31 Days, 31 Teams: Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins started 2009 0-3 and ended it 0-3. But in the middle the Dolphins showed playoff potential and after a successful offseason the Dolphins are ready to re-capture the AFC East.
There was one positive coming out of the three game skid to end 2009 and that was the play of quarterback Chad Henne. Henne took over as starter in Week 4 and pulled the Dolphins into striking distance of the divisional champion New England Patriots. Henne saved his best for late in the season with 300+ yard performances against New England, Tennessee and Houston. Though Henne's numbers overall were not impressive he gets a big lift with the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Despite being a volatile player on and off the field Marshall is talented and allows Davone Bess to slide over to the number two receiver spot. Miami had the fourth best rushing unit in 2009 as Ricky Williams racked up 1,121 yards and 11 scores and embraced the number one role after Ronnie Brown was lost with an injury. To be sure the Dolphins will need a full season out of Brown who missed seven games last year.
Miami's defense ran hot and cold in 2009 as it seemed like the Dolphins could not put four quarters of good defense together. In two memorable losses the Dolphins blew fourth quarter leads to Indianapolis and New Orleans. Then at the end of the season Miami gave up 17 points to Tennessee, 27 to Houston and 17 to Pittsburgh in the first half of each game. The Dolphins rallied but fell short in all three games. Recognizing the need for more playmakers in the front seven the Dolphins scored big time with the free agent signings of linebacker Karlos Dansby and end Charles Grant. In the draft Miami selected tackle Jared Odrick and linebacker Koa Misi. Miami registered only 21 takeaways and with a revamped front seven that number should increase. The secondary is anchored by Pro Bowl safety Yeremiah Bell who led the team with 114 tackles.
Just two years ago the Dolphins unleashed the Wildcat offense and surprised the NFL with a divisional title. After slipping in '09 the Dolphins are hoping a full year of Henne will be enough to guide them back to the playoffs. With Dansby and Bell the Dolphins should improve on a defense that gave up far more points than any other team in the AFC East. Despite last year's issues the Dolphins were in the playoff chase to the very end and improvement on both sides should mean another competitive year for Miami.