the heat and humidity of south Florida.
Even if the Fins go 4-4 on the road and win five of their eight home games, 9-7 has landed teams in the playoffs in recent years. They will be battling the Colts, Jets, Ravens and possibly the Raiders for one of the final two spots, but this is the NFL and stranger things have happened.
Head coach Tony Sparano returns for his fourth season, but only returns because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross could not secure the services of new 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh. Sparano was even reportedly fired by several news outlets as Ross went as far as to get on a plane to go try to talk Harbaugh into coming to Miami when he was close to signing with San Francisco. Of course, when that failed, Ross apologized and admitted he made a mistake.
Sparano returns with his pride in check but without offensive coordinator Dan Henning, who retired after 42 years in football.
New coordinator Brian Daboll, who was hired to replace Henning, is not exactly considered an offensive guru. For the past two seasons in Cleveland, where he held the same position, his offenses ranked 32nd and 29th in total yards. Also gone are Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. Reggie Bush brings his talents to South Beach after signing a two-year contract and will team up with Miami's second-round pick in this year's draft, Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.
Bush did not play in the preseason opener, but according to published reports from training camp, he has lined up in the slot, out wide and at running back depending on the play call. Since Dan Marino retired, quarterback has been a big question mark in Miami. There was some success with Chad Pennington, but another Chad has not been so successful, former Michigan star Chad Henne has struggled. The former '08 second round pick has thrown more picks than touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Miami fans are frustrated with him because he has weapons at his disposal in wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Brian Hartline and Davon Bess.
With Bush coming out of the backfield to create mismatches with linebackers, the Dolphins would be wise to spread it out more this season. I'm not saying that they abandon the power running game completely, but their personnel dictates that they spread the defense out and let the pigskin fly a little more. Surprisingly, Henne does very well from the spread formation.
According to a stat from a NY Times blog previewing the Fins, Henne’s passer rating when two wide receivers were on the field was 67; with three receivers it was 79; with four or more receivers it was 83. Sporano and Henne should do well together this year, as both shares a common bond in no longer being wanted by the Dolphins.
The Dolphins were the front-runners to obtain Denver QB Kyle Orton in a trade before training camp began, but the deal fell through leaving Henne’s confidence shattered and wondering about his future. However, if Henne (and it is a big if) can man-up, swallow his pride and just even out the TD-to-INT ratio, then the Dolphins, with a very good offensive line, could easily be a wild card team.
That could be hard, as Dolphins fans have already hurt his feelings with chants of "We want Orton" at training camp this year. It is a foregone conclusion that if Henne fails, then both he and Sparano will not be back in Miami for the 2012 season.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is as good as any coordinator in the league. His 3-4 defense catapulted the Fins from a No. 22 ranking in '09 to No. 6 last season. He utilizes his personnel better than most D-coordinators. Nolan is also blessed with talent in Miami, as Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby and 344-pound DT Paul Soliai anchor a very talented front seven.
The defense alone is good enough to carry the team, and they could be even better than sixth this year, especially when you consider all four stating defensive backs from last season return this year. The Dolphins may be a long shot to make the playoffs, but they are not as long a shot as you may think. It is almost a perfect script and one that would I would not be surprised to hear Jim Nantz narrating just before the Dolphins take the field to play in the 2012 NFL playoffs.
"The embattled Tony Sparano, who just one year ago was as close to being fired as a head coach can be without actually receiving the pink slip leads his 10-6 Miami Dolphins, against the upstart AFC South winning Houston Texans—on this, the opening game of Wild card Weekend."