It's time to once again go "three up and three down" with the Miami Dolphins. This is our weekly offseason Thursday feature, where I'll simply ask a question about the Dolphins, give three positive answers and three negative answers of some sort, and then open up the floor to all of you for your thoughts.
This week, I want to touch on players who might break out and players who might take a step back.
THREE BREAKOUT PLAYERS IN 2009
1. Ted Ginn Jr - Yesterday I wrote an in-depth piece about Ted Ginn and what we hope to see from him in 2009. In a nut shell, this will be Teddy's 3rd season in the league and it's now time for him to step his game up and become a "go-to" receiver. He has the physical tools to do it. He just needed to catch up to the mental aspects of playing receiver in the NFL. Perhaps Ginn's learning disability has slowed Ted's development as an NFL receiver. And if that is the case, we shouldn't be at all concerned considering he's overcome that in school to post terrific grades as a student. Tony Sparano has also made it a point to talk about how much Ginn has improved this offseason, referring to Ginn as "dominant" at times in practice. Let's hope this translates to "dominance" in actual games.
2. Matt Roth - Roth will be entering his second season as a strongside outside linebacker for the Dolphins after converting from the defensive end position. He developed very well last year as the season progressed, becoming the Dolphins' top run-defending linebacker. And that was despite playing the year with an injured groin. But he's had that taken care of and feels fully healthy. He's also more confident entering year two as a linebacker and has veterans like Joey Porter and Jason Taylor to lean on for advice. While I don't think Roth's sack numbers will dramatically improve from the five he recorded last year (because he won't be asked to rush the passer as much this year), I think we'll see a better Roth in terms of coverage and there's no reason to expect anything but improvement as a run-stopper - something he was already effective at last year.
3. Channing Crowder - It's rare that a player who was drafted in the 3rd round of the draft but has already recorded two 100 tackle seasons in his first four years gets as scrutinized as Channing has been. But despite his solid play, Crowder hasn't produced many of those critical "game-changing" plays that fans want to see from their star inside linebacker. Through his first four years, Crowder has recorded just 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries. He also still has a tendency to run himself out of plays by taking bad angles - though that wasn't as much of a problem last year. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the one game Crowder missed in 2008, the Chiefs ran for 180 yards on just 21 carries and scored 31 points. In that game, Miami's inside linebackers combined for just 4 tackles. I'm looking for Crowder to have a very big 2009 season - making those plays that he historically hasn't made too often in the past.
THREE PLAYERS WHO MIGHT TAKE A STEP BACK IN 2009
1. Joey Porter - It's not common for a linebacker to have a career year at the age of 31. But that's exactly what Porter did in 2008 - setting a career high in sacks with 17.5. But Porter wore down as the season dragged on and he only picked up 1 sack and 4 tackles in the final 3 regular season games. With the return of Jason Taylor to Miami and the signing of Cameron Wake, Porter won't be asked to do as much as he had to last year. While I think Porter will be more effective in terms of efficiency in 2008, I don't think Joey will put up the kind of numbers he put up last season.
2. Greg Camarillo - This one is really a no-brainer. Camarillo was having a career year last season before going down with that torn ACL in November against the Pats. He was on pace for an 80 reception, 900 yard season. Though his rehab seems to be going as well as can be right now, I just think it's too much to ask for Greg to come back and instantly be his old self on the field in 2009. Ronnie Brown was good last year following his torn ACL - but was far from the player we saw in 2007 before his injury. I expect a similar step back from Camarillo in '09.
3. David Martin - In 2008, Martin quietly had a very solid season as Miami's #2 tight end. He posted a career high in receiving yards (450) and tied his career mark for touchdowns (3). But numbers don't tell the whole story for Martin's 2008 season. He made a number of big catches as the season wore on and looked like a completely different player than we saw in 2007. However, Martin has not been participating in OTAs while he recovers from a sports hernia. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are said to be high on Joey Haynos and spent a 5th round draft pick on Monmouth TE John Nalbone. Martin is also a free agent following the year (one of three free agent TEs the Dolphins will have). So I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Fins slowly fazed Martin out of the offense - especially of Haynos and Nalbone show that they can be solid compliments to starter Anthony Fasano.