There is no arguing that this was a good unit last year. But from what I can see now, they are even more cohesive and better. Besides the specifics that I noted above, just take a look at the present Linebacking Corps. Crowder is gone and replaced with Burns. Jason Taylor still has gas in the tank and the team had enough class and confidence in him that they brought him back: even his locker room presence helps the younger players. No doubt about it, Jason Taylor is more than a “fan favorite” but he is a leader for this team that he personally cares about and has made his home over a term of 15 seasons now.
The Offensive Unit was the part of this team that was holding it back last season. Some of the games last season, such as the December game against Cleveland, were hallmarks for an Offense that was slow, stuck and non-productive. And this Offensive Unit is a different animal. You can expect that there will be some mistakes – fumbles, interceptions, penalties. But you can expect that there will also be movement, excitement and points scored. This Offense is attacking. And that alone would have given them at least 2 additional wins last season (I think more likely about 4: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and either Chicago or Detroit).
That’s Reason #2: The Offense is no longer stodgy and predictable.
And with the receiver corps now sporting something more than Greg Camarillo as a main weapon and one of the best possession receivers in the NFL in Davonne Bess coming into his own fully as an NFL starter, together with numerous other weapons down to even prospects such as Edmund Gates (blows past defensive secondaries with speed) and Marlon Moore (may actually have trouble making the team despite looking very good during camp and preseason games, not to mention some skills on Special Teams) you’ve got something. And did I mention that Reggie Bush may actually work out very well as the main point of the rushing attack?
Weaknesses here are at TE (don’t know if Anthony Fasano will catch or drop on any given play) and so far, the O-line (but looking forward to the return of Jake Long like a star-crossed teenager). I think we can agree that if the O-line can hold together then this unit will move up from #30 in production to at least somewhere about #15 or so – and even possibly higher.
The Special Teams Unit basically had problems all of last season in one way or another. And firing John Bonamego was needed but did not solve all of the problems. But the first New England game would certainly have been closer and possibly winnable without the errors and poor play on that unit. Right now that unit is still not among the league’s best for sure, but nevertheless it is capable of keeping the team in the game and advancing it’s field position. Reference the punt unit pushing back with an average of 50-some yards on each punt during the Tampa Bay game. That is an incredible statistic and equalized some other negatives such as key penalties against the Dolphins. When you have a solid Special Teams Unit, you start-off in better position with every series on Offense and Defense.
Reason #3: The Improved Special Teams Play
All in all, the coaches and players are more confident and are playing better. Yes, it’s a bit shaky. But definitely the right direction here.
And of course there is the unmentioned, BIG change which is like night and day compared to last season: Chad Henne looks like a QB finally. So I think we will be enjoying this season after-all. Now if we can get the blackout situation under control with enough ticket sales and a real home-team advantage, I’d say this can be a playoff-bound team!
But if, after reading this and looking-over the team yourself you are still feeling doubtful about it, then take a look at the speech given by Tony Sparano at the team’s 2011 Kickoff Luncheon here (courtesy The Miami Herald) <a title="Tony Sparano Speech" href="” target=”_blank”>Tony Sparano Speech.
I guarantee you’ll see quite a speech from a coach that is confident and feeling ready for the season to begin.
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Topics: Anthony Fasano, Buffalo Bills, Burns, Chad Henne, Channing Crowder, Chicago, Cleveland, Davonne Bess, Detroit, Edmund Gates, Greg Camarillo, Jake Long, Jared Odrick, Jason Taylor, Jeff Ireland, John Bonamego, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, Sean Smith, Stephen Ross, Tampa Bay, Tony Sparano, Vontae Davis, Will Allen