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Ok, there's no way that I'm going to be able to break down every team in time for the regular season, but I'll do the best that I can. Today, it's a look at the Dolphins.
Record last season: 11-5
Major departures: None
Major Additions: Jason Taylor
Free Agent signings: Jason Taylor, Eric Green
Last season, the Dolphins were coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history. A 1-15 record led to mass firings, and Bill Parcells was brought in to return the franchise to prominence. A new coach, a shiny new left tackle and a late blessing in the form of Chad Pennington helped to give the team a new attitude, and it didn't take long for that attitude to pay off. In week 3 against the Patriots, the Dolphins trotted out their own version of the 'Wildcat' offense and steamrolled the Patriots. The easy schedule for the season, combined with the strong play of Pennington, Long and Porter, helped the team to have a tremendous bounce back season, as the formerly pathetic Dolphins shocked the NFL by winning the AFC East.
The euphoria of the turnaround was short-lived, however, as the Ravens crushed them in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
Off season news:
It's been a relatively quiet offseason for the Dolphins. Jason Taylor is back in the fold, and he could be a major addition if he's healthy and able to terrorize quarterbacks as he did just a couple of seasons ago. Pennington is firmly in place as the team's starting quarterback. Pat White was drafted in the second round, however, leading to speculation that the Dolphins will implement even more aspects of the 'Wildcat' offense. Miami also spent a first round and second round pick on defensive backs in an attempt to find ways to cover the receiving corps of Buffalo and New England.
Last season was only the second time in his NFL career that Pennington managed to start all 16 games in a season. The Dolphins need him to stay healthy that way if they want to have any chance at all of competing in the division. Brown and Williams are back and still form an effective running back tandem. The highest drafted punt returner in NFL history, Ted Ginn, Jr., showed fleeting signs of becoming almost useful as an NFL receiver, and continued improvement by him would be a big help to the Dolphins offense. Unfortunately for the team, this year's schedule is much more difficult and teams around the league solved the problem of the Wildcat pretty quickly.
A team that was almost uncanny in its ability to avoid injuries is not likely to be that fortunate again. Combine the likely increase in injuries, the much more difficult schedule and the return of Tom F'in' Brady, and you've got a recipe for a pretty big step backwards. I could see this team winning as few as 5 games this season, as I can see losses against NE (*2), ATL, IND, SD, NO, CAR, NY Jets, TEN, HOU and PIT. I can see them winning as many as 9 if things break well for them. My personal guess is 6-7 wins.
P.S.: If anyone would like to breakdown other NFL teams, please feel free to do so. A major change in circumstances has insured that there's just no way for me to break down every team before the season starts. And remember, things can change between now and the end of training camp!
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If Taylor is healthy we might see some interesting drame between him and Joey Porter, I don't think Porter would appreciate Taylor stealing his thunder.
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We're talking about the same Jason Taylor who got cut by the Redskins right? The guy who wasn't good enough to stay on a team that has almost no pass rush?
Neither getting signed by or cut by the Redskins in the Dan Snyder era says much about a player. That Belichick wanted to sign him as at least a rotational passrusher potentially speaks volumes. He is 2 years removed from being the DPOY, but also a year past his oddly timed flirtation with off season dancing, he's recovered from a nearly career ending injury. We won't know 'til we know, though. The smart money says Synder made another mistake and BB and Tuna saw value once he did.
Sports Illustrated Power Rankings by Peter King Rank: 17 - "The difference between this year and last might just be the schedule. This one's a bruiser, starting with Atlanta on the road, Indy at home and San Diego on the road, and ending at Tennessee and home with Houston and Pittsburgh. Every one of those teams could win 10 games, and that's how the Fins have to start and end the season. I really like the Pat White second-round pick, but if Chad Pennington doesn't stay upright, playing Chad Henne with White in relief could be a major pothole.
NFL.com Power Rankings by Pat Kirwan Rank: 17 - "The Dolphins could be ranked higher if they stick with Chad Pennington this season. The addition of Jason Taylor helps the pass rush, and the selection of the two big corners in the draft (Vontae Davis and Sean Smith) help in a division that has Terrell Owens and Randy Moss. The added dimension of Pat White to the "Wildcat" package will win a game or two this year."
ESPN Power Rankings Rank: 15 - "An encore performance will be difficult, but under-the-radar moves made them better on defense and on the offensive line."
Rich Gosselin's NFL off-season rankings Rank: 15 - "The Dolphins introduced the Wildcat formation to the NFL in 2008 and take the next step with it in 2009 with the selection of West Virginia QB Pat White in the draft. Chad Pennington's arm, Ronnie Brown's legs and the pass rush of Joey Porter and Jason Taylor will keep defending AFC East champion Miami competitive in the division."
Walter Football post-draft Power Rankings Rank: 17 - "I stand by what I said in my last Miami write-up: The Dolphins have a solid squad, but I feel as though their ceiling will always be a first- or a second-round exit until they transition to Chad Henne. No defender is scared of Chad Pennington's girly arm. Just ask Ed Reed."
They also went more in depth to the Dolphins offseason giving them a B- on the draft and predicting a 3rd place 5-11 season. The site gives a decent summary on all the roster changes.
"2009 MiamiDolphins Analysis: The Dolphins were really lucky last year. Had Tom Brady stayed healthy, they wouldn't have made the playoffs. Had Brett Favre not self-destructed in the final few weeks, you could also make the case that Miami would have missed out on the postseason.
But the Dolphins did make the playoffs, which in turn exposed their weaknesses - the quarterback position and their pass rush. Chad Pennington doesn't have the arm strength to consistently beat tough defenses, while the two players asked to get to the opposing passers will be 32 and 35 during the 2009 campaign. Throw in a tougher schedule, and I can't see Miami getting back to the playoffs.
The record I have below for Miami is a worst-case scenario; the team is better than 5-11, but the schedule is packed with tough spots and fierce opponents. The Dolphins must avoid an 0-3 start.
Think that the Wildcat will be prepared for by all teams and less effective this year... what concerns me about them, is their running backs..
Yeah, I think Ronnie Brown will be a lot better this year than he was last year, being a full year after his knee surgery. Ricky Williams may be on the wrong side of 30 but he has a lot of tread left on the tires.
I'll be curious to see how they do with all the rookie defensive backs.
I think the Dolphins will take a step back this year. They weren't as good as their record was last year and teams that have big jumps like this typically take a step back the next year. I will say 7-9 wins.