- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here is a look at whose stock is rising and falling in Miami:
1.Olivier Vernon, defensive end: Vernon has been arguably the biggest surprise for Miami this season. He began the season as an afterthought after the Dolphins drafted No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan this past April. But Vernon won the job in training camp and currently leads Miami with 10 sacks. He had 2.5 sacks against the Jets, and is playing his best football late in the season. Vernon’s production has kept Jordan on the bench all season.
2. Brian Hartline, wide receiver: Hartline is quietly on pace to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He consistently beat Jets cornerbacks to the tune of nine receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. He has a team-high 804 yards this season.
3. Offensive line: Miami’s much-maligned group had arguably its best game against New York’s rugged and talented defense. The Dolphins rushed for 125 yards against the NFL’s top run defense, and most importantly, Miami allowed one sack in 44 drop backs from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The healthy return of center Mike Pouncey made an impact.
1. Richie Incognito's chances of returning: The Dolphins have the biggest stretch of their season upcoming with a chance of making the playoffs. There is very little chance Miami would take a risk by bringing back the controversial offensive lineman. Backup guard Nate Garner is doing well, and the huge distraction of bringing Incognito back after his suspension would cause a media firestorm. Incognito is eligible to return to Miami on Dec. 16, but he’s most likely played his final down with the Dolphins.
2. Kickoff coverage: This is a small gripe in an otherwise solid performance from Miami. The Dolphins allowed Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie to gain 126 yards on four kickoff returns, which is an average of 31.5 yards. Cromartie’s longest return was for 41 yards. The Dolphins need to tighten up their kickoff coverage against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in what should be a much closer game.
3. Fourth-down offense: The Dolphins took the approach of being very aggressive in Sunday’s must-win game against the Jets. They went for it twice on fourth down in the first half and failed on both attempts. The biggest gaffe was at the 1-yard line where Miami went shotgun and threw a pass out of bounds to the side of the end zone. I like the aggressiveness, but the play-calling on fourth down needs to improve for Miami.
643dJames Walker and Rich Cimini