Well fans, the lengthy off-season is finally upon us (Just what we have all been waiting for…). Time to sit back, relax, and listen to injury and mini camp reports from your favorite television analysts. While we are all kicking back and relaxing, our favorite Miami Dolphins will be working long hours to be at their peak come September.
Miami has a plethora of talent in all three phases of the game (Yes, special teams does count). With a promising quarterback battle headlining the off-season for the Dolphins, watch out for the stable of running backs Miami also has. Don’t count out the battle for right tackle between Lydon Murtha and second round selection, Jonathan Martin. With all of the battles on the offensive side of the ball, Miami’s defense is still searching for a leader in the back end of the secondary. Will Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, or someone else step up? Who exactly will step up to be “the guy” playing opposite Cameron Wake?
Surely, it will be a very eventful off-season for the Miami Dolphins. So, with the Rookie Mini Camp wrapping up, here are Ten Bold Predictions for the Miami Dolphins upcoming 2012-2013 season!
1. Jeff Fuller and Rishard Matthews will make the 53 man roster, not BJ Cunningham.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the selection of Cunningham, but he needs a few years of coaching and fine tuning. Fuller seems like the most likely rookie to make the squad based on his size, route running ability, and his knowledge of the offense. Coming from Sherman’s Aggies, Fuller should be able to pick up the offense quickly and have an upper leg on other receivers. Honestly, I had never even heard of Rishard Matthews before Miami selected him. As soon as I took a gander on youtube, I was hooked. Not only is Matthews a precise route runner, but he has an uncanny knack of making the first guy miss and then breaking it for a big gain. Not only can he have an affect on offense, but he could also be in the mix for both return spots on special teams.
WR’s: Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Clyde Gates, Jeff Fuller, Rishard Matthews.
2. The Miami Dolphins will boast a top 5 rushing attack.
We all know what Reggie Bush did last season, but what we don’t know is if he can replicate that production. Listen, I know a thing or two about the offensive line, and adding Jonathan Martin to the mix is only going to make Miami’s running backs a lot better. Daniel Thomas needs to kick it into gear this season by holding onto the football and staying in football shape. Thomas will help keep Bush fresh, which will only make Miami’s offense more dynamic. Lamar Miller is going to push both Bush and Thomas for some playing time. In my mind, this competition is going to push the stable over the top. With the lightning quick speed of Miller and Bush added with the power and finesse style of Daniel Thomas, Miami should have no problem running the ball this season.
3. Ryan Tannehill will push David Garrard and Matt Moore for playing time, early in the season.
It seems like every analyst believes that Miami needs to throw Tannehill straight into the wolves, just because he was a top ten selection. Don’t read too much into that. Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman are very intelligent men, they will not risk the development of Miami’s franchise quarterback (If they want to keep their jobs). With reports swirling around that Miami’s offensive playbook is very similar to Texas A&M’s, which should be no surprise (sherman was their head coach for the past three seasons), Ryan Tannehill should have no problem picking up the new system. The only thing Tannehill will need to become comfortable with is his receivers and his offensive line.
4. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons will start at safety.
The biggest question mark of the season in my opinion is“Who will start at both safety positions for the Dolphins?” Reshad Jones is entering his third season in the league and seemingly had an average sophomore season last year. Jones does seem to be lost at times, but with Mike Nolan no longer in Miami, the pressure that was placed on safeties in his scheme, will no longer be as prominent in new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s scheme. That being said, Jones will have a role as a run stopping, ball hawking, free roaming safety who just simply needs to make plays (reminiscent of Jones’ Georgia Bulldog days). Chris Clemons is entering his fourth season as a Miami Dolphin. Clemons seemed to take a few steps back last season playing primarily on special teams, due to a lingering injury. Although Clemons has desirable speed for the position, he has tackling issues and seems to catch tackles, rather than attack on-coming ball carriers. Clemons should have beaten Jones last year for the free safety position, opposite former Miami Dolphin Yeremiah Bell, but the aforementioned injury caused Clemons to miss significant time. Don’t sleep on Jimmy Wilson, who impressed coaches last season at safety until the coaching staff, for some reason, moved the rookie to corner. Wilson could be and should be, a dark horse candidate in the safety competition.
5. Miami’s front 7 will be scary on rushing downs.
With the resigning of NT Paul Soliai, along with the move to a hybrid 4-3 defense, Miami’s run defense should pick up right where it left off last season (3rd overall). Although some are puzzled by Soliai’s return, I am definitely not. Soliai is a very versatile player who can play in any scheme at the nose position or at the tackle position. With a defensive line of RE Jared Odrick, DT Randy Starks, DT Paul Soliai, LE Cameron Wake, Miami should have no trouble stuffing opposing rushing attacks. That defensive line makes my mouth salivate like a nice tender rack of ribs would. Just the thought of these guys attacking opposing offenses is intriguing. What could make it any better? Our linebackers. OLB Koa Misi is entering his third season with the Miami Dolphins. Miami’s coaching staff is hoping that the promising linebacker they saw during his rookie year, will finally break out and provide Miami with a top ten linebacking corp. Karlos Dansby will man the middle, any surprise? Dansby described himself as the best linebacker in the NFL last season after a disappointing start to the season, but he definitely played like one of the top backers in the league towards the end of the season. And finally, Kevin Burnett will be manning the other outside spot in Miami’s 4-3 scheme. Burnett put together quite a nice stat line last season playing next to Dansby in the middle of Nolan’s 3-4 hybrid. Expect Burnett and Dansby to fly around like mad men this season and rack up tackles (and heads).
6. Clyde Gates will be the deep threat Miami has been needing for years.
It seems as though almost every Dolphins fan I talk to is worried about the situation at receiver. Although Miami really does not possess an “Alpha” number one target, Miami has a nice group of under-rated wide receivers. But where is the speed? Brian Hartline has the best field awareness on the team, and some of the best route running ability. The only knack on Miami’s new number one guy is, he lacks the speed to be a top guy. What about Davone Bess? He has the best hands on the team and is one of the top slot receivers in the NFL. Again, the only knack on Bess is his lack of elite speed. The solution to Miami’s need for speed, Clyde Gates. Gates was left sitting in the number four position last season, while developing and fine tuning his game during his rookie season. When Gates was on the field, I can remember a few instances where he was sent on a go route, but Miami’s Quarterbacks (Both Moore and Henne) could not hit him in stride. If Gates was thrown a remotely “perfect” ball, he would have scored. With a full off-season this year, Gates may move up the depth chart into Miami’s number two or even number one spot to be the top dog. Nobody will benefit more than Gates from having a full off-season, instead of a lock-out shortened one.
7. Jared Odrick will start opposite Cameron Wake on first and second downs.
Odrick’s second year was technically his rookie season, after being forced to sit out his rookie year with a broken leg. He did not disappoint. Odrick broke out last year proving to be Miami’s best defensive end in Nolan’s 3-4 defense. With Coyle’s new 4-3 scheme, I expect Odrick to start at defensive end on rushing downs, and move to defensive tackle subbing in for Paul Soliai on passing downs. It will be a true test for opposing offensive lines to block three big guys and a speed bull rusher in Wake, on rushing downs. As I mentioned before, this defensive line could be scary good. It may be even better on passing downs with the potential of third round selection out of Miami, Olivier Vernon, subbing in at defensive end. With Vernon, Odrick, Starks and Wake coming hard, opposing quarterbacks may have a hard time sleeping at night.
8. Jake Long, Jonathan Marin and Mike Pouncey will all make the pro bowl.
We all know Jake Long is one of the best, if not the best, Left Tackles in the NFL. Long will finally be healthy this season after recovering from a shoulder injury the past two seasons. Seeing Jake in the AFC Red is not a surprise to any of us. Pouncey, hopefully, will pick up where he left off last season as one of the best young centers in the NFL. Although Mike had a few bad games snapping the ball, we all remember the Dallas game, he worked his tail off during the shortened off-season and earned the starting center position over Ryan Cook. Pouncey should be stronger this season, not only physically but at the point of attack. Miami’s second round selection from Stanford, Jonathan Martin, should beat Lydon Murtha for the Right Tackle position and give Miami two bookend tackles. Martin has all of the potential in the world, but lacks elite strength similar to Pouncey during his rookie season. Even so, I see Martin being selected to the Pro Bowl based upon his pass protecting ability. This kid will prove to be the real deal right away.
9. Brandon Fields will solidify himself as the best punter in the AFC.
A season after disappointing fans, Brandon Fields put together quite an impressive stat line by posting career highs in punts (78), yards (3,810), net yards (3,207), average (48.8) and net average (41.1). Fields came in amongst the top five in the league in most categories, while also boasting a long of 70 yards. Ever since Fields’ tenure with Miami began, he has been the staple of Miami’s special teams, and quite possibly an MVP for the team. If Miami’s offense stalls at their own twenty, Fields provides the leg to practically flip the ball position to the opposing teams twenty. Yes, I know Shane Lechler is in the AFC and practically has to boot the ball sixty times a game. But Fields and Lechler posted almost identical numbers last season (Lechler – 78 punts, 3,960 yards, 3,187 net yards, 50.8 average, 40.9 net average, long of 80 yards – WOW). With a young powerful leg, I fully expect Fields to overtake Lechler as the best punter in the AFC.
10. Miami’s rookies will make an impact early, and often!
Note: I do not expect BJ Cunningham to make the active roster.
Miami had a very strong draft in my opinion, filling needs left and right. Ryan Tannehill may not start out right (May not even play this season at all), but I expect this kid to help receivers learn how to run precise routes and teach the young players the playbook. Jonathan Martin WILL win the Right Tackle job and will start every game this season. This kid has the potential to develop into the best Right Tackle in the NFL. Olivier Vernon should be used primarily on passing downs, but he should be able to rack up five sacks in a situational role (Aldon Smith didn’t start a single game last year and racked up 14 sacks). His ceiling is very, very high. Michael Egnew will be a huge addition for the red zone offense, providing quarterbacks a big and fast target. 30 receptions for 400+ yards and 5 touchdowns does not seem out of the question at all. Lamar Miller could be the key to this offense. Utilizing this kids speed will bring a new dimension Miami has not had in years. Not to mention, he should be utilized on special teams as the kick returner and punt returner. Josh Kaddu is an athletic, tight end covering linebacker, who could end up playing some dime linebacker if need be towards the end of the season. He seems more likely for a special teams spot at the moment, where he could develop into a special teams ace down the road. Kaddu seems to be a back up plan if Misi does not end up panning out. If Misi does live up to his potential, Kaddu seems to be a logical fit to replace Burnett down the road once his contract expires. Kheeston Randall should beat out Ryan Baker and Isaako Aaitui for a roster spot. If not this year, than next year. Randall is a big guy who can move. He reminds me of a young Starks and could help contribute if the starters need a rest or in Miami’s goal line set. Rishard Matthews should end up making the team by beating out Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, Julius Pruitt, and BJ Cunningham for the fourth receiver spot. This kid has a ceiling reminiscent of former Miami Dolphin, Chris Chambers. He has under-rated speed, fairly exceptional hands, and an uncanny knack to break the first tackle and take it the distance. This years draft class should be able to contribute either on offense, defense or special teams right away.
Before the draft, Miami fans were not too excited about the upcoming season. Now, Miami fans should be excited. The Dolphins are loaded with young talent and should become a dark horse in the AFC East for years to come. Be excited Miami Dolphins fans!!!!
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