2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Keys for the Miami Dolphins
Coming off a disappointing 7-9 season in 2010, the Miami Dolphins look to improve with a solid mix of young talent and veteran leadership.
The defense should be stout once again and the offense seems to be on their way to bigger and better things. But, is it enough to overcome the vaunted New England Patriots and New York Jets en route to the playoffs?
Here are five keys to the Dolphins' 2011 season.
Manage the Early-Season Grind
The NFL schedule-makers didn't do the Dolphins any favors with their first five games.
Not exactly the layup you look for to get your season started on the right foot, especially with questions lingering about Chad Henne.
If the Dolphins can manage to go 2-3 (that's right just 2-3) through the first five games, they will have a legitimate shot at making a run at the playoffs.
The schedule sets up nicely from there on out with the potential to string together a significant winning streak in the middle of the season.
Consistency from the Quarterback Position
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Chad Henne is not the worst quarterback in the league. In fact, he's far from it. After showing off his dazzling arm, Henne would generally screw it up with a bad decision.
But, this preseason Henne has given Dolphins fans something to cheer about.
The acquisition of Reggie Bush should help immensely in the passing game, and if the 'Phins can create any semblance of a rushing attack, Henne could be much better than people think.
Throwing the ball away and taking what the defense gives him without forcing the issue will be key.
For as stingy as the Dolphins defense was last season, giving up just 17.1 points a game, they were also near last in takeaways.
Miami forced just 11 interceptions and only recovered eight fumbles—not really what you would expect from a defense in the Top 10 in both passing and rushing yards allowed.
Look for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan to create more of a ball-hawking attack this season, allowing defensive backs Vontae Davis and Sean Smith to take more chances.
Also, an improved offense should keep them out of as many holes as they were in last season.
Capitalizing in the Red Zone
If the Dolphins plan on making any noise in 2011, they had better improve their touchdown-to-field goal numbers.
With 25 touchdowns, Miami was near last in that category. Last season they kicked 30 field goals.
It will be imperative for the 'Phins to stop settling for field goals and punch it in the end zone.
A big factor will be the improved relationship of Brandon Marshall and Chad Henne, who only managed to hook up three times for scores.
Winning the Battle in the Trenches
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Jake Long and Co. did a decent job protecting Chad Henne in 2010, allowing just 38 sacks and 70 quarterback hits.
But the line struggled to create holes for running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
The addition of younger options, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, may help to stretch plays, but it will be the responsibility of the offensive line to create the push necessary to get the running game going.
Without a steady rushing attack, it could be another long season for the Dolphins.