Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts: A Miami Dolphins Preseason Report

Roster Roundouts: A Miami Dolphins Preseason Report

Previous Roster Roundouts: Bills, Rams, Bengals, Chiefs, Saints, Jaguars, Packers, Raiders, Vikings, Browns, Buccaneers

flickr.com/DCvision2006

flickr.com/DCvision2006

If you can justify, without using the word “Wildcat”, exactly how an offense that averaged only 21 points per game is among the best offenses in the NFL, think I think you’ll understand what I’m getting at in this article.

For the first two weeks of the 2008 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins looked like a team that picked up where they had left off the year before.  After their week four bye, the Dolphins were one of the better teams in the NFL for most of the season.  But it’s that a formula of that one buzz word, and a certain divisional opponent in that transitional pre-bye week that dominates the story of the 2008 division champ Dolphins.

Then again, if you were only allowed to choose one game from the 2008 NFL season to show an unfamiliar party what they missed out on, you’d probably take the week three Dolphins-Patriots match-up at Foxborough for any number of reasons.  For one thing, the game was not expected to be competitive.  It wasn’t.  Understand that the Dolphins just lost by 3 TDs to the Cardinals in Arizona the week before.  The Patriots were 2-0.  It ended up being the strongest offensive, and defensive performance that the Dolphins would enjoy all season.  The Patriots, of all teams, appeared to be completely unprepared for the slaughter that occurred, and Matt Cassel was no one’s version of an NFL quarterback that day.

Essentially, the Dolphins were able to coast from that game, all the way to the next match-up with New England (a 48-28 shootout loss that was closer than the score suggested) before anyone bothered to revisit their validity as a playoff contender.  The loss snapped a 4 game winning streak, and dropped the Dolphins to 6-5.  Even one more loss in the final five games would have opened the door for New England to make the playoffs, but the Dolphins had maybe the softest 5-game stretch in NFL history to finish the season.

I’m not exaggerating.  They played the 2-14 Rams, the 7-9 Bills, the 7-9 49ers, the 2-14 Chiefs, and the 9-7 Jets, all at the high point of each team’s struggles.  Led by their offense, the Dolphins took care of business against their inferior competition, and made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.  The point man was really a simple solution: when the Jets released Chad Pennington, it made sense for the Dolphins to get him into their camp.  Pennington has health issues, but he’s one of the most effective quarterbacks of this era.  He was drafted by the staff that Bill Parcells built with the Jets.  But the Dolphins spent the last eight years throwing valuable second round picks at quarterback non-solutions such as A.J. Feeley, Daunte Culpepper, and John Beck.  Parcells has not hesitated to throw more second rounders at quarterbacks, but his depth chart now has Pennington, and two legit prospects in Chad Henne and Pat White.

Unfortunately, this is still much the same team that went 1-15 two years ago, and the playoff disaster against Baltimore was a harbringer of things to come.  In consecutive games last year, the Dolphins beat the Patriots and the Chargers, two of the AFC elites.  The only other victory they had over an 8+ game winner was the Week 17 playoff clincher against half a Brett Favre and the sleepwalking Jets.  The Cardinals, Patriots, Texans, and Ravens all thoroughly dominated the Dolphins at different points during the season, and when the Texans are listed on the list of toughest opponents on your schedule, it’s safe to say that it’s only going to get harder in the future.

The Dolphins defense has more horses this year than it did last year, but it’s still miles from where it needs to be when this team is a legit super bowl contender.  It’s one quality starter is Joey Porter, who led the AFC in sacks last season.  Jason Taylor returns to the Dolphins as a part time player to round out a very strong LB core, and the Dolphins like their defensive line depth, but their problems with the lack of a second impact player become more noticeable with the presence of a patchwork secondary.  The Dolphins addressed this via the draft, but did so with high ceiling players with bust potential in Illinois CB Vontae Davis (brother of Vernon) and Utah CB Sean Smith (no relation to either Steve).  Neither will replace Will Allen as the team’s No. 1 corner this year, and the signing of Eric Green from Arizona seems like a non-solution or a scheme fit at best.

Still, an offense with the mini triplets of Chad Pennington/Ronnie Brown/Ted Ginn combined with a potent offensive line means that the Dolphins’ chances are tied to their offensive unit for a second straight year.  There’s going to be some turnover regression–as good as Pennington is, he can’t sustain a 1.5% INT rate or a 4.8% sack rate (plus sacks that lead to fumbles).  But the offensive firepower to score enough points to balance out the turnovers is there.  They can average 26 or 27 PPG with this offensive group.

The Dolphins aren’t likely to make it back to the playoffs this year, but after a brief taste of the NFL playoffs, it’s the long term picture that should take center stage in 2009.

Dolphins Camp, Davie, FL

Head Coach Tony Sparano has a tendency to use training camp to decide more roster spots than maybe any other camp in the league.  There’s a starting spot or two up for grabs as well, but Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland are depth-first guys who will try to develop their future superstars through the draft.  Jake Long is only the most obvious example.

Wide Receiver: Brian Hartline vs. Brandon London

Hartline was a late round pick by the Fins, while London scratched and clawed to make the team last season.  The UMass product played on special teams and caught three balls last season.  The Fins don’t NEED another rookie (they drafted Patrick Turner out of USC in the third round), so this is a legitimate camp battle.

Tight End: John Nalbone vs. Joey Haynos vs. Ernest Wilford

John Nalbone out of Monmouth has been ultra impressive in camp, probably the star thus far, and is a heavy favorite to make the roster.  But that doesn’t mean that Haynos and Wilford are just waiting to be cut out there.  Wilford is a misfit at Tight End, and probably is running out of time to justify the contract the Dolphins gave him last year to solve their WR problems (which have since been solved), but Haynos is a guy that worked his way onto the field last year and did some good things in limited time.  Also had a critical fumble which could have cost the Dolphins the division.  Anyway, he’s the type of player that the Dolphins like to reward with a roster spot.  Plus, if Nalbone is that good, why stop at third string?  I smell a surprise cut.

Guard: Andy Alleman vs. Shawn Murphy

Murphy is listed as the No. 1 guy at RG right now, but starter Donald Thomas has been nursing an injury.  Alleman was picked up on waivers from New Orleans last year, and he’s a guy the coaching staff likes.  It’s possible that they could both make the team in backup roles, though last year’s injury-forced starter, Ike Ndukwe is working in at RT, and can play some guard still obviously.

Defensive End: Tony McDaniel vs. Lionel Dotson

The Dolphins threw a 7th rounder at the Jaguars in a trade this March for McDaniel, who they feel is a good scheme fit.  He should force Dotson off the roster, but this remains an undecided camp battle at the moment.

Outside Linebacker: Quentin Moses vs. Charlie Anderson vs. Eric Walden

Remember Moses as a third round “steal” by the Raiders in 2007?  The Raiders would cut him before the season in the first official spat between Lane Kiffin and Al Davis.  Charlie Anderson and Eric Walden are relative unknowns, but this is Moses’ third year as a professional and he’s done nothing of note, so his roster spot is not guarenteed.

Inside Linebacker: William Kershaw vs. J.D. Folsom

Two youthful special teamers with some developmental upside, there’s an interesting dynamic here since the contract of Akin Ayodele lends itself to becoming a backup before it expires.  So if someone impresses, they could end up starting for the Dolphins by December.

Cornerback: Nathan Jones vs. Jason Allen

Jason Allen was the controversial Nick Saban first round draft pick that Saban did not have to stick around to develop.  Consequently, he didn’t become the safety the ‘Fins wanted, so now he’s trying to make this team as a reserve cornerback.  The fins need corners, but Nathan Jones wasn’t bad last year, and so Allen is a likely cut.

Safety: Courtney Bryan vs. Chris Clemons

Special teams (gunner?) battle here.  Not much developmental upside from either player.

Kicker: Dan Carpenter vs. Connor Barth

Connor Barth was cut by the Chiefs, and he signed here less than a day later.  He’ll compete with Carpenter, who should hold his job.  Kicking in south Florida is one of the greatest jobs in the NFL.

Surprise Cuts?

  • RB Ricky Williams
  • TE David Martin
  • OL Ike Ndukwe
  • LB Akin Ayodele
  • CB Eric Green
Advertisements
Categories: NFL, Roster Roundouts Tags:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: