Monday, July 16, 2012
Pre-camp grades: Miami Dolphins
By James Walker
The AFC East blog continues its series on pre-training camp grades with the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins have a quarterback controversy. They have no dynamic receivers, and the right side of the offensive line is entirely new. Other than that, Miami's offense is fine. In all seriousness, I don't see how this offense will score a lot of points this year. The Dolphins want to run a precision-passing West Coast offense but doesn't have good enough personnel. Miami is counting on 34-year-old receiver Chad Ochocinco and teammates Brian Hartline and Davone Bess to constantly beat opposing defenses. The winner of the quarterback competition between David Garrard and Matt Moore also has to play well. The biggest asset is Miami's running game, led by Reggie Bush, who surpassed 1,000-yards rushing for the first time in his career in 2011. But defenses can stack the box and force Miami to pass.
Despite the fact I'm on record saying Miami's defense is somewhat overrated, I do like this group. The Dolphins were ranked No. 15 in total defense but often played like a top-10 group. I particularly like the front seven, which rarely lets anyone run against them. I have concerns about the pass defense and particularly the safeties. But the secondary has looked good in organized team activities and maybe the group is poised to make a jump.
It's hard to grade a rookie coaching staff. Most of this is all projection, but first-year head coach Joe Philbin appears to have the right mentality. Can he manage 53 different personalities for a full year? Can he manage the clock at the end of halves and the end of games? Can Philbin keep the team fighting through a losing streak? We will see. I do like the experienced assistants. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was a solid hire by Philbin. The same goes for veteran offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. That helps the final grade.
Miami has a good locker room. The Dolphins proved it last year when they held it together during an 0-7 start and finished by winning six of their last nine games. The trade for controversial receiver Brandon Marshall helps. Ochocinco replaces Marshall, but Ochocinco is just colorful and pretty harmless. The quarterbacks are not sniping at one another and so far have not divided the team.
The Dolphins are rebuilding and will not be a playoff team. There are too many holes. But Miami is strong in a few areas, and I think that will make this team a tough out on most weeks. I can see Miami losing a lot of 20-14 or 17-14 kind of games, where the offense won't be able to keep up with its defense. I think it's a long shot that Garrard or Moore or even rookie Ryan Tannehill light it up at quarterback in 2012. I would be surprised if Miami has a better record than 6-10 this season.