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2012 Team Report: Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Ryan Tannehill [R]
Backup(s): Matt Moore, David Garrard, Pat Devlin

Starting QB: While Ryan Tannehill is a very raw rookie, there may be something to be said for handing him the job and tossing him into the shark infested waters to see what happens. Tannehill was aggressive in college which made for some uneven play, and has shown a similar tendency here in Miami. That tendency hurt him at times but also helped bring his team back from the brink more than once. In his favor is experience in the Pro Style offense and good pocket presence. He's also adept at getting away from pressure which is good given this offensive line will open him up to it frequently.

Backup QB: After a sub-par 2011, Matt Moore found himself in competition for his starting job, with Tannehill and former Jacksonville Jaguar David Garrard. Garrard ended up hurt, and will be relegated to third string for a while, so Moore get the number two spot by default. After a great year with the Carolina Panthers, Moore has struggled to regain his form and struggled last year until near the end of the season where he rebounded. This summer hasn't helped him and if it weren't for Garrard's injury, he might have been third or even worse, cut. Pat Devlin spent most of 2011 on the practice squad, but was promoted in December. He is a long shot to make the main roster unless Miami parts ways with Garrard.

Running Backs

Starter: Reggie Bush
Backup(s): Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller [R], Steve Slaton, Marcus Thigpen, Jonas Grey
Fullback(s): Charles Clay

Starting RB: Reggie Bush found new life in Miami, breaking the 1,000-yard barrier on the ground for the first time in his career while maintaining an impressive 5.0 yards per carry. He was, as happens every year, hurt and missed a game. While it was the final contest of the season, it is still discouraging that Bush can not seem to last a full 16-game schedule. Overall though, he held up very well and performed better than expected considering the lack of offense to support him. The last four games he played, Bush ripped off totals of 100, 103, 203, and 113 yards rushing. It seems as though Bush has turned a corner in his career, though a better second season by Daniel Thomas might eat into Bush's carries.

Backup RBs: Daniel Thomas struggled with a lack of offensive line, the transition to the pro game and injury in 2011, allowing for the reemergence of Bush's career. The Dolphins are hoping Thomas can elevate his game, fix his mistakes, and be more productive as the No. 2 running back on the roster. They obviously aren't betting the farm on it though and drafted Lamar Miller in the fourth round of this year's draft as insurance. Miller was clearly a best player available pick as Miami had other needs at the time. He was expected to go much higher in the draft, and the Dolphins simply couldn't pass up his talent. He'll be playing with a chip on his shoulder as the third back on the roster to start, but if Thomas starts slow again, Miller could move up to the second spot. Steve Slaton was signed as insurance, but he'll likely only see significant time if Bush goes down. Slaton has been hit or miss since his rookie season with Houston. While he has shown ability, he's also shown a tendency to disappear at times. Grey is merely a bench player who might have a shot at the practice squad.

Fullback: Clay is a converted tight end who is a decent blocker and can also catch the ball on occasion.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Brian Hartline, Davone Bess
Backups: Legedu Naanee, Davone Bess (PR), Brian Hartline (inj), Julius Pruitt, Marlon Moore, Chris Hogan, Jeff Fuller, Rishard Matthews

Starting WRs: With the trade of Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, Brian Hartline steps into the top spot and leaves the offense with no real true No. 1 wide receiver. Hartline has a nice mix of size and speed, but while he has nice upside, he is more of a No. 2 than an anchor. It isn't a stretch to think he'll struggle with the extra attention much the same way Jacksonville's Mike Thomas did in 2011. Davone Bess is a very good receiver for the underneath routes and has reliable hands and a solid build. He lacks the speed, however, to run away from defenders once the ball is in his hands. He may find some extra room with defenses focused on Hartline, but it won't make a big difference. Bess is what he is - a reliable and serviceable player who won't cost you a game but will rarely win you one either.

Backup WRs: With Chad Johnson cut, former San Diego Charger and Carolina Panther Legedu Naanee ends up in the third spot. Naanee is a big, strong wide receiver who might be a nice red zone target but never amounted to much for neither the Chargers nor Panthers. He can run those underneath routes like Bess, so if Bess has issues, Naanee can step in. The rest of the group is just bench depth, especially with the uncertain talent at quarterback. These receivers are okay at best. Nothing short of Peyton Manning will make them more than that, and he's obviously not suiting up for the Dolphins.

Tight Ends

Starters: Anthony Fasano
Backups: Jeron Mastrud, Michael Egnew [R], Will Yeatman

Since arriving in Miami, Anthony Fasano has been pretty consistent - between 50 and 60 targets resulting in between 30 and 40 catches for between 400 to 550 yards and usually around four or five touchdowns. He's not usually getting you more, he doesn't often get you less. We might see a bump up in production if rookie Ryan Tannehill steps into the starters spot, but more than likely we'll see the same numbers in 2012 that we see every year. Jeron Mastrud is a big target who hasn't been used much as anything other than a blocker. Michael Egnew was selected in the third round, another huge body who can work the slot if need be. Yeatman is a former lacrosse player who was around last season as an occasional blocker.

Place Kicker

Dan Carpenter : Entering camps for the third straight year, long snapper John Denney, punter Brandon Fields and kicker Dan Carpenter are the only players at their respective positions on the roster. All three had been signed to contract extensions in 2010. Carpenter comes off two consecutive busy years, in terms of field goal attempts. He hit 30 of 41 (73.2%) in 2010 and 29 of 34 (85.3%) in 2011. After a seven-year absence, the Dolphins ranked in the Top 10 in attempted kicking points the past two years, including ninth last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Clyde Gates, Lamar Miller [R], Steve Slaton

In the kickoff return game, rookie running back Lamar Miller will try to push wide receiver Clyde Gates for the job. Miller slid in the draft due to concerns about his lack of starting experience and ability to handle a complicated playbook, but that won't factor into special teams. The former Miami Hurricane has the kind of top-end speed that makes coaches want to get the ball into the player's hands.

Punt Returners: Davone Bess, Reggie Bush, Clyde Gates

The punt return job in Miami is one to keep an eye on. Wide receiver Davone Bess was given the job last year when coach Tony Sparano did not want to risk injury to running back Reggie Bush. With the change in coaching regime to Joe Philbin, the Dolphins have spoken of increasing Bush's role in the passing game but haven't indicated if that may carry over into a special teams role. Gates will also look to get into the mix here.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jake Long, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Artis Hicks, RT Jonathan Martin [R]
Key Backups: T Will Yeatman, G John Jerry, C Josh Samuda, G Nate Garner

PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Left tackle Jake Long is an absolute stud, multiple All-Pro left tackle. Long is a cornerstone player who will always get push in short yardage situations. If Long is on the field, the Dolphins offensive line will be competitive. Left guard Richie Incognito is a barroom brawler, who excels in toughness and personal fouls. Center Mike Pouncey is the identical twin brother of All-Pro Maurkice Pouncey. Although he isn't as accomplished as his brother yet, Pouncey is still very good and has untapped upside. (Side note, we might all live to be a hundred years old and not see another set of identical twins who play the same position but different draft classes.) Right guard John Jerry is a mauler in what scouts call the phone booth area. Second-round pick Jonathan Martin from Stanford is in competition with swing tackle Lydon Murtha for starting right tackle. Martin is projected to win the competition (although Murtha is also a talented player). Whoever wins should do a decent job on the right side (but keep an eye on the situation during preseason). Except for Martin, this offensive line was constructed to the specifications of former head coach Tony Sparano and is currently better at run blocking than pass blocking. That is likely to change, however, in the next few seasons, as new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman prefers a smarter, more agile type of player. In the near term, though, this line will likely be better at opening holes than protecting the passer. In that vein, Artis Hicks is a possible swing tackle. The Dolphins line is slightly above average compared to the rest of the league, but personnel might change drastically in upcoming years.

Team Defense

The Dolphins had a hard time getting out of their own way in 2011, allowing 249 yards per game through the air (good enough for eighth in the NFL), though they were better defending the rush -- finishing third against the run. Don't get too excited though, as only 10 teams were run on less frequently than the Dolphins. Why run when you can throw? The defense was good at generating pressure, however, and tied for 10th in sacks. The secondary is a solid group, led by Vontae Davis and Sean Smith while the front seven is able to generate pressure regularly. This is a defense which is greater than the sum of its parts -- no one player is fantastic - but together they can be formidable. It will be tough to continue a high level of play though, as the quarterback situation may keep the defense on the field too long.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Cameron Wake, DE Jared Odrick, DT Randy Starks, NT Paul Soliai
Backups: DE Olivier Vernon [R], DT Tony McDaniel, DT Kheeston Randall [R]

Starting DL: The Dolphins plan to move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front this year, which will necessitate some position changes for players. Cameron Wake has easily been the team's best pass rusher with 22.5 sacks over the past two years, but he might be a bit undersized to play a full-time defensive end role after lining up as an outside linebacker in the past. The Dolphins gave him a nice contract extension this offseason that included nearly $20 million guaranteed, so they obviously believe that he can continue to get to the quarterback. Jared Odrick is a former first-round pick who sat out his rookie year with a broken leg and quietly put up six sacks in 2011. If he continues to develop, the defensive scheme change could help make him a viable DE2. The interior of the line figures to be anchored by the athletic Randy Starks and the powerful Paul Soliali. Starks is a reliable veteran who is solid against the run and can collapse the pocket to generate some pass rush. Solilai is a big bodied nose tackle who draws double teams but doesn't always show up on the stat sheet. The Dolphins felt he was an important anchor up front and signed him to a two-year deal that pays him $8 million per season. It's a solid group that should do well against the run, but the pass rush might rely a bit too heavily on Wake.

Backup DL: The Dolphins lost some depth in free agency this year with the departures of Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford. To help offset those losses, the Dolphins selected Olivier Vernon out of Miami in the third round. While he didn't dominate in college, he could see time early on as a pass rush specialist opposite Wake (with Odrick likely moving inside on passing downs). Tony McDaniel is another veteran player who provides a steady presence up front but doesn't really stand out. Kheeston Randall was taken in the seventh round and may have a good opportunity to make the team, but he probably won't contribute much.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Koa Misi, MLB Karlos Dansby, OLB Kevin Burnett
Backups: ILB Austin Spitler, OLB Jason Trusnik

Starting LBs: The shift to a 4-3 front could likely means a bigger role for third-year pro Koa Misi. The former second-round pick was stuck behind better players in the past, but now he'll get a chance to emerge as a starter and could help make this group a strength. Karlos Dansby is one of the most versatile linebackers in the league, and the move to a 4-3 MLB could take his fantasy value to a whole new level. He is the type of player who can do everything well and should be able to make plays all over the field with a solid group of linemen protecting him up front. Kevin Burnett could see a slight dropoff in his tackle stats as he moves outside, but his cover skills should keep him on the field in all situations.

Backup LBs: The Patriots released veterans Gary Guyton and Jamaal Westerman on cutdown day. The only backup with any significant experience is Jason Trusnik, who has some starting experience from his time with the Jets. Austin Spitler is a 3rd year linebacker who filled in for Dansby at MLB during the preseason.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Reshad Jones, SS Chris Clemons, CB Richard Marshall, CB Sean Smith
Backups: CB Nolan Carroll, S Jimmy Wilson, S Tyrone Culver

Starting DBs: Perhaps the biggest question mark on the Dolphins defense surrounds the safety position. Pro Bowler Yeremiah Bell led the team in tackles for three straight years but was surprisingly cut loose in a cost-cutting move. The incumbent Reshad Jones did not show much at free safety last year, but he has some starting experience and is the favorite to start at one spot. Chris Clemons should be an early favorite for the other spot. He has shown flashes of being a quality starter in the past but also had some durability issues. With the move to a new front and defensive scheme, don't expect whoever winds up at strong safety to put up Bell-type numbers. There is, however, some opportunity here for a player to emerge as a quality fantasy option. The Dolphins traded their best corner in Vontae Davis to the Colts during the preseason. The starting corners in Miami now will provide a very interesting contrast. Sean Smith is 6'3" but doesn't always play physical or make the type of big plays you look for in a starting corner. Richard Marshall is about four inches shorter, but plays much bigger and is a proven tackler and playmaker.

Backup DBs: Nolan Carroll is entering his third year in the league and will be expected to handle nickel duties. Jimmy Wilson was moved to corner last year, but he is a darkhorse option to win one of the opening safety spots. Tyrone Culver is a steady vet with good size who has mostly played in dime packages over the past few years and could also be in the mix for a starting spot.

Last modified: 2012-09-03 12:09:17

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