Miami Dolphins: Separating the Myths from the Facts in 2011
Is it Monday yet?
Monday night, September 12th, 7pm. That's when after an offseason filled with a coaching change that didn't occur, a new offensive coordinator, a lockout, a failed trade for a Denver QB, a successful trade for a New Orleans running back and a preseason where our starting quarterback looked great while our offensive line not so much comes to an official end.
Football is back and more importantly, Miami Dolphins football is back. Should we be excited? Of course we should.
But of all of the teams in the NFL, the Dolphins seem to have an aura of misconceptions around them. How do I know this?
Well, I read. A lot. Sports Illustrated's Peter King has them finishing 4-12. ESPN the Magazine has them finishing 6-10. My old buddy Bill Simmons has them finishing with less than five wins and continues to talk about how terrible they look on his podcast and every time he makes an appearance on LeBatard's show (but for all we know he could just be saying that to get under Miami's skin since over the last year he's formed a love-hate relationship with the city over the Heat).
Its not that they're picking against Miami, it's the reasons why. Reasons based off of misconceptions carrying over from last year.
Now I'm going to look at these misconceptions and determine what is a myth and what is a fact.
Myth or Fact: Miami's Offense Is Short on Talent
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According to ESPN The Magazine's NFL preview:
I just don't see a lot of talent down in Miami. The Dolphins have the least amount of speed and athleticism in the AFC East.
Why This Is a Myth
To say the Dolphins don't have talent, speed or athleticism is an insult to a team that this offseason has become both fast and athletic.
While he may not be an every down back, Reggie Bush has speed and athleticism in spades. Go ask any defender who has had to try and catch Reggie in the open field. What do you think he'll say about that?
Now take a look at Brandon Marshall, who is a top five NFL receiver. Even ESPN's KC Joyner had this to say in the same issue of ESPN The Magazine:
The sixth-year vet's ability to shake off vicious hits over the middle made him the most productive pass catcher on dangerous routes (deep ins, crossing routes, etc.) in 2010. His completion rate of 88 percent (22 of 25 targets for 268 yards) was tops among receivers thrown to at least 20 times on such routes.)
Now add that to Davone Bess, who might not have the athleticism but never seems to drop the ball, and Brian Hartline, who will be much improved in 2011.
You look at the defensive side, and, well just move on to the next page.
Myth or Fact: Miami's Defense Overachieved Last Season
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We'll go back to ESPN The Magazine implying that they overachieved last season:
The Dolphins held opponents to 3.6 YPC (yards per carry) despite little star power outside of ILB Karlos Dansby, who does a great job filling gaps. But fifth-year DT Paul Soliai did show promise with a career-high eight TFL's (tackles for loss).
Wait, there's more:
On D, Cameron Wake is one of the AFC's top LBs. But he's only one man. And no man is an island. They have to get better players.
Should I let ESPN continue this? Sure why not:
Mike Nolan got this unit to play above its talent level as it made a smooth transition from the 4-3 to a 3-4. Nolan sprinkled in hybrid looks to benefit the outside pass rush, but Wake, at OLB, is the only big-play guy.
Why This Is a Myth
Awwrite (not a spelling error but a tribute to the late, great Jim Mandich), so ESPN never used the O-word, but it was strongly implied. There are adult films with dialogue more subtle than this.
I'll start by pointing out that up until Week 17 against the Patriots, which was a quit job by the whole team mind you, Miami was third in the league in defense. Secondly, think of all the dropped interceptions by Sean Smith and Vontae Davis. During the preseason it didn't look like this trend would stop, but I believe it will. Any interception can cause a big play, and Vontae and Sean are more than capable of causing said turnovers. That blows the myth of Cameron Wake being Miami's only big play defensive guy.
Based off of the numbers, I'd even say that Miami's defense underachieved last year. There could've been a few more sacks on a few more plays. There could've been a few more interceptions.
This year, there will be. Overachieved? Hardly. In 2010 the Dolphins defense was only beginning to work their stride. This season, they'll hit it.
Myth or Fact: Miami Should "Suck for Luck" This Season
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Why This Is a Myth
This is a big myth simply because of two reasons.
Number one, by doing this, Sparano and Ireland are out of a job. The only way this happens is if Miami gets off to a terrible start (and by terrible I mean 0-5 or 1-8, not the way we'll define it if they go into the bye week at 1-3, which in all honesty wouldn't be the end of the world) and Sparano is fired at the point in the season.
Number two, this team is too good to really do that.
Their defense alone not can, but will win four games. The offense and special teams will at least get only two more.
That's 6-10, and with teams like the Redskins, Bengals, Jaguars, Seahawks and Bills, that more likely than not will at best net Miami the number six pick in the 2012 draft.
If 6-10 is the worst they can do, which it is, then the whole "Suck for Luck" loses steam, except for one little factor.
Let's say Peyton Manning is hurt far worse than we've been lead to believe and winds up missing the whole season. The Colts would have the opportunity to "Suck for Luck" because they'd have so many options to go with it. Let's assume that the Colts sans Manning go 2-14 this season, which by the way isn't a stretch, while Miami goes the aforementioned 6-10.
Then in March we find out that Peyton is completely healthy and ready to go in 2012. All the Colts have to do is add more pieces and they're back to being Super Bowl contenders, AND, they have the best asset to build quickly with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Miami, with a new GM and head coach, makes the phone call to Indianapolis. Sean Smith, Kendall Langford (two good players Miami will likely lose via free agency not next year but in upcoming years), Miami's first and second-round picks to Indianapolis for the No. 1 picks in the first and second round, plus a fourth rounder.
Then Miami would draft Andrew Luck and Florida State's OT Andrew Datko using the two picks from Indianapolis, along with spending the fourth rounder on FIU's T.Y. Hilton (if you haven't seen him, take a look, look for No. 4 in this video).
The Colts then use Smith to sure up their secondary and Langford to improve their pass rush along side Freeny. Then with the two Dolphins draft picks they choose Oklahoma State's Juston Blackmon and Arkansas' Knile Davis (who's out for the year with an ankle injury) along with in the later rounds picking up a steal by choosing Boise State's Kellen Moore as Peyton's heir apparent.
Sorry, I'm working on a draft article for tomorrow, I guess I got lost in the whole speculation of it. But with the talent Miami has on defense, that would be their best shot at landing Luck.
Myth or Fact: The Dolphins Will Run a Conservative Offense
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MYTH (If everything goes right).
Shall I quote ESPN's Magazine again? Sure.
This will be a conservative attack both by nature (head coach Tony Sparano and new coordinator Brian Daboll think that way) and necessity (limited personnel, starting at QB). That puts the onus on the tight ends and the slot receivers to generate yards after the catch.
Yet they say this the very next paragraph:
Bush isn't the answer for Daboll's run-first power attack, especially with a weak interior line. Miami hopes C Mike Pouncey, the No. 15 overall pick, is part of the solution here. But 228-pound rookie RB Daniel Thomas better be ready to rumble too (see Kiper below for more).
Awwrite (Mandich reference), let's see what Mr. Kiper Jr. has to say:
Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are gone. The newly imported Reggie Bush can't handle a heavy workload, and the Fins don't want Chad Henne throwing more than he absolutely has to. That adds up to a huge opening for Miami's second-round pick from Kansas.
Yes, he said Kansas, even though its well known that Daniel Thomas went to Kansas STATE. Big difference between a Jayhawk and a Wildcat (look at basketball: the Jayhawk, Mario Chalmers, is still on the Heat and contributed greatly to them going to the NBA Finals and even showed more moxie than most of the team in the Finals. Meanwhile Michael Beasley, a Wildcat, found himself on the outside looking in for Miami as he was sent to the basketball Siberia known as Minnesota and if he doesn't get his act together will find himself out of the league. Sorry for the tangent.)
Why This Is a Myth
This team isn't one built for a running game. Look at the talent on the team. Bush is better as a receiver out in the open field. Will he get carries, sure, but his real weapon is when Chad checks down, and he will. You won't have a problem with Chad checking down to Reggie Bush.
As for Daniel Thomas, he's still a bit green and probably another year away.
They're correct about their interior linemen being weak, which is what will cause the running game to stall out, thereby forcing Chad to throw more times than absolutely necessary.
And Miami won't have a problem with it. Daboll has brought a big play mentality to Miami's offense that hasn't been seen in a while. And the Dolphins now have the talent to do it. Give Clyde Gates more reps, and he will be the speed threat Miami needs to balance out Brandon Marshall's toughness and Bess' sure hands.
Speaking of Chad...
Myth or Fact: Chad Henne Isn't, nor Will Ever Be, a Good NFL Quarterback
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The Jury Is Still Out.
Ladies and gentlemen of the football jury, I present to you this article I wrote almost a month ago about Dolphins Training Camp (and how good Henne looked). This article was written about a week after that where I predicted Henne's stats, this article explaining that Henne will be a pro bowler this year, as well as my article from last week explaining how this was Henne's redemption season, and if you think it's just me, here's fellow Dolphins Featured Columnist Scott Altman's take on Henne giving five reasons why he will silence the critics.
Now I'm leaving out a lot of other Henne articles bashing him, but Henne has become a very polarizing figure. Polls asking if Dolphins fans trust Chad Henne are split between yes and either no or "needs more time." He's been booed at his own practice, has a Facebook page dedicated to how much he "sucks" and is the primary reason why Peter King chose the Dolphins to finish last in the AFC East with a 4-12 record and why some Dolphins fans would rather "Suck For Luck" as I mentioned earlier.
But does Henne really, suck?
Again, look at how many articles I've written to the contrary. Some of them are predictions, others are statements, but they're rooted in facts that are highlighted in said article. Scott Altman did the same in his.
There's a reason why Henne was drafted by the Dolphins when he was. Do you honestly think he would've slipped further down? I don't. No one accused the Dolphins of reaching for him, and remember it was only a year ago that Stephen Ross said that Henne had the chance to be the best QB in Miami Dolphins history.
So how did it all change, and why are so many people ignoring two huge factors in his play last year (dropped passes and Dan Henning's extremely pedestrian even by 1980's standard offense)?
Because it's easier to blame the quarterback.
Henne followed up a bad season by taking on a leadership role during the lockout and had himself a very good preseason.
But this is still ignored, and I'll admit that I can't blame people for ignoring it. We have to see what he does during the regular season.
By the end of this year, we'll know, but for now, the jury is still out.
Myth or Fact: This Slideshow Was Too Long
It was long in the sense that each slide was like an article unto itself, rather than the mere paragraphs that slideshows usually have per slide.
But there were only six slides including the introduction before I got to the end.
But since you made it this far, thank you, and enjoy T-Pain.
Go Dolphins, and Awwright Miami!
Thomas Galicia is a Miami Dolphins Featured Columnist. Follow him on twitter @thomasgalicia. For more of his opinions, visit www.thomasgalicia.com, nominated by CBSMiami.com for "Miami's Most Valuable Blogger" in the sports division.