Broncos vs. Dolphins: 7 Miami Players Who Need to Step Up Most

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2011

Broncos vs. Dolphins: 7 Miami Players Who Need to Step Up Most

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    The Miami Dolphins host the Denver Broncos this Sunday, pitting two Andrew Luck Sweepstake candidates against each other in this Week 7 showdown. 

    This game has already drawn national—and perhaps international—allure because the one and only Tim Tebow will start for the Broncos. Consequently, all eyes will be glued to this game. 

    National exposure has not been kind to the 'Fins this year, however. In two prime-time appearances this season, the 'Fins have been manhandled. Both the Patriots and Jets embarrassed the Dolphins in front of the entire country. 

    Will the lowly Broncos do the same?

    If the following seven players can elevate their games, Miami should have no problem securing their first win. 

Brandon Marshall

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    Miami's 47-million-dollar man leads the NFL in drops (six), has caught only one touchdown pass and is on pace for just over 84 receptions.

    You can blame Marshall's struggles on a number of factors, including conservative play-calling and poor quarterback play—but ultimately, this falls on his shoulders. 

    The Dolphins invested some serious cash into Marshall, but he simply has not paid dividends thus far. A player of his caliber should lift an offense to new heights, not drop touchdown passes and get knocked out of bounds by the wind. 

    It's time for Marshall to start earning his paycheck and win back the respect of Dolphins fans. 

Matt Moore

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    Matt Moore's lousy stat line from Monday night—16-of-34, 204 yards, two INT—doesn't tell the whole story.

    Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline both dropped multiple crucial passes, Daniel Thomas mustered up only 47 yards on 15 carries, and the 'Fins offensive line yielded four sacks and 11 quarterback hits. 

    It was an unusually poor performance from the supporting cast, but Moore still needs to shore up his field vision (missed a wide-open Charles Clay in the end zone) and pocket awareness. 

    We saw Moore deliver some beautiful passes against the Jets, and he should have a much easier time at home against Denver's 22nd-ranked passing defense. 

Offensive Line's Pass Protection

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    Reason No. 47 why Tony Sparano will be fired: he cannot assemble an offensive line. Miami's O-line was in disarray last season, but the addition of Mike Pouncey figured to stabilize and bolster it.

    Instead, things have gotten worse. Much worse.

    The line has already surrendered 18 sacks this season, fourth most in the NFL. 

    Granted the Dolphins have faced some elite defenses, their struggles are inexcusable. Moreover, if these problems persist, Matt Moore will not make it through the rest of this season healthy. 

Karlos Dansby

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    When the Dolphins signed Karlos Dansby to a $43 million contract two summers ago, he figured to step in and achieve stardom in Miami's system. 

    However, Dansby's numbers are in steep decline and he is a huge liability in pass coverage. 

    Dansby currently has just 22 tackles, putting him on track for a measly 70 tackles. 

    Miami made Dansby the highest paid linebacker in the NFL when they signed him, but he, like Brandon Marshall, simply isn't living up to the hype. It's time for Dansby to assert himself as a dominant presence and leader on this defense. 

Kevin Burnett

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    After a monumentally disappointing start to the season, Kevin Burnett finally showed up last week against the Jets. Setting aside two long receptions to Dustin Keller, Burnett was stout in pass coverage and even broke into the backfield to break up a play. 

    Still, it's hard to ignore the two receptions he surrendered to Keller, which went for a combined 51 yards. 

    Burnett was brought in to alleviate Miami's everlasting struggles covering tight ends, and he needs to do so on a regular basis. The Broncos do not have any real weapons at tight end, so this could be a great opportunity for Burnett to lock down his opponent and build confidence. 

Davone Bess

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    What's happening to Davone Bess?

    A tweet from Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel sums it up: "Davone Bess is the 99th rated receiver in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus. Last season he finished 15th. That's disturbing!"

    The most reliable player on Miami's roster over the past three seasons is quietly struggling through a horrendous season. 

    Bess ranks second in the NFL in drops (five), and is on pace for only 54 receptions—a career low. Matt Moore might not target Bess as much as Chad Henne did; however, Bess must reestablish himself as a sure-handed safety blanket. 

Cam Wake

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    Cameron Wake was licking his lips before Monday night's game against the Jets. New York's right tackle, Wayne Hunter, is an unproven player who has struggled for much of the season. 

    Wake figured to wreak havoc. 

    Instead, he was completely dominated. 

    Wake has only three sacks through five games, which puts him on pace for roughly nine or 10 sacks—an unwelcome decline from the 14 he posted last season. There's little reason to worry about Wake, but his struggles on Monday were disconcerting, and it would be very comforting to see him get his hands on Tim Tebow a few times this Sunday.