Welcome to Scrawn Football's series of previews for the 2010 NFL season, one team at a time. Today's profile is on the Miami Dolphins, which I like to call, "A Porpoise Driven Life".
Almost immediately, I have to recuse myself (and yet, this is the first team I chose to profile). I'm a huge Dolphins fan. As visited and trite as this sounds, my Sundays have always revolved around football and a bunch of giants swathed in teal. Their performance dictated the mood of the household for entire weeks at a time. I saw Don Shula's body wither away until he coached from a golf cart. I saw Dan Marino scream at any teammate who couldn't keep up with his angry standards. I saw Jimmy Johnson draft mediocre running backs in a fruitless panning for the next Emmit Smith. I saw Jay Fiedler. I saw Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban ride Miami into the basement. I saw a lot of things, I guess, is what you can take away from this.
My experiences have taught me a few things about cheering for Miami, but they've never tempered expectations for Next Year. And this year is going to be a fucking fantastic one.
WHY THEY'RE GOOD
-Chad Henne isn't nearly as brittle as Chad Pennington, and he has a fantastic arm. On occasion last season, he had the opportunity to stretch it out and it looked great. Now that he's at the reins of the offense, the playbook will be more tailored to his strengths, which means more deep balls and less intermediate timing routes that Pennington used.
-Tony Sparano is a good coach. He's not afraid to try things in order to make schemes fit players (see: Wildcat offense). The players don't seem to have a problem with him and I'm sure he smells like cured meats and espresso.
-Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams is a solid backfield. The running game is usually at Brown's mercy, but when he's healthy he's a top-tier talent. Those health concerns are always at the forefront of the discussion, but his DUI has raised all the usual, "ARE YOU TAKING THIS SERIOUSLY?" questions. All I can say to that is that he's 28, and if I'm 28 and not getting boozed up just kill me now. Everybody likes to get a little saucy, and sometimes that leads to bad decisions. Get over it. If he's not ready, the team has had plenty of practice without him. Which leads me to Ricky Williams, who's an interesting backup. Interesting because his body hasn't absorbed the standard NFL punishment for his age and probably has a decent season left within his hot yoga-toned body. And there's always Lex Hilliard...oh, boy.
-Brandon Marshall isn't the burner the team really needs, but he's much, much, much, much, much, better than Ted Ginn has and will be. Sure, he has his troubles, but the man's a soldier. He went on Josh McDaniel's enemies list immediately in Denver, but still contributed. Now he might actually be happy. Consider the possibilities. I'll wait.
-Karlos Dansby is a beast. He'll shore up a middle linebacker spot that's been in flux since Zach Thomas stopped being so gritty.
WHY THEY'RE BAD
-The secondary is still a work in progress. It looks like Vontae Davis and Sean Smith have the corner spots, and they weren't always consistent last season. Yeremiah Bell is solid, but the other safety spot, vacated by Gibrill Wilson, is going to look like an Open Mic night.
-The defensive line is very, very, meh. Jason Ferguson is suspended. Randy Starks, whose nine sacks lead anyone else still on the team, is now playing nose tackle to cover for Fergie Ferg. Jared Odrick will probably get time at end, but how he'll perform is up for debate. Philip Merling is out for the season with injuries compounded by domestic strife. He hit his pregnant girlfriend. There, are you happy?
-Who is going to rush the passer? Besides Cam Wake, who is a stud on third downs but who has trouble with the run game, there's not a whole lot going on. Joey Porter and Jason Taylor are gone, which might actually be a good thing, but who's taking their place? Draft pick Koa Misi is in the mix, and so is Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses. Those choices don't inspire a lot of faith.
-Pat White is still an unknown commodity. He missed the first day of camp with personal issues and has apparently looked like shit the days he has been there. Tony Sparano insists he's a quarterback, and the WildPat formation had its flashes of brilliance, but White's still a question mark.
-The interior of the offensive line is still coming together. Joe Berger and Jake Grove are in a dogfight for center. Richie Incognito and Nate Garner are battling for right guard. Justin Smiley got dinged up last year which is a concern at left guard. Jake Long and Vernon Carey? You just keep on doing what you're doing. But seriously, RICHIE ICOGNITIO. NOOOOOOOOO
What sucks for the Dolphins is that they're stuck in a division with the Pats and Jets, which makes Miami the obvious choice for third in the division. The AFC East could send three teams to the playoffs, but more likely is that one of the three will explode before then. The Pats are aging in dog years, the Jets' fate hinges on Mark Sanchez (and Darrelle Revis' contract negotiations). I think Miami sneaks in between the two and finishes second in the East. And that's just because I don't want to seem like too much of a homer. Ah, screw it. FIRST PLACE.
HIT THE MUSIC
PREDICTED FINISH: 16-0, FIRST IN AFC EAST, POSSIBLE SUPER BOWL