Quarterback Chad Henne is under a lot of pressure after two unsuccessful seasons as the Dolphins' starting signal-caller, but his 52 teammates gave him a vote of confidence this week by electing him one of the team's four team captains for the 2011 season.
Henne joins former Michigan teammate and All-Pro left tackle Jake Long as one of two offensive captains. Linebacker Karlos Dansby and safety Yeremiah Bell will once again be the team's defensive captains, as they were in 2010.
Following the departure of running back Patrick Cobbs, who is currently on injured reserve with the New Orleans Saints, Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano has opted to name a special teams captain on a weekly basis to reward standout performances.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Henne benefited from the NFL lockout and will get one more chance to prove himself as a starter in 2011. He has compiled a 27 to 33 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 75.3 passer rating in three seasons, navigating the Dolphins to a third-place finish each of the past two years.
With the future of both Henne and Sparano in Miami directly tied to the team's 2011 outcome, the pressure is on Henne to turn things around in a hurry.
Benefiting Henne in his quest will be the addition of a dynamic running back in Reggie Bush and a patched relationship with No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall. Henne appears to be taking well to Brian Daboll's offense, ranking fourth in the NFL in passing yards in the preseason with a 93.4 passer rating.
As for the other three captains, Long is once again an obvious choice. The former first-round pick has earned three Pro Bowl selections in as many seasons since being selected first overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Bell earns the vote as the veteran leader of the secondary, despite his declining athleticism. While his pass coverage skills are a bit lacking, the 33-year-old remains fairly stout against the run and is coming off three consecutive seasons of 100-plus tackles.
Dansby earns the captain's nod for the second consecutive season in Miami. Signed to a five-year, $43 million contract as a free agent before the 2010 season, Dansby totaled 95 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles during his first season in Miami despite missing two games due to injury.
Niko Koutouvides works out
The Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots have already traded poaching waiver claims over the past week, with the Dolphins landing tight end Will Yeatman following final cuts, and the Patriots nabbing linebacker AJ Edds, Miami's 2010 fourth-round pick, on Tuesday.
It seems the Dolphins may not be done looking at former Patriots, as NFL reporter Adam Caplan tweeted the team worked out recently-released linebacker Niko Koutouvides this week.
Originally selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth round out of Purdue in 2004, Koutouvides (6'2", 238) appeared in 59 games in four seasons with the Seahawks. He amassed what remains his career high in tackles as a rookie with 62 stops.
Signed by the Patriots on August 14, Koutouvides appeared in three preseason games and racked up five tackles and two sacks. However, the 30-year-old special teamer was released during final cuts.
If he were to sign with the Dolphins, he would likely assume a similar role on special teams while projecting as a 3-4 inside linebacker on the defensive depth chart. Such a move by the Dolphins could mean the release of either Marvin Mitchell or Austin Spitler.
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Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and currently works for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.