With the recent signing of RB Larry Johnson, it has become more and more clear to me what the identity of this team is going to be. The HC and GM are sitting on the hot seat, relying on a QB who is in a make or break year, with a running back looking to be something he’s always dreamed about but never been. The 2011 version of the Miami Dolphins roster is filled with players with something to prove, on both offense and defense.
Just look at their roster, break it down, you will find a big commonality with a lot of the players, they all have something to prove this year. This motivation could prove to benefit the Miami Dolphins this season, but it’s not only the players that have something to prove, it’s also the coaches. Let’s break down those with something to prove on the offensive side of the ball.
Head Coach Tony Sparano clearly has to win this year. Anything short of a winning season and a playoff berth will likely have him fired at the end of the season if not before it. I like the guy and I hope he succeeds this season. His biggest challenge is to finally get the offensive line right. General Manager Jeff Ireland could also find himself in hot water should the Dolphins not live up to the expectations of owner Stephen Ross. I like the roster Ireland has put together, whether it was his picks or Parcells’ pics in the previous 3 years, this roster has some talent and I hope Ireland is around when it finally all comes together and wins.
New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll also has something to prove. Miami passed up some pretty big name coaches to go with Daboll, and he needs to prove why they did it. He seems to be a good game planer, his woeful Browns offense did manage to beat the Saints and Patriots last season, and they were competitive against the Jets as well, if the breaks would have went their way they would have beaten them. Hopefully he will be able to put together good game plans again this season, but with a much more talented offense.
Chad Henne, clearly in a make or break year. Not only that, he pretty much has the future of at least HC Tony Sparano and potentially GM Jeff Ireland in his hands. If he plays well, they all should be back next season, if he doesn’t and the team has another losing season, all of them will likely be gone next season. His backup Matt Moore also has something to prove this season. He has to prove he can make it in this league. He got a chance to start on a full time basis last season with the Carolina Panthers and didn’t do too well. Miami signed him to a two year deal worth more than what Henne will make this season, and they did it because they liked him from his days in Dallas. I think he has shown flashes during the past few years, but if he starts this season, it will likely be because the team hasn’t been winning.
At running back, you have a former Heisman winner who hasn’t lived up to all the hype. Reggie Bush is out to prove he can be and every down back, something he didn’t do in college, or in his time with the Saints. He is clearly motivated, stays after practice to get more reps in, and honestly looked pretty good in his first action this season. Recent free agent signee Larry Johnson has to prove he’s not done. He has played sparingly over the past two seasons, either because of his attitude and off field problems, or because of his ability. Either way, he definitely will have his work cut out for him over the next two preseason games if he has any hopes of being on this team once the season starts. If Miami can get 80% of the Johnson from 5 years ago, Johnson would be a steal. Second round pick Daniel Thomas has to prove he was worth Miami trading up in the second round to get him. So far he has been a moderate disappointment, but he is also a rookie who did not benefit from and OTA’s or minicamps. The pace of the NFL game is much faster than the college game, and right now he just hasn’t adjusted yet. Lex Hilliard is also out to prove he can play and play well at this level. He played pretty good two years ago when he filled in for the injured Ronnie Brown, but hasn’t had a carry in a real NFL game since that year.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has to prove he isn’t headed for a breakdown, and Henne has more to do with that than anyone. If he can keep Marshall happy, Marshall will produce. Brian Hartline has to prove he was worth keeping, instead of bringing in one of the top free agen WR’s that were available like Braylon Edwards or Sidney Rice. Rookie Clyde Gates has to prove his worth as the 4th round pick in this year’s draft. TE Anthony Fasano has to prove he was better than Zach Miller or Jeremy Shockey.
Along the O-Line, Pouncey must prove his worth as the Dolphins 1st round draft pick. Colombo has to prove bringing him in and moving Carey to guard was the right move. He also has to prove he is better than his performance last year, which quite frankly wasn’t good. Jake Long believe it or not also has something to prove, he just has to prove that he’s healthy.
In all, the offensive side of the ball is filled with guys that are motivated to prove something this year, which is going to be great for Miami, not matter how it turns out. It’s almost like these guys are all in a contract year, which in essence they are. If they fail and this regime gets fired, why in the world would the next GM and HC want to keep these guys? I’m really looking forward to watching how this all plays out, no matter what, next offseason will be filled with excitement, either from talking about how Miami is going to improve on their playoff season, or how the next regime plans to put a winner back in Miami.