QB David Garrard, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR Legedu Naanee, DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman, OLB Gary Guyton, CB Richard Marshall, S Tyrell Johnson.
Early Draft Picks:
QB Ryan Tannehill, OT Jonathan Martin, DE Olivier Vernon, TE Michael Egnew, RB Lamar Miller, DE/OLB Josh Kaddu, WR B.J. Cunningham.
QB Chad Henne, FB Lex Hilliard, WR Brandon Marshall, G Vernon Carey, DE/DT Kendall Langford, DE/DT Phillip Merling, ILB Marvin Mitchell, CB Will Allen, SS Yeremiah Bell.
2012 Miami Dolphins Offense:
The Dolphins apparently didn't care what many detractors had to say about Ryan Tannehill - how he had a high bust rate; that he would be a major reach at No. 8; how he wouldn't be ready to play until 2013 - the front office's hands were tied. It had to obtain Tannehill, or the few fans it still had would have jumped ship and abandoned the team, just like everyone else did.
Tannehill has great upside and could emerge as a solid starter, but there's no doubt that he's a project. He can't be allowed to play this season; not with the dreadful supporting cast he has around him. And considering that he was struggling with pocket awareness in OTAs, he's definitely not going to see the field anytime soon despite the fans' pleas.
As for the present, it's never a good thing when a stagnant offense loses its best player by far, but that's exactly what happened when the Dolphins inexplicably dealt Brandon Marshall away to Chicago for a pair of third-round picks. That means the top receivers are now Chad Ochocinco (whose skills have eroded enough that he may not make the final roster, and if he does, he'll just poison the locker room), Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and a slew of youngsters, including 2011 fourth-rounder Clyde Gates (two receptions last year), sixth-round rookie B.J. Cunningham and seventh-round rookie Rishard Matthews. Fellow rookie Michael Egnew, chosen in the third round, will look to become the first recent Missouri tight end to succeed as a pro; Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker were highly regarded, but failed in the NFL.
Meanwhile, the running back group is better, but only by default. Reggie Bush was impressive last year, rushing for 1,086 yards on a 5.0 yards-per-carry average. That's unlikely to happen again, however, considering how brittle he is. The Dolphins will probably have to play without Bush for at least a quarter of the season, which will really limit their offense. When Bush goes down, the duo of second-year Daniel Thomas and rookie Lamar Miller will have to step up. Thomas looked very sluggish in relief of Bush last season.
Considering the state of his supporting cast, it's safe to say that the mediocre Matt Moore will struggle most weeks, just as he did in Carolina when he was starting until the Panthers' young quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, was ready. The Dolphins also brought in David Garrard, but he's unlikely to be any better after sitting out the entire 2011 campaign. Moore and Garrard have looked about even at OTAs.
The line is the best part of Miami's offense. Right tackle Marc Colombo was atrocious last year, surrendering nine sacks. The Dolphins had to find an upgrade for him, and they definitely did so by selecting Stanford's Jonathan Martin in the second round. Martin was once considered a top-10 prospect, but he fell because he struggled last year and then didn't look very good at the Combine. Still, he can't be worse than Colombo.
Of course, the key cog of the Dolphins' offensive front is left tackle Jake Long. The Pro Bowler surrendered five sacks last year, but only one after Week 3. Center Mike Pouncey, chosen No. 15 overall last April, had a solid rookie campaign after a rocky debut versus the Patriots. Left guard Richie Incognito would be good if he could cut down on the penalties (nine in 2011), while right guard John Jerry didn't play well at the position when he was a starter there in 2010.
2012 Miami Dolphins Defense:
The Dolphins seemed to take a while to decide whether they wanted to run a 4-3 or a 3-4. They've finally chosen the former scheme - a curious decision considering that the stop unit did a pretty decent job last year, ranking third versus the run (3.8 YPC), 14th in sacks (41) and 15th against the pass (7.2 YPA).
Don't expect similar numbers because the Dolphins lost two key members of their defense. Defensive lineman Kendall Langford was one of them. Langford, who signed with the Rams, was very effective in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. In fact, he was the team's best interior pass-rusher. Randy Starks also did a good job, but he'll have to take on more of a responsibility playing defensive tackle in the new 4-3. He'll be paired with quality run-stuffer Paul Soliai, who signed a 2-year, $12 million contract this offseason.
The ends in the new system will be Jared Odrick, a converted five-technique, and Cameron Wake, one of the two rush linebackers in the old 3-4. Wake, of course, is Miami's top defender; he managed 8.5 sacks last year, which is a misleading figure because the Dolphins hardly ever led and Wake was simply unlucky in some situations. Odrick is the big question mark. He wasn't a consistent pass-rusher and he struggled at containing the run. Third-round rookie Olivier Vernon could push for playing time.
The second key defender Miami lost was strong safety Yeremiah Bell. The veteran struggled in coverage and committed too many penalties last year (8), but was a key run-stopper and happened to be one of the leaders of the team. He'll be replaced by Chris Clemons, who didn't fare very well when he was asked to start back in 2010. Reshad Jones, who also isn't very good, will reprise his role as the starting free safety. This is an area Miami will desperately need to upgrade next offseason.
Miami's cornerback situation was only better by default last year. Vontae Davis is a quality starter, but Sean Smith was awful; he surrendered five touchdowns and was among the league leaders in missed tackles for corners. The Dolphins saw this as an obvious need and responded by signing Richard Marshall away from the Cardinals. Marshall was great last year, as opposing quarterbacks completed just 51.9 percent of their passes when targeting him. The Dolphins will be hoping that Marshall can pick up where he left off because they don't want to turn back to Smith again.
The three projected linebackers in the new 4-3 are Karlos Dansby, starting in the middle, flanked by Koa Misi and Kevin Burnett. Dansby was terrific last year in every facet. Misi will be a two-down run-defender on the strong side, while Burnett may be used in the same role if he struggles in coverage again, with former Patriot Gary Guyton being used on passing downs.
2012 Miami Dolphins Schedule and Intangibles:
Dan Carpenter hit 29-of-34 field goals in 2011 after whiffing on 11 attempts the year before. He's 6-of-12 from 50-plus the past two seasons.
Punter Brandon Fields had another terrific year, blasting kicks at a 48.8 average with 32-of-78 attempts placed inside the 20.
There were no touchdowns scored for or against the Dolphins on special teams, but Davone Bess (punts) and Clyde Gates (kickoffs) were able to outgain the opposition.
The Dolphins have several winnable non-divisional games: Raiders (home), Cardinals (road), Rams (home), Colts (road), Seahawks (home) and Jaguars (home).
2012 Miami Dolphins Analysis: As written last summer, the Dolphins have major issues that go beyond what should be a dreadful year. Owner Stephen Ross has transformed the franchise into a joke, surrounding himself with B-list celebrities in order to get more fans to his stadium, a tactic that is clearly failing. Jerks like Celebrity Man may disagree that this is having a negative impact, but it seems as though Ross is sacrificing football for entertainment, which is having disastrous repercussions.
This is going to be a very long season for Miami. The team's offense won't be able to score, while the defense won't be good enough to even carry the squad to six victories again. Unless Ryan Tannehill somehow gets onto the field early and establishes himself as South Beach's next great quarterback, it is highly probable that the Dolphins will be picking in the top five of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Goals Entering the 2012 NFL Draft: Just like no one wants to play for the Browns, NFL players are avoiding the Dolphins. The owner is not a football guy, while the general manager asks prospects if their mother is a whore. This Miami franchise is in complete disarray and needs help everywhere, particularly on offense. Improving the pass rush is also a must.
2012 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I think the Dolphins had a good draft. Whether anyone thinks Ryan Tannehill will be a bust is irrelevant; it's a move Miami had to make. This franchise couldn't go into the season with Matt Moore and David Garrard as the only legitimate starting options. The fans would have revolted, and no one would have shown up to the games. Not signing Drew Brees, passing on Matt Ryan, and drafting busts in Chad Henne and John Beck has forced the Dolphins into taking a chance on Tannehill. And who knows? Maybe he'll receive good enough coaching that he'll be able to play to his talent level and succeed.
Once the Dolphins obtained Tannehill, they had to find weapons for him. Jonathan Martin was a great value selection in the middle of the second round; he should be an instant upgrade over the beleaguered Marc Colombo at right tackle. Michael Egnew was a reach, but is probably the best pass-catching tight end on the roster. Lamar Miller wasn't really necessary, but Reggie Bush has been injury-prone in the past. He was an exceptional get in the fourth round.
The one issue I have with Miami's draft is that the front office waited way too long to address the receiver position. Who's the No. 1 wideout? Brian Hartline? Davone Bess? Clyde Gates? B.J. Cunningham? Tannehill probably shouldn't play this year because the wideout corps is really dismal.
On the bright side, the Dolphins defense countered the losses of Kendall Langford and Yeremiah Bell with a potentially upgraded pass rush, thanks to the Olivier Vernon and Josh Kaddu selections.
2012 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
8. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M: B+ Grade
Ryan Tannehill has tremendous upside, but he's a major bust risk. The Dolphins had to do this though. They needed someone to excite the fan base, and the fans wanted Tannehill. He shouldn't start this year, but he could lead the franchise in 2013 and beyond.
42. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford: A+ Grade
What is it with these AFC East teams landing incredible values on the offensive line in Round 2? Jonathan Martin was once considered a top-10 prospect before struggling in 2011. He's still a great value here, as he should have been selected in the 20s. Martin fills a huge need at right tackle, instantly upgrading the inept Marc Colombo.
72. Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami: B- Grade
Olivier Vernon is a slight reach, but the defensive end position is pretty thin this year beyond the second-round prospects. The Dolphins needed someone to rush the passer across from Cameron Wake.
78. Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri: C Grade
So much for the Dolphins not needing a tight end. I like that Miami found Ryan Tannehill a new intermediate weapon, but there were better tight end prospects available. Michael Egnew was considered by most to be a Round 4-5 prospect.
97. Lamar Miller, RB, Miami: B+ Grade
This doesn't fill a need whatsoever, but there's no denying the value Lamar Miller provides in the fourth round. He was once considered a first-round prospect, but he should have been selected in the 45-60 range.
155. Josh Kaddu, DE/OLB, Oregon: B+ Grade
The Dolphins apparently don't believe in wide receivers. This is a good pick though because Josh Kaddu provides nice value and will help bolster a lacking pass rush.
183. B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State: B Grade
B.J. Cunningham and Michael Egnew might have to catch 100 passes this year because the quarterbacks don't have anyone else to throw to. In all seriousness, I don't know why it took the Dolphins this long to land a wideout. Cunningham at least fits the range.
215. Kheeston Randall, DE/DT, Texas: A Grade
Kheeston Randall could have been chosen at the beginning of Day 3, so this is a great value pick. Randall also fills a need; the Dolphins lost some defensive linemen this offseason, so they were looking for depth.
227. Rishard Matthews, WR, Nevada: A Grade
Rishard Matthews is a really nice value pick in Round 7; one major big board had him slotted in the top 100. Matthews could end up playing right away considering how thin Miami is at wideout.
The Dolphins finished the 2011 season on a 6-3 run following an 0-7 start, but the fans aren't exactly overly optimistic. There are still questions about the quarterback position, while the search for a new head coach has been chaotic; I don't recall a front office ever dividing itself when attempting to hire someone. No one should be surprised though; owner Stephen Ross is more interested in the entertainment aspect of the NFL rather than the football part. Until he stops spending his efforts to attract B-list celebrities, it'll be hard to envision Miami maintaining consistent success.
Dolphins sign WR Chad Ochocinco
Jets sign SS Yeremiah Bell
Dolphins cut DE/DT Phillip Merling
Dolphins sign WR Legedu Naanee
Dolphins sign OLB Gary Guyton
Vikings sign ILB Marvin Mitchell
Dolphins sign SS Tyrell Johnson
Patriots sign CB Will Allen
Dolphins sign QB David Garrard
Dolphins cut SS Yeremiah Bell
Vikings sign FB Lex Hilliard
Rams sign DT Kendall Langford
Dolphins sign OT Artis Hicks
Dolphins sign DE/OLB Jamaal Westerman
Dolphins re-sign RB Steve Slaton
Dolphins sign CB Richard Marshall
Jaguars sign QB Chad Henne
Dolphins re-sign NT Paul Soliai
Bears acquire WR Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks
Dolphins re-sign OT Lydon Murtha
Quarterback: Matt Moore had a solid finish to his 2011 season, leading the Dolphins to 6-3 record since Week 9, with the three losses coming at Dallas on a short travel week, against the surging Eagles and at the Patriots, a game in which he held a 17-point lead. Moore looked good, compiling 13 touchdowns to just five interceptions during this stretch. Is he the long-term solution though? It's possible, but unless the front office loves Pat Devlin, I'm sure it will draft a quarterback in Rounds 2-4. Drafted Ryan Tannehill; signed David Garrard
Wide Receiver: The Dolphins dealt Brandon Marshall to the Bears. They'll need a new No. 1 wideout. Signed Chad Ochocinco and Legedu Naanee; drafted B.J. Cunningham
Right Tackle: How was Marc Colombo permitted to start for an entire season? He's a sieve in pass protection, allowing nine sacks and also opening no holes in the running game. The Dolphins will likely target Riley Reiff at No. 8 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Drafted Jonathan Martin; signed Artis Hicks
Defensive End: The Dolphins have only one player (Cameron Wake) who can consistently pressure the quarterback. There will be plenty of pass-rushing specialists available in Round 2 this April. Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram will be options at No. 8. Drafted Olivier Vernon
Nose Tackle: Paul Soliai is a really good run-stuffer, but he'll be hitting the market in March. He earned $12.5 million in 2011, so he'll be looking for a large contract. Re-signed Paul Soliai
Weakside Linebacker: The Dolphins will need a third linebacker to go along with Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby. Signed Gary Guyton
Two Safeties: Reshad Jones tends to get lost in coverage. He was just a fifth-round pick in 2010, after all. Miami's search for an upgrade could be futile because this is a terrible safety class. Yeremiah Bell, meanwhile, was released. Signed Tyrell Johnson
Right Guard: Vernon Carey played well this year in his new position, but he's a free agent. The Dolphins will want to re-sign him.
Cornerback Depth: Nickel Will Allen is a 34-year-old free agent who is coming off a down year. He'll need to be replaced. Signed Richard Marshall
Tight End: With Tony Sparano gone, it's likely that the Dolphins will search for a legitimate tight end. They've needed to upgrade Anthony Fasano for years. Drafted Michael Egnew
Defensive Tackle Depth: Kendall Langford is a free agent. Randy Starks will be entering his contract year. If Miami can't retain Langford, it'll need some help at this spot.
2012 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Richard Marshall, CB, Cardinals. Age: 27. Signed with Dolphins (3 years, $16 million; $6 million guaranteed)
Richard Marshall played pretty well at corner in the second half of the year. He was also effective in stepping in for an injured Kerry Rhodes at free safety.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars. Age: 34. Signed with Dolphins (1 year)
David Garrard is an old quarterback with back problems. He can be a good backup and a decent spot starter, but no team should count on him to be under center very much in 2012.
Gary Guyton, OLB, Patriots. Age: 26. -- Signed with Dolphins
Legedu Naanee, WR, Panthers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Dolphins (1 year)
Tyrell Johnson, S, Vikings. Age: 27. -- Signed with Dolphins
Jamaal Westerman (RFA), DE/OLB, Jets. Age: 27. -- Signed with Dolphins
Artis Hicks, OT, Browns. Age: 33. -- Signed with Dolphins (1 year, $2 million)
Chad Ochocinco, WR, Patriots. Age: 34. -- Signed with Dolphins
Miami Dolphins Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Paul Soliai, NT, Dolphins. Age: 28. Re-signed with Dolphins
At 6-4, 355 pounds, Paul Soliai is a monstrous, run-stuffing nose tackle. He made $12.3 million with the franchise tag this season.
Kendall Langford, DE/DT, Dolphins. Age: 26. Signed with Rams (4 years, $24 million; $12 million guaranteed)
Kendall Langford is a really good, young five-tech who excels in both stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback. He's a key piece of Miami's 3-4 stop unit who will have to be retained.
Vernon Carey, G, Dolphins. Age: 31.
There were some questions about Vernon Carey entering the 2011 campaign, but he held up pretty well at his new position. He gave up three sacks and was whistled for only one penalty all year.
Phillip Merling, DE/DT, Dolphins. Age: 27. Signed with Packers
Phillip Merling could barely do anything this year coming off an Achilles injury. Perhaps he can bounce back and finally live up to his potential next year.
Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins. Age: 27. Signed with Jaguars (2 years)
Chad Henne has some solid physical tools, but it appears as if he'll never have the mental aspect of football down. Still, I'd like to see what he could do with some really good coaching.
Will Allen, CB, Dolphins. Age: 34. -- Signed with Patriots (1 year)
Steve Slaton, RB, Dolphins. Age: 26. -- Re-signed with Dolphins (1 year)
Yeremiah Bell, SS, Dolphins. Age: 34. -- Signed with Jets (1 year, $1.4 million)
Marvin Mitchell, ILB, Dolphins. Age: 27. -- Signed with Vikings
Lex Hilliard (RFA), FB, Dolphins. Age: 28. -- Signed with Vikings
Divisional Rival History: Buffalo Bills: The Dolphins are 6-2 against the pathetic Bills since 2008. New England Patriots: The Patriots used to have trouble with the Dolphins, but they've won eight of the past 10 meetings. New York Jets: The Jets used to dominate this rivalry, but the Dolphins have claimed four of the past six matchups.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2012 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)