Miami Dolphins 2010 Midseason Awards
The 2010 Miami Dolphins' season has been filled with highs and lows, ups and downs, bright spots and dark days.
They began the season 2-0 and 4-0 on the road, including dramatic wins in Minnesota (a four-down goal-line stand against Adrian Peterson) and Green Bay (an overtime field goal by Dan Carpenter).
But they've also lost four games, including all three at home, with the silver lining that the four losses have come at the hands of the four best teams in the AFC—the Jets, Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens.
The Dolphins sit at 4-4 midway through the season and in third place in the AFC East—not quite out of the playoff hunt, but certainly not in good position either.
The second half of the season becomes even more uncertain with a surprising and abrupt quarterback change, as veteran Chad Pennington takes over for third-year player Chad Henne.
It's certainly going to be an interesting two months in Miami, but here are my Dolphins midseason awards for the first half of 2010.
Chris J. Nelson majored in journalism at Georgia State University and is currently a programming coordinator for Turner Sports in Atlanta. He operates his own Miami Dolphins website, The Miami Dolphins Spotlight, and he can be followed on Twitter here.
Best Game: 14-10 Win In Week 2 at Minnesota
Beating the Buffalo Bills (still searching for their first win two months later) in Week 1 was one thing, but going to Minnesota and beating the Vikings on their home turf was another.
The Dolphins made a statement in Week 2, as the defense pulled down three Brett Favre interceptions (two by Jason Allen, who is no longer with the team), scored a touchdown on a forced fumble in the end zone, and stuffed Adrian Peterson four straight times on the goal line in an incredible defensive stand.
Chad Henne threw a touchdown while completing nine passes in only 15 attempts, as he rode a running game that produced 120 yards on the ground.
Despite two late fumbles by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and a strong day from Peterson (145 yards) otherwise, the Dolphins held on for the big road win.
Best Individual Performance: LB Cameron Wake Vs. Packers
Wake had been the Dolphins' most consistent pass rusher heading into the team's Week 6 game against the Packers, but this was his coming-out party.
Not only did Wake sack quarterback Aaron Rodgers a career-high three times, but he also constantly put pressure on the quarterback and drew a few holding penalties as well.
Wake was a constant disturbance to Green Bay's offense in a game that certainly wouldn't have been won without him.
Best Play: Fourth-Down Stand Vs. Adrian Peterson and The Vikings
(Cameron Wake's forced fumble on Brett Favre and Koa Misi's recovery for a touchdown from the same game was a close second, but this single play was just so emotionally huge and impressive, I had to choose it.)
Up 14-10 with 2:21 remaining, the Vikings were faced with a fourth down from Miami's one-yard line.
Three Adrian Peterson runs on the first three downs had been unsuccessful, but the Dolphins couldn't possibly stop one of the NFL's best backs four straight times, right?
Dolphins' defensive end Kendall Langford blew up his blocker at the snap, clearing a hole for Karlos Dansby to come in and make the initial hit on Peterson.
Peterson tried to spin out Dansby's grasp as the linebacker wrapped up, and cornerback Vontae Davis came in for the final hit that held him short.
It was a huge and improbable stand for the Dolphins' defense, shifting all the momentum in their favor as they held on for the big road win.
Best Free Agent Signing: LB Karlos Dansby
A perfect fit heading into the 2010 offseason, the Dolphins landed their most coveted free agent when they signed Dansby to a five-year, $43 million contract in March.
Dansby has played as well as advertised, contributing 60 tackles (tied for the team lead with Yeremiah Bell and on pace for a career high) as well as a sack and two pass deflections.
Not only is he the most sound tackler on the team, but he is excellent in coverage and has a nose for the football.
His contributions can be seen beyond the numbers, as he has become the leader of the Dolphins' defense.
53rd Man Award: WR Roberto Wallace
An undrafted rookie out of San Diego State with just four touchdowns in his college career, Wallace entered training camp with the Dolphins as an improbable member of the 53-man roster.
Wallace made the team as the fifth receiver, and worked his way up to fourth (and thus, game action) and since Week 3, hasn't looked back.
While he has just two catches for 18 yards on the season, he has challenged Brian Hartline for more significant playing time going forward.
Wallace's biggest contribution has been on special teams, where he's downed a handful of punts deep in the opponent's territory and contributed an impressive six tackles.
He's got a long way to go, but he's got intriguing size and has been impressive to just make it this far.
Underrated Player: DE Kendall Langford
The 3-4 lineman doesn't rack up high sack numbers or pull in lots of turnovers. It is rarely glorified but is an integral part of the defensive scheme.
A starter since he was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Langford has been an anchor for the defensive line at defensive end.
Langford has been playing as well as he ever has in 2010, on pace for career-high numbers in tackles, sacks and pass deflections.
While his numbers are never going to pop out at you, he is without question one of the Dolphins' most efficient and reliable starts.
Breakout Player: LB Cameron Wake
A lot of pressure was on former CFL star Cameron Wake in his second season with the Dolphins, as he was asked to step in for the departed Joey Porter and Jason Taylor and step up to be the team's primary pass-rushing threat.
Wake has been everything we'd hoped and more, totaling 8.5 sacks in his first eight games of the season, which rank first in the AFC and second in the NFL behind only Clay Matthews III.
Not only has Wake been an outstanding pass rusher, but he has a nonstop motor and has rapidly developed into a complete player that is no longer a liability against the run.
Defensive Rookie: LB Koa Misi
Misi doesn't have a whole lot of competition for this award, but he has been holding his own as the team's starting strong-side linebacker.
While he hasn't been a constant force as a pass rusher and has been exposed at times in the running game, Misi has played with a high motor and has turned in a solid effort with 21 tackles and 3.5 sacks through eight games.
His career highlight to-date is undoubtedly his fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Vikings in Week 2, courtesy of Cameron Wake's strip-sack on Brett Favre in the end zone.
Offensive Rookie: OG John Jerry
Okay, so Jerry kind of wins this award by default. He's one of only four current Dolphins rookies to have played on offense (joining receiver Roberto Wallace and tight ends Jeron Mastrud and Mickey Shuler) and is the only one that has seen significant playing time.
An illness has limited Jerry to just four games (all starts) this season, but he has played pretty well and has shown plenty of promise at right guard.
Special Teams MVP: K Dan Carpenter and P Brandon Fields
I couldn't bear to just pick one of these guys, because each does there job better than most of their NFL counterparts.
Carpenter, who was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Month in October, is 19-for-22 (86.4 percent) on field goals this season and kicked the 44-yard game winner in overtime against Green Bay.
He has twice broken his career-long field goal mark (which is now at 54 yards) and converted five field goals in two separate games last month.
Meanwhile, Fields has consistently boomed punts for the Dolphins this season, and ranks seventh in the NFL with 16 punts downed inside the opponent's 20-yard line and only one touchback.
Defensive MVP: CB Vontae Davis
Cameron Wake is an obvious choice for this award, but I decided to give it to Davis for being the lone bright spot in a secondary that has had its struggles in 2010.
While Yeremiah Bell's play has dipped, Chris Clemons has been average at best, and Jason Allen and Sean Smith have eached failed opportunities to lock down the other starting cornerback job, Vontae Davis has been holding his own.
While Davis has just one interception (a spectacular bobbling grab in Minnesota) and six pass deflections, he has constantly blanketed elite receivers and forced opposing quarterbacks to constantly avoid throwing his way.
Not only has Davis excelled in coverage, but he has also been played physically and done a great job wrapping up and tackling—especially compared to other corners around the league.
Davis is coming off his worst game of the season—at Baltimore, which saw him uncharacteristically miss a few tackles and allow a touchdown—but his overall play through the first half of 2010 is among the top cornerbacks in the AFC.
Offensive MVP: OT Jake Long
Granted, there aren't many options here, considering the Dolphins' quarterback just got benched, the running game hasn't really gotten going, and the receivers and tight ends are dropping passes.
Long is a legitimate team MVP in any franchise though, because he simply does his very important job better than anyone else in the league.
The Dolphins' franchise left tackle has allowed just one sack this season, keeping quarterback Chad Henne practically untouched by pass rushers on his side of the field.
Long appears destined for his third Pro Bowl selection in as many pro seasons, and could be on his way to Canton if he plays at this level for the next 10-12 years.