Ah, the preseason.
A time of unrealistic hopes for some, unimaginable fears for others.
The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle, but finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack might not be enough for Tony Sparano to earn an encore performance in 2012.
What lies in store for the 2011 Miami Dolphins? Let's take a look.
The Miami Dolphins' 2010 season was a disappointment in the eyes of many fans. The defense impressed but the offense regressed.
The Dolphins dropped to 30th in scoring offense after finishing in the middle of the pack at 15th in 2009. As a team, they rushed for 611 yards less than the previous year—nearly 40 yards per game.
Fortunately, the defense solidified under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and allowed the sixth-least yards per game.
Despite back-to-back 7-9 finishes, Dol-Phans should have reason to be excited for 2011.
Gone are retirement-age Dan Henning (OC), Channing Crowder (ILB), Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (RB), to be replaced by young and fiery Brian Daboll, Kevin Burnett, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.
The defense should continue its ascension to elite status, with six of the starting front seven returning, the continued development of the young secondary and the return of Jared Odrick and A.J. Edds (rookies in 2010 who missed most of the regular season).
If the offense can make even baby steps of progress, Miami will finish with a winning record and have a serious shot at a wild-card spot.