This year the Miami Dolphins did better than I had hoped. No, I didn’t put my expectations lower than 7-9. I actually expected the team to finish at .500. They did however play much better than I anticipated. The fact that they were in position to win several more games and theoretically have had a legit shot at the playoffs if they had tells me this team is much better than most expected.
While some players, like Reggie Bush and Cameron Wake played at a level consistent with pre-season expectations, one player stood out to me more often from Sunday to Sunday throughout the season than anyone else. This year, on defense, my surprise player is LB Koa Misi.
Misi was not the best statistical player on Miami’s defense. If you consider tackles as the barometer for a great season, hand that honor to Karlos Dansby who raked in 101 combined tackles. Still, when it came to calling out a player’s name for making an impact tackle, I found myself hailing Misi more than anyone else.
Misi played in only 14 games this season due to an injury and he logged in a combined tackle count of 65. He added two passes defensed and four of his tackles were for losses. Misi however never quit on a play. He was often seen chasing from the back-side angle opposite field. His coverage skills improved as well and while Misi has never been a QB rushing LB, he was consistently good in pass coverage defense. He did however post 3.5 sacks on the year.
Misi also was tied for the teams lead in forced fumbles with three. Sean Smith and Cameron Wake also had three. Throughout the season I couldn’t help but notice that while some players took steps back from last season, Misi got better and I believe that the changes will continue into next season where he won’t have the luxury of surprising me this time next season. I expect more from Misi moving forward. As a side note, my runner up was Reshad Jones and it could be argued that he deserves this more. However, my expectations for Misi were a bit lower than they were for Jones.
Offensively there is no single player more rewarding of a “surprise” product that Brian Hartline.
Forget about 1,000 yard season as a statistical bench mark. He did it with absolutely zero help from the number 2 position and instead competed only with Davone Bess most of the time for touches in the passing game. The fact that opposing corners couldn’t keep him down is a surprise in and of itself. Hartline not only proved he could be successful at this level he demonstrated the reason why he should be a re-signed free agent priority.
The knock on Hartline is his TD receptions but at least 4 passes were overthrown that had they been on the mark would have resulted in scores. To further marvel at the season that Hartline posted, consider that he missed all of the off-season with a surgical recovery and had very little practice time to nail down any timing with rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.
The relationship between the rookie QB and the veteran WR was astounding. There is still a lot of work to be done in that department but had you told me at seasons start that Brian Hartline would eclipse 1,000 yards with a rookie QB and a lack of number 1 WR I would have laughed. Color me surprised.