The Miami Dolphins have finished their first eight games of the 2011 season and while they mathematically still hold out hope for a…oh who am I kidding, they are five games behind the 6th placed Steelers. It’s not happening and I’m sure they realize that as well. This team is playing for pride and they got a little bit back last week when they knocked the Kansas City Chiefs down a peg and kept the AFC West a free for all.
Despite the fact that the Dolphins are 1-7 and out of the playoffs for all intent and purpose there are both winners and losers in this first half of the season. Albeit more of the latter. With most Miami Dolphins fans turning towards the 2012 season and especially the NFL Draft in April, questions will come and go regarding who is worth keeping next year and who is playing out their days in a Dolphins uniform?
Sure some guys are under contract while other will not be but in this NFL nothing is guaranteed especially when you have an owner who doesn’t care if he takes a couple million hit to his wallet to buy out a player the next coach may not want. So yes, the Dolphins are not “winless” as they were at the quarter mark and the only thing that really makes fans happy at the moment is that the last game of the first half was a victory. Imagine if that win was in week 5?
So on to the winners and losers.
It’s much easier to start here since there are not that many of them. Regardless of the teams record these players have proven their worth to the franchises’ future.
Mike Pouncey – The first round draft pick has had one bad game in his short NFL career. Opposing players are taking note and some believe he will be better than his brother Maurkice in Pittsburgh. Who only made the Pro-Bowl his rookie season. Mike won’t make the Pro-Bowl because of the Dolphins record but Pro Football Focus already has him rated higher than his brother. It appears that Mike was a homerun for the Dolphins front office.
Brandon Fields – You know your team is not having a banner year when your Punter is on a list of winners for the first half of a review. Fields has been outstanding and has one of the best NFL averages ranking 6th overall in the NFL. His longest punt? 70 yards. Fields has bailed the Dolphins offense out consistently by putting the opposition back on their own side of the field. 17 of his 40 punts have been inside the 20.
Charles Clay – Another rookie who is starting to garner attention. Clay has been lights out the last three weeks seemingly catching anything and everything thrown his way. The Dolphins finally appear to be using their TE’s the way they should be, although that was just one game last weekend. Still, Clay is budding as a future playmaker on this team and someone who should continue to grow and get better. His versatility should make him a useful weapon of the next coaching staff.
Jimmy Wilson – Thrown to the wolves so to speak, Wilson is a thumper. He hasn’t made a ton of big plays, in fact he has made far more pass interference penalties and has given up critical touchdowns. But he is very raw and has a lot of upside. In a perfect world, Wilson would be learning the NFL from spot duty instead of being relied on consistently. He should get better. There is no denying his ability to hit and that shouldn’t change but he needs to get better with his coverage and that should come with more time.
Jared Odrick - You won’t find him leading any statistical categories but Odrick is having a solid season. After missing all of last year with an IR injury, Odrick is making up for the lost time. He is solid against the run and getting better at rushing the passer. He should continue to improve. One of the downfalls that Odrick is dealing with is the depth along the defensive line. Odrick plays better when he is on the field and getting into a rhythm but this season the coaches decisions to constantly rotate their starters doesn’t allow any player to get into that game state. Odrick should be around awhile and should get much better.
The list pretty much ends there.
Not a winner and not a loser:
Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas fall here. They really can’t be considered losers as their play has been solid if unspectacular which means they really don’t belong in the winners column either. They do however deserve to be mentioned. In the case of Reggie Bush his future in Miami is a question mark. Signed to a two year deal, next season will be his last in Miami unless the next regime finds better use of his talents as opposed to running up the middle. Bush can be explosive but he is also a bit inconsistent, due in a big part to the offensive line.
Daniel Thomas has shown brilliant flashes of talent…every other week. He simply can’t stay healthy right now and the Dolphins usually have him inactive literally every other week. It’s hard to judge his future here but he is in year one of his rookie deal and will benefit from the off-season conditioning that he missed last season. He should become a reliable running back in Miami.
You could put the rest of the team here without questioning it, and maybe I should. Let’s just say those that I don’t mention, don’t need to be mentioned because they haven’t stepped up to the plate.
Karlos Dansby – Maybe by the 3/4 mark this changes if he continues to play like he did this past Sunday. It was the first time since his arrival in Miami that he played like a leader and acted like one. But where was this charge of his for the first 7 weeks? In the NFL you are either a leader or you are not. Dansby is supposed to be a leader. Not for one game but for every game. Maybe he found his voice.
Jason Taylor – If this is JT’s last season in Miami then all I can say is thank God. JT has a one speed motor now that normally appears to be neutral. Gone are the days of double teams consistently and gone are the multiple sack games. He simply doesn’t have it anymore. His contract is up this year and unless the next coaching staff want him to be here simply to say that he is here, it’s time for JT to retire. JT has tried to lead this team but he doesn’t have the moxy on the field to carry the weight he once did. Fans may enjoy seeing good old number 99 back on the field but it’s not working and in fact is taking away playing time for youngsters who need the work…especially in a season that is spinning it’s wheels.
Vernon Carey – You can add Marc Columbo here as well. The right side of the Dolphins offensive line is putrid and while many are surprised by how horrible Columbo is, it’s Carey who’s move to RG was supposed to make it easier for him. He still doesn’t get it. The right side is a glaring issue to everyone who watches the NFL but it also stands to say just how good Mike Pouncey could be since he has no support from that side.
Vontae’ Davis – Whether you believe he was hungover at practice last week resulting in his benching for the Chiefs game doesn’t matter. Davis can’t get healthy and when he has been on the field his play has sucked. Where is the guy who stated that he and Sean Smith were the best CB’s in the NFL? If only. Davis needs to step it up. He has the talent but he lacks the confidence or the drive. Something. A knock on him out of college was that he was immature. Perhaps that is starting rear it’s head. We will see in the second half of the season what exactly Davis is.
Paul Soliai – 12 million dollar man? Not exactly. Solia may not even be in Miami next season and if he is you can bet that he won’t get the contract he was seeking this past off-season. He has his money but he surely hasn’t played up that salary. If the Dolphins move from the 34 to a 43 defense next season Soliai becomes expendable and the reality of free agency and his value should come to light pretty quickly. He simply has not been a 12 million dollar play maker this year and rarely have I seen him make consistent stops.
Phillip Merling – Merling has missed two games this season due to conduct issues. He should have been traded in the off-season, pre-season, or by the trade deadline. Perhaps it’s because of those issues and the lack of intensity on the field that a trade simply never materialized. I would be shocked if he were here next season.
Cameron Wake – Seriously? We thought the first quarter was bad but Wake still hasn’t got things going yet. Sure he has a few more sacks and a few more tackles but his presence on the field is nothing compared to what expectations are. Wake needs to improve considerably or he may find himself trade bate come April.
QB’s: I would love to put the QB’s here as losers but to be honest, I don’t think it would be completely fair. The biggest loss for the Dolphins was Chad Henne who was playing good football at the time of his injury. Matt Moore has spark and flair but he is what he is. A back-up QB. He had a great game plan last week designed for him but that likely won’t continue. The conundrum for the Dolphins next season is who will be their back-up and who will be their starter. Will they hand the team over to a rookie or sign a veteran capable of winning until the rook matures? More questions.
And with that, I will leave it alone for now. As I stated, I could have added almost everybody to this list, including the horrid safety play but in reality, we all know that needs major upgrades as Clemons and Reshad Jones are not the answers.