STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
For the Dolphins, 2009 was a transitional year, as starting quarterback Chad Pennington went down for the season in late September after suffering yet another shoulder injury, thus commencing the Chad Henne era in Miami. Henne had his ups and downs and even though the Dolphins ended up with an uninspiring 7-9 record, he does indeed appear to be the team's quarterback of the future.
Although the 2009 season seems like a disappointment, immediate success while rolling with a quarterback who hadn't started an NFL game on top of losing No. 1 running back Ronnie Brown to injury in Week 10, presented a challenge, to say the least, for head coach Tony Sparano and his staff.
The Dolphins boast one of the league's best offensive lines and have used the Wildcat offense to their advantage in the Bill Parcells era, but the loss of Brown forced them to go to a more conventional offense, and they just didn't have the receiving weapons to force teams to respect their attack.
Acquiring wideout Brandon Marshall from the Broncos might be the cure for the team's receiving woes, as opposing defenses can no longer stack the line of scrimmage with eight defenders to stop Brown and
fellow running back Ricky Williams. Henne now has a receiver who will keep defensive coordinators up at night trying to figure out ways to stop him. Moreover, Marshall, who had offseason hip surgery and will be out until at least the start of training camp, gives the Dolphins a true No. 1 receiver, which allows Davone Bess to work as the No. 2, and Greg Camarillo as the No. 3, with Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner also vying for more playing time. The addition of Marshall should also open up the underneath routes for tight end Anthony Fasano, who had a terrible season in 2009.
The Dolphins' defense will undergo radical changes this season. Linebackers Jason Taylor and Joey Porter are now playing with the Jets and Cardinals, respectively, safety Gibril Wilson was released, and nose tackle Jason Ferguson will miss the first eight games due to suspension. This has led the Dolphins to move Randy Starks to defensive tackle and draft young replacements for Taylor, Porter, and Wilson. In years past, it was often the Dolphins' offense that held back the team from reaching its ultimate goal. This season it may be the defense.
Outside of the Bills, the AFC East is shaping up to be a competitive division. The Jets, led by media favorite Rex Ryan-who is directing a plethora of new players-along with the perennially contending Patriots, may seem like better teams than the Dolphins right now, but if Marshall can give the Miami offense the boost that most are expecting him to, this could be an interesting season in South Florida.
Round, Overall, Player
1. (28) Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State-College DT will move over to right defensive end as a pro.
3. (73) John Jerry, G, Ole Miss-Will battle for playing time on what is one of the top offensive lines in the league.
4. (119) A.J. Edds, LB, Iowa-Will play ILB and could be in on passing downs from Day One.
5. (145) Nolan Carroll, CB, Maryland-Needs to regain his burst after fracturing his leg during senior season.
7. (212) Chris McCoy, DE, Middle Tennessee-Situational pass rusher.
7. (252) Austin Spiller, LB, Ohio State-Likely special teams player.
Brandon Marshall, WR, (Broncos) If he can stay out of trouble, he could give the Dolphins the big-play threat they need.
Karlos Dansby, LB, (Cardinals) Pricey acquisition will be a major upgrade to the linebacker corps.
Ryan Grice-Mullen, WR, (CFL) Could return kicks for the Dolphins.
Joey Porter, LB, (Cardinals) Wanted out of Miami after a disappointing season and got his wish.
Gibril Wilson, S, (Bengals) Looks like the Raiders weren’t wrong to release him.
Ted Ginn, WR, (49ers) Never panned out as a No. 1 wideout.
WILL Brandon Marshall BE THE BIG-PLAY RECEIVER THE DOLPHINS NEED?
The Dolphins acquired Marshall to be the elite wide receiver they've been lacking of late. His multiple run-ins with the law and Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels were the only reason a talent like him was made available. The Dolphins certainly rolled the dice when they decided to trade for Marshall, but if he toes the line, and his hip issue doesn't linger, he can be the kind of receiver that can change the course of a game at any moment. More importantly, he will give the offense and quarterback Chad Henne an explosive receiver, who opposing defenses will have to account for. This should open up the middle for his fellow wideouts and allow more room for the team's running backs.
THE RETURN OF Ronnie Brown
Brown suffered a Lisfranc fracture last November and has been rehabbing the injury ever since. He still hasn't signed his contract tender but has very little choice other than to sign it and play for the Dolphins this season. Brown was also charged with a DWI this offseason, leading to speculation the Dolphins might try to trade him, but coming off an injury such as his, there were no interested parties. Bottom line, whether or not Brown is ready to participate in OTAs, he's expected to be ready for training camp, and with the Dolphins acquiring Brandon Marshall, there could be even more room for him to run this season.
CAN Randy Starks MAKE THE CONVERSION TO NOSE TACKLE?
The Dolphins run a 3-4 defense, and the most important player in that defense is the nose tackle. Jason Ferguson is usually the player counted on to plug that hole, but he's suspended for the first eight games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy and is coming off a season-ending injury to his quad. Rather than draft a nose tackle, the Dolphins decided to move Starks over. This is a huge gamble as the nose is responsible for taking up two blockers, allowing the linebackers room to make plays. If Starks is unable to man this position adeptly, the entire defense will suffer because of it.
WHAT TO DO WITH Pat White?
White was drafted in the second round in 2009 to provide the Dolphins with a quarterback who could thrive in the Wildcat offense. Problem was, he was inaccurate as a passer and his slight build made him a candidate for the injured list every time he ran with the ball. With Tyler Thigpen the backup to Henne, and the re-signing of Chad Pennington this offseason, White may find himself on the waiver wire if he isn't open to playing another position this summer.
Declining: Anthony Fasano took a step back for the Dolphins last season, and a TD spike may be hard to come by now, given Marshall’s red-zone presence.
Sleeper: Davone Bess should find running routes much easier with Marshall on board and all of the attention he will get.
Supersleeper: If the Dolphins can figure out how to use him, Pat White is a weapon who can do a little bit of everything.
Karlos Dansby, LB He was brought on board to be a tackle machine in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense.
Yeremiah Bell, S Had his issues at times last season but did make the Pro Bowl.
RotoWire Rank: 12