- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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We continue our series on players in the AFC East who have a lot to prove in 2012. Next we take a look at the Miami Dolphins' No. 1 receiver.
Brian Hartline, Dolphins
2011 stats: 35 receptions, 549 yards, one touchdown
What he must prove: Hartline, by default, must prove he is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Miami traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks this offseason. The Dolphins didn't take a receiver high in the draft or make any significant additions in free agency. That leaves Hartline trying to make the jump from a complementary receiver to a No. 1 threat. Hartline is sneaky athletic and is able to get behind a defense when he's not the primary focus. He played off Marshall well. But can Hartline be the guy when he's facing an opponent's No. 1 cornerback and possibly double teams week in and week out?
Walker's 2012 outlook: I'm not optimistic about this one. Hartline is a nice player and someone you want on your team. But asking him to be the first option in Miami's new West Coast offense is asking a lot. Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin says you don't need star receivers to run his system. But the weapons Philbin had in Green Bay (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, tight end Jermichael Finley) are not slouches. Hartline caught 31, 43 and 35 passes his first three seasons. Maybe those numbers go up some. But I would be surprised if Hartline suddenly explodes for 80 receptions and 1,200 yards -- the type of production Miami lost with Marshall.
4dField Yates and Rich Cimini