STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Dolphins finished the 2011 season 6-10, their third straight losing season, thus signaling the end of the Tony Sparano era and the beginning of the Joe Philbin regime. The 2011 season also marked the end of Chad Henne's stint at the controls of the offense, as he missed most of the season due to a shoulder injury, leaving the starting job in the hands of Matt Moore.
The Dolphins will spend the bulk of the 2012 offseason determining who will be their starting QB. Will it be Moore, who finished last season with 16 touchdown passes, nine interceptions and 2,497 yards passing in 13 games? Will it be David Garrard, the former Jaguars' starting QB, who missed last season due to back surgery? Or will they fast-track 2012 first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, who was obviously drafted to eventually become the starter? That said, since the Dolphins have little in the way of proven receivers to throw to – will it even matter who gets the nod?
Speaking of the team's receivers, the best of the previous bunch, Brandon Marshall, was shipped off to Chicago for a pair of draft picks. Despite his obvious talents, the Dolphins tired of his off-field antics and went the addition-by-subtraction route with the mercurial wideout. What makes matters even worse is that the Dolphins have no receivers currently on their roster who even come close to being able to match the production of Marshall. The Dolphins did draft a pair of wideouts, but they did so in the last two rounds of the draft, not exactly the best way to unearth blue chip prospects. Miami had better hope that Reggie Bush and his backfield mates can get the job done via the ground game, or this offense is going to bog down quite often.
The Dolphins seem to be destined not only to finish last in the AFC East, but also to lock up another top-10 draft pick in 2013. Now that they have identified Tannehill as the quarterback of their future – and that wasn't locked in until they missed out on both Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn this past offseason – it would behoove the Dolphins to surround him with some weapons. Tannehill is viewed as a signal-caller who isn't equipped to start in the NFL from the get-go, but when he is ready, it might be nice if he could do more than just hand the ball off to a running back. Meanwhile, the defense will have to play lights out to keep Miami competitive. They are capable of doing so at times, but this is not the 2000 Ravens we are talking about.
Ryan Tannehill, QB , Texas A&M (Round 1, 8th overall)
Not expected to start from the outset, but he could take over the starting job by mid-to-late October.
Michael Egnew, TE , Missouri (Round 3, 78th overall)
Could threaten the job of Anthony Fasano in time, but the converted receiver will need to polish his all-around game, especially his blocking, before that happens.
Lamar Miller, RB , Miami (Round 4, 97th overall)
Could replace Reggie Bush in 2013. The explosive back did suffer a knee injury that caused his stock to fall during the draft, but the Dolphins may have found their running back of the future.
David Garrard, QB (Jaguars)
Garrard missed all of last season after undergoing back surgery. At the very least, he's a good backup, but either way, he figures to challenge Matt Moore for the starting job in camp.
Legedu Naanee, WR (Panthers)
A decent depth addition who may actually carve out a significant role in 2012, given the Dolphins' fluid situation at wideout.
Chad Ochocinco, WR (Patriots)
Was a disappointment with the Patriots, but the mercurial talent could re-emerge as a fantasy factor in Miami in the wake of Brandon Marshall's departure.
Brandon Marshall, WR (Bears)
Despite the numbers, his pros were evidently outweighed by his cons in the eyes of the Dolphins.
Chad Henne, QB (Jaguars)
Scary as it sounds, he may have been their best option at quarterback this season, if he were still around.
WHEN WILL Ryan Tannehill TAKE OVER THE REINS?
Most draft pundits believe that Tannehill needs a full season on the sideline before he will be ready to QB an NFL team. Will the Dolphins have that kind of patience? Will their fan base? The Dolphins figure to be a bad team this season and if the losses start to pile up under Matt Moore or David Garrard, you know the team's fans and media will push for Tannehill to get a crack at the job. Tannehill's development should be Miami's priority, but this could prove to be difficult as Moore and Garrard will need as many snaps as possible during both minicamp and training camp. How new head coach Joe Philbin performs this juggling act will be a key element in his rookie season.
NO MATTER WHO THE QB IS, WHO WILL CATCH PASSES?
Say what you want about Brandon Marshall, he did catch 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns in 2011. Who is going to replace that? June pickup Chad Ochocinco is a huge wild card, Davone Bess seems to be at his best in the slot, converting third downs to first downs. Brian Hartline, who has never lived up to his hype as a deep threat, seems unlikely to do so now without a true threat on the other side. Free agent pickup Legedu Naanee didn't distinguish himself with either San Diego or Carolina, but opportunity knocks in Miami. The Dolphins had better hope that one or both of their late-round wideout picks (B.J. Cunningham or Rishard Matthews) pan out.
CAN THE RUNNING GAME CARRY THE OFFENSE?
The Dolphins have a defense that should be good enough to keep opposing offenses to around 20 points a game. The problem is their own offense doesn't seem to be capable of scoring at anywhere near that rate. We have already pointed out the team's passing problems. What about the running game? Reggie Bush had a career season last year. True, Bush was much better than expected, but the problem is, without Marshall being the focal point of opposing safeties, defenses are going to do all they can to stop Bush and force the Dolphins to beat them via the air. It's also fair to point out that Bush stayed remarkably healthy last season, something that he may have a hard time duplicating in 2012. Daniel Thomas looks to be in great shape and could give the Dolphins a nice one-two punch with Bush. Moreover, fourth-round draft pick Lamar Miller could be ready to take over the starting running back job as soon as 2013. The Dolphins look to be in good shape here, but unless their aerial attack can get on track, it won't matter, as teams will load up the box to stuff the run.
RISING: Someone has to catch the ball, so Brian Hartline could wind up as the top target for whoever is slinging the pigskin.
DECLINING: Daniel Thomas is already clearly behind Reggie Bush on the depth chart and now he has to worry about Lamar Miller too. He could end up being nothing more than a short-yardage or goal-line option this season.
SLEEPER: Things are wide open enough in terms of the WR pecking order, that it's conceivable that Legedu Naanee could wind up being the favorite target of either Moore or Garrard.
SUPERSLEEPER: B.J. Cunningham was drafted with an eye on the future. That future may be now, if Hartline and Naanee fail to seize the opportunity before them.
Karlos Dansby, LB
He's coming off a solid overall IDP season, but capable of
Kevin Burnett, LB
Once he got going he had a solid campaign and a full offseason with the Dolphins should only help.
Cameron Wake, DE
Defenses paid much more attention to Wake in 2011, which led to decreased production, but still the only true pass-rushing threat on the team.
RotoWire Rank: 19