DRAFT PREVIEW – MIAMI DOLPHINS

A look at the Dolphins heading into the 2011 NFL Draft; Miami has the 15th pick in the first round.

REVIEW OF 2010

Record – 7-9, the season did not end well for the Dolphins. They were 6-5 in the middle of November but went 1-4 over the last five games, the only victory coming in an upset of the Jets 10-6 in the Meadowlands.

Finish – finished third in the AFC East, 7 games behind the division winning Patriots. They ended up four games behind the Jets in second place.

Playoffs – The last time the Dolphins were in the post-season was in 2008, when they followed a 1-15 season with an 11-5 division championship. Miami’s most recent victory in the playoffs was 2000, when they beat Indianapolis 23-17 in OT.

OVERVIEW

After the very big ’08 season when the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano took over a 1-15 team and won a division title at 11-5, the Dolphins have struggled, going 7-9 in back-to-back seasons.

The problems have come on offense and all lead back to an unsettled quarterback situation. Chad Pennington’s injuries, Chad Henne’s growing pains and a taste of Tyler Thigpen – nothing has really taken hold with the Dolphins offense.

From the start of their takeover in 2008, Parcells said he was really just a consultant. He’s supposedly gone now, no longer in the building or working for the franchise, although he remains but a phone call away from Ireland and Sparano.

PARTICULARS

Offense – averaged 323 yards per game, finishing at No. 21 among NFL offenses in yards gained. The Dolphins had just 25 offensive TDs, with 17 of those coming through the air. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing (200-734-5), with Ricky Williams just behind (159-673-2). That was pretty much the Miami running game. Brandon Marshall was the leading receiver in his first season with the Dolphins, catching 86 passes for 1,014 yards, but only 3 TDs. Davone Bess established himself as a solid No. 2 with 79 balls for 820 yards and 5 TD catches. Henne is the incumbent starter and he had 15 TDs vs. 19 INTs last season, while throwing for 3,301 yards and posting a 75.4 passer rating. Protection for Miami quarterbacks was average good, giving up 38 sacks or one every 15.6 pass plays.

Defense – gave up an average of 309.3 yards per game, ranking the Miami defense No. 6 in the league. They were seventh in fewest rushing yards allowed (100.1 yards per game) and eighth in fewest passing yards allowed (209.3 yards per game). Opposing offenses scored 30 TDs, with most of those coming through the air. The Dolphins defense forced 19 takeaways and had 39 sacks. Leading the team in interceptions was S Jason Allen with three. Former Chiefs DB Benny Sapp added two picks. OLB Cameron Wake led the team and was among the league leaders in sacks with 14.

Special teams – K Dan Carpenter was very busy all season, with 41 FG attempts. He missed 11 of those kicks, but all of those were outside the 40-yard line, including four beyond 50 yards. P Brandon Fields was blocked twice and averaged 46.2 yards per kick. The team’s net punting average was 37.8 yards. Rookie DB Noland Carroll handled kickoff returns and averaged 24.3 yards. Bess was the punt returner, with an 11.4-yard average. Dolphins coverage teams were not good, giving up a punt return TD and two kickoff return scores.

DECISION MAKERS

OK, so supposedly Parcells is out of the equation, leaving Ireland and Sparano in charge and making all the personnel decisions. These two guys have worked together for enough years that they should be able to settle any disagreements that might pop during the deliberation process. In the off-season, the Dolphins owner Stephen Ross almost fired Sparano. When his attempt to hire Jim Harbaugh failed, Ross was forced to keep Sparano, giving him an extension, more money and more power.

Who has the draft room juice? Ireland still holds the hammer, but this operates as collaboration now.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Running back. Both Brown and Williams are UFAs and the Dolphins say they are interested in bringing one or both back at the team’s price. The production from both of these backs is trending downward. Brown will be 31 and Williams 34 in the coming season. Some fresh young legs are needed.

2. Quarterback – Henne struggled last season in his 14 starts and has not yet shown anyone in south Florida the skill set to be the franchise QB. The better young QBs will be gone by the time the Dolphins draft so they will have to either move up or sit tight and try to grab the best of the second group.

3. Tight end. Starter Anthony Fasano has been a reliable performer since coming over from the Cowboys in 2008 trade. Last season, Fasano had 39 catches for 528 yards and 4 TDs. But Miami needs more out of the position and someone to challenge Fasano.

FIVE-YEAR DRAFT HISTORY

Ireland/Parcells took over the draft in 2008 and have turned in decent evaluations and selections. Compared to what was done in the 2006-07 drafts, they were outstanding. Five years ago, Nick Saban ran the Dolphins and his ’06 class was bad. The next year, it was GM Randy Mueller that made the picks and was marginally better.

Under Ireland, the Dolphins have added some good, young defensive players. Now, they need to do the same on the other side of the ball.

2006 – S Jason Allen was the first round pick, and all the way through the seventh round, this draft class provided little to the Dolphins.

2007 – The first four picks are still in the league, just playing for teams other than the Dolphins. Just 2 of the 10 players drafted that year are still in Miami and that includes P Brandon Fields.

2008 – Miami had the first selection of the Draft and grabbed OT Jake Long, who has lived up to the hype. Henne and DE Phillip Merling went in the second round, with DE Kendall Langford in the third. All four are or have been starters.

2009 – They missed badly on QB Pat White in the second round, and he’s now gone. But they did pick up three starters in the secondary – CBs Vontae Davis (1st) and Sean Smith (2nd) and S Chris Clemons (5th).

2010 – LB Koa Misi (2nd) and G John Jerry (3rd) were in the starting lineup at the end of the year, but first-rounder DE Jared Odrick was on the injured-reserve list. Six of the seven picks remain with the franchise.

PREDICTION

The 2011 draft class is short of talent at running back and tight end. But there’s no question the two best players at those positions are Alabama RB Mark Ingram and Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph. Without a contract worthy of pick No. 15, the will look elsewhere. Prediction – Mark Ingram.

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