As the Miami Dolphins' 2011 season draws to a close, it's time to start handing out hardware to the team's most outstanding performers.
In a season initially marred by turmoil and disappointment, a select few Dolphins rose above the wreckage. They chose not to accept failure and elevated their play to new heights, consequently lifting the team as a whole.
The following nine players—each from a separate positional unit—deserve recognition for their exceptional performances over the course of the 2011 season.
When Chad Henne went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 4, backup Matt Moore stepped into the starting lineup. A few weeks later, pundits were contemplating whether or not he could be the franchise quarterback the Dolphins have been searching so long for.
Although he might not be a long-term solution at quarterback, Moore is the man most responsible for Miami's improbable turnaround, and he is undoubtedly the most valuable quarterback on the roster.
With Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams on the outs, the Dolphins needed a fresh face to fill their running back vacancy.
Once the lockout came to a conclusion, the 'Fins tabbed Reggie Bush as the man for the job. Critics screamed, "Bush can't be an every-down back," but he responded by posting career highs in every rushing category.
Second-round pick Daniel Thomas' disappointing play gave Bush an expanded role in Miami's offense, and the former second-overall draft pick capitalized on it far more than anybody could have anticipated.
Brandon Marshall might lead the league in dropped passes, but he also leads the team in virtually every receiving category.
Marshall doubled his touchdown total and recorded more receiving yards than last season, showing that he just might be worth that lofty $47 million contract.
Sure, Jake Long struggled this season. But a "bad" season for Jake Long is still an extraordinary one for a majority of NFL offensive linemen.
Long has been plagued by a shoulder injury since 2010, and it doesn't appear as though he played at 100 percent at any point in the 2011 season. Despite the unwarranted outcry about Long's struggles, he only surrendered five sacks this season.
Meanwhile, co-MVP Mike Pouncey enjoyed a phenomenal rookie year. Pouncey's play has gone criminally overlooked, but Miami's first-round pick yielded only a pair of sacks and was flagged for just four penalties.
Nose tackle Paul Soliai was clearly the favorite for this accolade prior to the start of the season, but defensive end Randy Starks reemerged as a pass rush dynamo in 2011—playing well enough to snag MVP honors.
The Dolphins moved Starks from defensive end to defensive tackle in 2010, but the experiment proved futile. Starks made a seamless transition back to defensive end this season, racking up 3.5 sacks and 32 tackles.
Karlos Dansby might not be the best linebacker in the NFL, but he established himself as the best linebacker on the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
After a troubling slow start to the season, Dansby exploded in Week 7, finally becoming the domineering force that the Dolphins defense so desperately needed. Dansby racked up over 100 tackles, a pair of sacks, a forced fumble and an interception this past season.
Cam Wake and Kevin Burnett might deserve some recognition, but neither were nearly as dominant as Dansby.
Neither Vontae Davis nor Sean Smith matured into the lockdown cornerbacks we all hoped they would this season; however, Davis was brilliant over the last few weeks of the season.
After he was benched in Week 8 for showing up to practice hungover, Davis started playing some of the best football of his career. He intercepted four passes in six games and helped anchor Miami's defense to four victories.
After registering 100 tackles for the fourth consecutive season, Yeremiah Bell wasn't only the most valuable safety on the roster, he might have been the most valuable defensive player on the roster.
Granted, Bell is not exactly a stud pass defender, he is force to be reckoned with—often flying into opponents' backfields or wreaking havoc on blitzes.
If somebody were to ask you who the most valuable player on the Miami Dolphins was this year, the first names to cross your mind would likely be Matt Moore or Reggie Bush. But how about Brandon Fields?
He ranked third in the league with 48.9 yards per punt, first in the league with 31 punts landing inside of the 20 and 10th in the league with 3,618 total yards.
Special teams often go overlooked, but they are a vital aspect of the game. Fields dug the Dolphins out of so many holes this season, and his outstanding play should not go unnoticed.