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Sunday September 7, 2008 8:54 am

NFL Preview: Miami Dolphins




Posted by Dennis Velasco Categories: NFL,

Ricky Williams gets to be the man again for the Miami Dolphins

MIAMI DOLPHINS
2007 RECORD: 1-15

Overview: The Dolphins were the epitome of bad last season as they only had a one-win campaign… the Baltimore Ravens should be embarrassed.  But, in any case, VP of football operations Bill Parcells hopes to turn things around for the Fins, but let’s be honest - it’s not that hard to improve a team that went 1-15, right?  Along with a new person in charge (Parcells), the Dolphins also have a new head coach in Tony Sparano and new general manager in Jeff Ireland.  And gone is the face of the defense, the tackling and sacking (don’t forget dancing) machine, Jason Taylor, who left via trade to the Washington Redskins.

Offense: At the quarterback position, there was some worry that, arguably, the most important position on the field was going to be manned by a youngster - either John Beck or even rookie Chad Henne.  However, thanks to Brett Favre being traded to the New York Jets, there was no room for Chad Pennington on the team, but there was a place for Pennington with Miami.  Sorry youngsters, but it’s Chad time.  Pennington should do well in what will be a mostly run-heavy offense as he doesn’t have the arm strength to go long, but definitely has the accuracy for short and mid-range passes.  Second-year wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr.  Ginn has a lot of speed and will need to utilize it after the catch.  Derek Hagan entering his third year, will be on the other side receiving and needs to become consistent in order to make a true impact and keep the heat off Ginn and the running game.  Ernest Wilford comes from the Jacksonville Jaguars and could emerge as a starter because of his size and experience.  However, it’s all going to be about the newly-named starter at running back, Ricky Williams.  Yes, THAT Ricky Williams.  After only playing one game in two seasons, Williams is ready to get back to where he was pre-going nuts.  The question is can he?  Williams will be 31 years old, but has done very well during preseason to prove he is ready to get down and be the main running back.  However, what happened to Ronnie Brown’s place on the team?  Thanks to injury last season, Brown’s excellent season was ruined, and apparently he didn’t do enough to pick up where he left off.  However, with more time for his injury to truly heal, Brown could become a factor later in the season OR if Williams can’t get it started early, maybe even sooner rather than later.  Also, keep an eye on first overall pick, LT Jake Long, who will start amid expectations to help turn the Dolphins’ woes around.

Defense: It’s going to be difficult to make up for the loss of Taylor, but the Dolphins are going to try.  They traded for Jason Ferguson to take over at the NT position before Taylor left and with those two by themselves on the D-line, hopes were raised that the D-line would be one of the best in the league.  But, it’s no longer.  Instead veteran Vonnie Holliday will man the right end position and rookie Kendall Langford on the left.  Langford will really need to step up his game, but no matter how much he does, unless it’s a Jason Taylor type effort, it may not matter much.  Keep an eye out for the other rookie end Phillip Merling who was actually drafted before Langford.  At the linebacker spots, there is no more Zach Thomas either.  Thomas was heart and passion of the D, but during the offseason, Thomas moved on to play with the Dallas Cowboys after being cut by the Fins.  On the inside, LB Channing Crowder has a lot of potential and Joey Porter brings an edge and experience to the position.  Matt Roth and Akin Ayodele will work on the outside.  In the secondary, Will Allen has solid one-on-one skills at CB and veteran Andre Goodman will start at the other CB position.  S Yeremiah Bell is coming back from a torn Achilles injury and Chris Crocker at the other safety slot.  There’s potential here, but nothing to throw a party for.

Rookies: Long will be scrutinized because he will be playing the most important position in my opinion, left tackle.  He will be expected to stop all comers that will try to get by Pennington’s blind side since Pennington is a righty.  The sooner he learns to block and adapt to NFL defenses, the sooner the Dolphins’ offense will get better.  Merling and Langford are expected to get some solid minutes at the defensive end position this season.  Henne will simply play backup to the backup in hopes he will learn the plays, get used to the NFL grind, and eventually compete with John Beck for the tag of future franchise QB. 

Prediction: It won’t be too hard to win more than one game for the Dolphins, especially since they did upgrade their talent level.  Pennington should be solid at QB for them and believe in the Ricky Renaissance!  Even though it isn’t by much, five wins seems right.

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