The 2009 Miami Dolphins: The Comprehensive Guide

Alex Roberts@@alexCoAbassCorrespondent IApril 29, 2009

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Quarterback Chad Pennington #10 of the Miami Dolphins sets to pass against the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The 2009-2010 NFL season is slowly creeping up on us.  Preseason is a mere three months away. 

It is never to early to take a look at the season at hand.

Contents:

1. Overview

2. Projected two-deep lineup

3. Draft analysis

4. Position analysis and overall Player Ranking

5. Schedule Prediction

6. Closing

Overview

The Miami Dolphins were the talk of the league last year.  Taking a team from 1-15 to 11-5 seems like an impossible task. 

Leave it to the Tuna to step in and do the impossible. 

The 2008 Miami Dolphins not only improved their horrendous record by the most wins in NFL history, they also won the AFC East division crown.

Can they repeat?  It depends on a few pieces.  This team will depend on a couple of young players to step in and play well early, and a few bounces will have to go their way.

The coaching staff is one of the best in the league.  They are young, fired up, and ready to take the challenge of defending their crown in a possibly cut-throat division. 

Projected Two-Deep Lineup

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Starter First, Backup Second

(R) = Rookie

Offense:

QB: Chad Pennington, Chad Henne

HB: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams

FB: Lousake Polite, Chris Brown

WR 1: Ted Ginn, Jr., Brandon Lonon

WR 2: Greg Camarillo, Patrick Turner (R)

Slot Receiver: Devone Bess, Brandon Hartline (R)

TE: Anthony Fasano, David Martin

LT: Jake Long, Brandon Frye

LG: Justin Smiley, Andy Alleman

C: Jake Grove

RT: Vernon Carey, Nate Garner

RG: Donald Thomas, Joe Berger

Defense:

LDE: Kendall Langford, Tony McDaniel

NT: Jason Ferguson, Pail Soliai

RDE: Philip Merling, Randy Starks

LOLB: Matt Roth, Quentin Moses

LILB: Channing Crowder, William Kershaw

RILB: Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor

ROLB: Joey Porter, Charlie Anderson

LCB: Will Allen, Sean Smith (R)

RCB: Vontae Davis (R), Jason Allen

FS: Gibril Wilson, Courtney Bryan

SS: Yeremiah Bell, Tyrone Culver

Draft Analysis

Round 1, Pick 25: Vontae Davis, CB, 5'11", 203, Illinois

This was the right pick to make.  Vontae Davis may have a slight attitude issue...he thinks that he is the world's best athlete, and some reports say he is a bit hard to coach.  However, if Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano cannot handle him, no one can. 

He has good size, good speed, and plays with great technique.  I predict he will start this year.

Pick Grade: A

Round 2, Pick 44: Pat White, Athlete, 6'0", 197, West Virginia

I am one of those people who love this pick.  I can understand why people do not like it, but for me, I think the only negative is that he may have been available at their next second round pick, but I like how that pick turned out anyway.

Pat is a leader.  He is the all-time all-purpose yards leader at quarterback in Big East history.  You can see more about how I feel about Pat White in this article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/163092-why-pat-white-should-reinvent-the-miami-dolphins-offense.

Pick Grade: A+

Round 2, Pick 61: Sean Smith, CB, 6'4", 214, Utah

The last of the picks that I love.  Who would not crave a 6'4" CB?  Apparently the rest of the NFL, as scouts say he is too tall to play the NFL corner position.  In a division with Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, I beg to differ.

He lacks elite speed, but has plenty to spare to cover these receivers.  He should play a solid backup role this season and be groomed to be the starter across from Vontae.  It may very well give Miami its best corner duo since Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain.

The only negative for me is that Miami could have used a nose tackle.

Pick Grade: B+

Round 3, Pick 87: Patrick Turner, WR, 6'5", 223, Southern California

I am not sold on this pick, but you can tell this current Dolphins regime loves size.  With the proper coaching, he could become a very imposing figure in the red zone.

People compare him to Keyshawn Johnson.  He uses his body to fend off receivers.  His production in college is suspect, however, which is strange considering he had so much talent around him.

We shall see.

Pick Grade: C-

Round 4, Pick 103: Brian Hartline, WR, 6'2", 195, Ohio State

I am not sure about this pick either, but I like this kid a lot.  He has great speed and has good hands.  His college production was lackluster, with his career totals sitting at 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. 

NFL scouts have been quoted as saying he has some of the largest hands of any receiver in the draft.  With his 6'2" frame, long arms, and big hands, he has the potential to be a very good receiver. 

Pick Grade: C+

Round 5, Pick 161: John Nalbone, TE, 6'4", 251, Monmouth

This could be a diamond in the rough.  This guy has great size, 4.6 speed, can block, and is an All-American player for Monmouth.  The one negative I can see is he played for a small school.

However, I love the fact that Parcells looked at skill sets and not schools.  (See Kendall Langford and his production last year as a rookie).  He will push for a backup role. 

He may even beat out David Martin for that No. 2 spot.

Stay tuned.

Pick Grade: B

Round 5, Pick 165: Chris Clemons, FS, 6'1", 210, Clemson

I am not sure about this pick.  Chris Clemons has speed to burn...he was clocked at 4.33 at the Combine, and was ranked the No. 3 free safety and 91st overall player in the draft.

The only problem is that he is a terrible tackler.  Hopefully after few years on the practice squad or as a special teamer, he will develop into a nice backup option. 

Pick Grade: C-

Round 6, Pick 181: Andrew Gardner, OT, 6'6", 302, Georgia Tech

I really like this one.  Before a torn labrum, he was considered a third round pick.  When he heals, teams will regret passing on this large specimen of a player.

Excellent value in the sixth round!

Pick Grade: A+

Round 7, Pick 214: J.D. Folsom, OLB, 6'3", 235, Weber State

This guy has a great story.  He went to Bolivia for two years on a church mission and just had a baby with his Weber State volleyball player wife. 

I wish this guy the best of luck, and the Dolphins told him they would use him on third downs and passing situations as an INSIDE linebacker. 

But come on...you could have picked him up in free agency and spent this pick on a higher ranked player. 

Bill Parcells knows what he is doing...even if sometimes we don't understand!

Pick Grade: F

I believe this was a fruitful draft for Miami. Two potential starting cornerbacks, an intriguing QB prospect, and a couple of skilled receivers highlight this draft for me.

Overall Draft Grade: B

Positional Analysis

Quarterback:

I believe that the Dolphins have the best roster of QB's since the Dan Marino era.

Chad Pennington was phenomenal last year.  Although he is not flashy, I believe he will continue to be that steady hand the 'Phins need to succeed.

Chad Henne has shown he has all the tools necessary to be a starter, but will that translate to production on the field? 

He will be feeling the heat from rookie Patrick White, who will probably see more playtime than him this year in the wildcat formation.  This could cause the team to rethink everything if he is successful.

Position Grade: B+

Running Back/Full Back:

The R and R Express return for another season.  Ronnie Brown turned in a Pro-Bowl season last year, even if he did not break the 1,000 yard barrier.  However, can he be a great back outside of the Wildcat?

Ricky Williams is a great backup for the team, and I believe could be a starter if need be. 

Depth is an issue with this unit, as Patrick Cobbs and Lex Hilliard are the two backs behind R and R.  Cobbs has a great skill set but is no feature back, and Hilliard has a great deal of growing to do.

Polite is an excellent blocking fullback with some solid receiving skills.

Position Grade: B

Wide Receiver:

There are a lot of intriguing options in this group, but there is really no stand-out No. 1 guy.  I feel as though Miami needs to find a clear-cut No. 1 in free agency before the season starts.

As of now, Ted Ginn and Greg Camarillo are slated as the starters.  I really do think Ted Ginn has great potential, and if Camarillo heals quickly he can be a productive receiver. 

Davone Bess and Brandon London were nice surprises last year, especially Bess, who did everything quite well for the 'Phins as a slot receiver. 

Ernest Wilford will probably be cut, and so we can expect to see the rookies (Turner and Hartline) compete for time as backups.  It really could be worse, though.

Positional Grade: C

Tight End:

This is a group of quality tight ends.  They are not the extremely talented game breaker types, ala Antonio Gates or Jason Whitten, but they are very large dependable targets for Pennington and Co.  

Fasano proved last year that he could be a starter with seven touchdown catches.  He is also a solid blocker.  If he becomes a more consistent player, he could be great.

David Martin backs up Fasano, and provides a decent safety blanket.  However, watch for 6'7" Joey Haynos to come in to block, and John Nalbone could be a sleeper.

Positional Grade: B

Offensive Line:

This is probably one of the bigger offensive lines in the NFL.  They also have a nasty streak and will continue to grow into one of the elite units.  Vernon Carey, Jake Long, Jake Grove, and Justin Smiley can all be elite starters.

The key will be that right guard spot.  The guard needs to be athletic enough to pull for the running game, yet be sturdy enough for pass protection. 

There is also a lot of young depth to this unit.

Positional Grade: B+ and improving!

Defensive Ends:

The 2008 draft yielded two starters in Kendall Langford and Philip Merling.  These two played extremely well as rookies and are often overlooked. 

Starks and McDaniel have size and strength to compliment Merling and Langford, although the lack of depth on this line seems a bit discerning, and none of the backups really fill the mold of a 3-4 defensive end.  

Positional Grade: C-

Nose Tackle:

Jason Ferguson is the epitome of a nose tackle, but at 35-years-old, he has lost a step, and may be a bit undersized at 305 to continue to dominate.  Paul Soliai has the size (6'4", 355) to be a dominant nose tackle, but his technique has often been critiqued.

The sleeper in this group is free agent pickup Joe Cohen, the young DT who San Fransisco cast off.  The man has the size to play well as a nose tackle, while the 49ers ran him in a 4-3 scheme that did not fit him well.

The Dolphins should have tried to draft a solid NT and should try to scour the waver wires for one.

Positional Grade: D+

Linebackers: 

The linebacker unit is an extremely solid unit and is probably the team's strength.  Each position is at least two deep, and there is a lot of solid youth to go along with the veterans.

Specifically, Joey Porter is phenomenal and is the best outside blitzing linebacker in the league.  Channing Crowder has the swagger and skills to be a defensive leader.  Matt Roth has a never-ending motor and used to play DE, so he is skilled as a pass rusher.

Akin Ayodele was a steal last year.  Torbor, Moses, Anderson, Kershaw, and Folsom all add quality depth to a solid unit.

Positional Grade: A

Cornerbacks:

This unit is potentially stronger thanks to the draft.  Will Allen was a good player last year.  Hopefully, that can continue. 

Vontae Davis has infinite potential, and could be a great starter this league.  Sean Smith's size makes him and great third or fourth corner.  

The wild card is Jason Allen.  Drafted as a safety, his full time switch to DB could either be great or lead Allen to the title of draft bust.  Nate Jones had a couple of nice games, as did Eric Green.

Positional Grade: C-.  It could go higher if Vontae and Sean perform.  Could also go lower.

Safety:

Very solid group.  Gibril Wilson and Yeremiah Bell are as strong starters as you will find in this league. 

The backups are all young and have yet to established themselves. 

You may also see Jason Allen play safety if the young corners develop quickly, turning Allen into an all around defensive back.

Positional Grade: B


Special Teams:

This could be a very solid part of the team.  Dan Carpenter is an All-Pro in the making.  Brandon Fields is an excellent punter. 

The question is who will return kicks?  Will it be Bess?  Do you give Ginn another try?  Miami should have drafted Captain Munnerlyn of South Carolina with that seventh pick and used him as a return man.

Positional Grade: B.

Schedule Prediction

Sept 13: @Atlanta

Win.  Sparano proves he deserved Coach of the Year.

Sept 21: Indianapolis

Loss.  Dungy or no Dungy, these Colts still have Manning, and with Miami's secondary, he could have a field day.

Sept 27: @San Diego

Loss.  San Diego realizes the time for a championship is now and play well all season long.

Oct 4: Buffalo

Win.  Miami wins at home, and T.O. starts to pout right about now.

Oct 12: Jets

Win. The Jets will be good, but what about the quarterback?

Oct 25: New Orleans

Loss.  Another pass-happy team led by Drew Brees carves apart a secondary that may not have found its groove yet.

Nov 1: @Jets

Loss.  The Dolphins lose in New York.

Nov 8: @Patriots

Loss.  The Pats are pissed because of last year. 

Nov 15: Tampa Bay

Win.  The Dolphins snap a three game skid by destroying the Bucs.

Nov 19: @Carolina

Loss.  The Panthers will be NFL elite at this point.

Nov 29: @Buffalo

Win.  Buffalo is in full scale T.O. distraction mode by now.  The Dolphins dismantle the Bills.

Dec 6: Patriots

Loss.  The Patriots are too much for the East this year with Brady back.

Dec 13: Jacksonville

Win.  Miami completes the sweep and becomes the 2009 Florida NFL champs beating Tampa and Jacksonville convincingly.

Dec 20: Tennessee

Win.  I do not buy the Titans this year. 

Dec 27: Houston

Win.  The Texans will be a highly improved team this year, but so will the Dolphins.

Jan 3: Pittsburgh

Win.  The Steelers will have wrapped up home field, and will rest starters.  The Dolphins may be playing for a wild card spot. 

Closing

I have the Dolphins sitting at 9-7.  The two less wins by no means says this team is not superior to the 2008 team. 

There was something magical about that team, no doubt, but the schedule this year is intense.  I feel as though the Dolphins are fighting for the final wild card spot.  They had a great draft and have addressed many needs. 

This team will continue on the right path and will be a serious Super Bowl contender from 2010 and beyond.  

A few solid upsets here and there, and the Dolphins could definitely compete for the East crown again.