The next team up on our Gridiron Blitz is the Miami Dolphins
Music to listen to: Conga by Gloria Estefan
I chose Gloria Estefan because she’s a part owner of the team. The other options were Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez and that wasn’t happening.
Current State: The Dolphins have an old-school approach to football that makes them unique in the modern game. While elite teams such as Minnesota, New Orleans and Indianapolis have embraced the passing game, Miami has used a solid offensive line and two potential 1,000 yard rushers to approach the game. Behind a solid defense and a ball control offense, Miami grinded its way to a 7-9 record last season.
Biggest Change: The Dolphins front office made the decision to bring in former disgruntled wide receiver from the Denver Broncos Brandon Marshall to bolster the offense. For a team that has made a habit of taking a low-key approach to its activities, taking on Marshall was a change of pace. He’s had run-ins both on and off the field, but the Dolphins are hoping a change of scenery and a new contract worth up to $45 million will calm him down.
An under-the-radar change was the signing of free agent inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, who will provide the defense with some stability as well.
Uniform Grade: I’ve always been a fan of the Dolphins colors but the orange jerseys have to go. Bright colors are not outside of the norm in South Beach but seeing those jerseys on a Sunday night are not acceptable. Grade: B-
Best Player: On paper its Marshall but my vote will go to left tackle Jake Long. Since the Dolphins rely so much on their two running backs, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, they need a thumper to run behind and Long has been that guy for the team the past few years.
Most Important Player: If the Dolphins hope to compete in the AFC East and maybe go further, Chad Henne has to continue to improve at the quarterback position. He’s 25, been in the league a few years and now has no excuses. The turnovers and overthrows that have plagued his career at this point have to be limited for Miami to make the playoffs. Plus, its nice to get a nice and shiny toy in Marshall but if you don’t have anyone to get him the ball, so that makes Henne the most important guy.
Best Case: Marshall provides some much needed balance on offense which improves the offense even more. The young secondary matures to match the solid front seven on defense. Ronnie Brown stays healthy and Ricky Williams continues to show some youth. They surprise some teams, win the AFC East and host a playoff game.
Worst Case: Despite finally making his money, Marshall is still in a state of discontent and has a negative affect on the team. Henne doesn’t make the necessary steps to improve and actually regresses. They get swept by New England and the New York Jets. Finish with a 6-10 record and miss the playoffs again.
Coaching: The head coach is Tony Sparano but the czar of the team is executive Bill Parcells. Through his approach as well as general manager Jeff Ireland, the Dolphins fit the bill of every one of Parcells former teams with maybe the exception of his squads with the Cowboys.
Sparano neither impresses or disappoints me. This will be a major year for is growth as a coach.
First Memory of team: While my favorite non-Giants quarterback growing up was John Elway, I always had respect for Dan Marino.
Even as a young fan, I felt bad for Marino and the lack of support that he had from the rest of the squad. It always seemed like the Dolphins would do well, look like they had some momentum but then lose to Buffalo in the playoffs. I remember them losing a conference title game at home to the Bills and realizing that the Dolphins would probably never win a championship.
When Don Shula finally left, Jimmy Johnson came in and gave them some moments but the loss in the playoffs to Jacksonville, Marino’s final game as a pro, was even more disheartening.
Finally, as a New Yorker, you’re raised to dislike two cities because its all about the celebrity, nice weather and lack of toughness. They were Los Angeles and Miami. We were taught to believe that people from those parts of the country were soft and lived a lifestyle that should be disliked. However, looking back on it, we were jealous of those people.
The lesson as always, move away from the northeast.
Schedule: They have to deal with New England, the New York Jets and Buffalo in the division.
As far as home games, they get Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit. All five of those contests are winnable games. The road slate is Minnesota, Green Bay, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Oakland. Those games are tougher but manageable.
The Dolphins first four games are at Buffalo, at Minnesota, hosting the Jets and New England before its bye week. If they can find a way to be 3-1 on that stretch, then some good things can start happening. However, a 1-3 start is equally possible.
City Nicknames: Since LeBron has decided to take his talents there, we’ll go with South Beach.
Fantasy Focus: I would be leery of taking anybody on this team. Be very careful with Marshall because he will either put up Pro Bowl numbers or serve as a very expensive decoy for the running game.
Overall Outlook: I’m actually optimistic about these guys because between the addition of Marshall, the improvements on defense and the schedule, I’m ready to declare these guys division championship material.
Final Record: 10-6
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