8 Dolphins Facing the Most Pressure in 2nd Half of Season

Scott AltmanCorrespondent INovember 1, 2011

8 Dolphins Facing the Most Pressure in 2nd Half of Season

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    Just because the Miami Dolphins are winless after eight weeks does not mean that their season is over.

    Sure, the 'Fins were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago, but there are still 53 players trying to salvage their pride, dignity and most importantly, their jobs. 

    Every single player on the Dolphins roster is at least partially responsible for the team's historical woes, but a select few shoulder extra blame. These players will be on the hot seat for the remainder of the 2011 NFL season. 

    If their struggles persist, there's a chance that they won't return to the starting lineup—or to the Miami Dolphins—in 2012. 

Brandon Marshall

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    Perhaps the pundits were right: Brandon Marshall is just a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. 

    Everything went smoothly last year, but now that the Dolphins are bottom feeders, Marshall isn't happy. Rather than deal with his frustration internally, Marshall publicly bashed Tony Sparano and the coaching staff.

    More importantly, Marshall has played terribly. He leads the NFL in drops and has caught only 38 passes on 67 targets. You can blame Chad Henne and Matt Moore for Marshall's struggles, but a receiver making $47 million should make any quarterback look like a Pro Bowler. 

Kevin Burnett

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    Brandon Marshall might be the most maligned player on the Dolphins, but linebacker Kevin Burnett doesn't trail far behind. 

    Miami inked Burnett to a four-year, $21 million contract ($9.8 million guaranteed) this summer. The Dolphins hoped that Burnett, who racked up 95 tackles and six sacks for the Chargers in 2010, would provide an upgrade from Channing Crowder and solidify the linebacker corps. Moreover, he figured to alleviate Miami's longstanding struggles to tame opposing tight ends. 

    After seven weeks, however, Burnett has failed to do any of the above. 

    He has recorded only 33 tackles and the Dolphins struggles with tight ends persist. Burnett also made national headlines when he called out beat reporter Omar Kelly for bashing his performance. 

    Burnett has definitely stepped up over the past two weeks, but he needs to seriously elevate his play over the second half of the season.  

Daniel Thomas

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    There's no denying that Daniel Thomas has boatloads of potential. At 6'0", 230 pounds, he resembles the bowling ball breed of a running back—a lineage that includes the likes of Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew. 

    Thomas is surprisingly nimble, runs with determination and can truck most NFL defenders. However, there's reason to be concerned about his prospectus. 

    In his first two NFL starts, Daniel Thomas racked up a combined 202 rushing yards on 41 carries.

    In his last two starts, however, he has amassed only 100 rushing yards on 34 carries. 

    Moreover, Thomas has already missed three games with assorted injuries, and if these injury issues persist throughout the season, the Dolphins might want to look for a more reliable back this offseason. 

    If healthy, Thomas will be afforded every opportunity to shine, but he must do so in order to secure his role as the team's feature back going forward. 

Koa Misi

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    During his rookie campaign last season, Koa Misi racked up 41 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The second-round pick was a staple in Miami's linebacker corps, and figured to emerge as an even greater force in 2011. 

    Unfortunately, Misi is on pace to post inferior numbers. 

    After Miami's first seven games, Misi has racked up only 18 tackles and one sack.

    It's far too early to declare Misi as a bust or suggest the Dolphins need to find a replacement, but his decline is concerning. Even though Jason Taylor has chipped away at Misi's snaps, Misi still needs to assert himself as an impact player when he is on the field. 

Vernon Carey

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    For the duration of his eight year career, Vernon Carey has been a staple along the Dolphins offensive line. 

    He has been a symbol of consistency on a team that has fluctuated wildly over the past decade. 

    However, Carey is now 30-years-old, and the Dolphins—for reasons still unknown—decided to move him to guard prior to the season. Perhaps the coaching staff feels that Carey has lost a step.

    Carey has clearly outperformed right tackle Marc Colombo this season, but he is also at blame for much of the offensive line's struggles. Unless Carey improves his play over the second half of the season, right tackle will be a primary need for the Dolphins heading into the offseason. 

Karlos Dansby

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    Two summers ago, the Miami Dolphins handed Karlos Dansby a five-year contract worth $43 million, making him the highest paid linebacker in the NFL. 

    Based on his hefty payday, Dansby should have emerged as a dominant force, like Ray Lewis or Patrick Willis. 

    However, Dansby has been nothing of the sort. He has become such a liability in pass coverage that the Dolphins often pull him on third downs, and he rarely makes the game-breaking plays that the NFL's elite make.

    Dansby is no danger of losing his job, but he must elevate his play if he wants to retain the respect of Miami's fanbase.  

Reshad Jones / Chris Clemons

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    Prior to the start of this season, the Dolphins defense had a tremendous outlook. They boasted one of the leagues deepest defensive lines, a star-studded linebacker corps and a secondary headlined by two emerging cornerbacks and a two-time Pro Bowl strong safety. 

    Even though Miami lacked a notable free safety, the defense's depth and skill figured to compensate. 

    However, incumbent starter Chris Clemons fell victim to injury in the preseason, and Reshad Jones was an absolute disaster in relief. 

    Over the next few weeks, both will likely have a shot to prove themselves as legitimate starters. Regardless, free safety will be a primary need for the 'Fins to address next summer.