32 Teams in 32 Days: Miami Dolphins
August 16, 2012INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
The Miami Dolphins finished in third place in the AFC East for third year in a row in 2011. A devastatingly slow start was the final straw and Tony Sparano paid for the team’s inability to deliver on promise and expectations with his job. With Matt Moore under center and under the guidance of interim head coach Todd Bowles, they finished strong at 2-1 to give hope that the good times could return to South Beach.
However, after an offseason that promised much in terms of big name signings but delivered precious few of them, the Dolphins are firmly under the radar. The new ownership came in with the apparent ambition of pushing Miami back into the limelight and the headlines. After striking out on the big signings to achieve that, the Dolphins are left with the slow burn of development, a process that could prove more fruitful.
The Dolphins’ one big-name signing of the offseason has been unceremoniously cut. Can they use their outsider tag to sneak up on the rest of the division? There is talent on this team, is this the year they put it together?
Five Reasons to be Confident
1) Bringing the Heat
This summer another sports franchise from Miami brought the Heat; they brought a championship as well. This fall the Dolphins will be hoping that their edge rush will be bringing the heat to opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks. Led by Cameron Wake they have the kingpin to make their pass rush one of the league’s best. Wake’s pass rush grade of +34.5 and his 81 total pressures were among the elite in the league last season. Wake’s role may change slightly in 2012, but he will get to rush with his hand down even more this season and should be a primary destructive force for the Dolphins. On his own he is a dangerous pass rush weapon, but he should create favorable pass rushing situations for whoever winds up emerging from training camp opposite him in base and sub-package defenses.
2) Long Road to Recovery
Whatever evidence you choose to look at, Jake Long played the 2011 season hurt and both he and the Dolphins suffered for it. Long’s individual performance was up and down while the Dolphins lost the stability they have come to expect in both the run and passing games on the left side of the line. Long was a non-factor as a run blocker for most of the season and his pass protection was inconsistent until the point that he was shut down after playing only 24 snaps from Week 14 through Week 16. That Long was able to put together a season with a cumulative grade of +4.4 proves his quality. If he can return anything close to his 2010 form–when, with a grade of +24.3, he was among the elite left tackles in the league–the Dolphins will be back on stable ground at left tackle.
3) Experience in the Middle of the Defense
Karlos Dansby may be climbing the wrong side of 30 now but his experience and consistency will continue to be invaluable for the Dolphins. In two years with Miami, Dansby has graded positively as a run defender, pass rusher, and coverage defender each season. After a slow start in 2011, earning a -6.4 overall grade prior to the Dolphins’ bye in Week 5, he ripped off eight games of +1.5 overall or better in the Dolphins’ final 12. The balance in his play that he brings, his wealth of experience entering his ninth NFL season and his undeniable quality will be crucial for the Dolphins to make a fast transition to their new defensive scheme under the tutelage of Kevin Coyle.