2010 has been a disappointment overall. Anyone care to argue that point? I didn't think so. We came into this season expecting so much. Many of us were talking playoff run and some even thought Super Bowl. After all, we had so many reasons to expect big improvements from last season. We had Chad Henne playing his first full season as the starter, Brandon Marshall being our new bona fide #1 WR, a new Defensive coordinator that would be leaps and bounds ahead of last season, a defensive draft class that leant a new look (Talent-wise) to our aging D, a full year of Cam Wake on the docket, expected growth from our QB-WR relationships, both Ronnie and Ricky healthy, and some of the best o-line depth this franchise had ever seen. How did it all go so wrong?
The defensive parts turned out real good. The offensive? Not so much. Nolan's Dolphins are light years better than Pasqualoni's. Our defense has improved from 2009 as expected. In 2009, the Dolphins defense was giving up 48.5 more yards per game (15.1 Rush & 33.3 Pass) and was giving up nearly 5 more points/game. Our defense has gone from the 22nd ranked to the 4th ranked (1/2 yard/gm behind Chicago) and has given up only 6 more points all year than the #6 defense (Jets) good for #10. We have gone from a 20-25th ranked defense to a top 10 defense within the span of a season. Okay, maybe not accross the board. We are currently well short of last seasons sack total 44 (On pace for 38 this year) which is surprising but we are on pace to just about break even on turnovers which is quite a feat considering how many we have dropped this year. Cameron Wake has been everything we could have hoped for an more (He plays the run quite well too for those that hadn't noticed) but he alone cannot make up for dropoffs elsewhere. Wake and Misi have combined for 15.5 sacks and are #1 and #2 on the team. In 2009, JT and Porter combined for 16 so we are better off this season. The difference has been that Randy Starks has gone from 7 sacks in 2009 to just 2 in 2010. Nonetheless, it should be noted that we are on pace for 38 sacks this season and we had 44 last season while JT, Porter, and Wake were putting sacks into the books. Wake actually had 5.5 last year which if added to this year's projected total, would put us 1 sack away from 2009 (Just to point out, Big Mouth Crowder had 1 sack last year and none in 2010). Simply put, the defense isn't the problem and probably will get limited attention from the fron office in the offseason (Benny Sapp must be replaced).
RUN GAME (R&R and the O-Line)
Ronnie and Ricky are both still healthy so we can't blame them for the dropoff in the running game. We are averaging 33 yards per game less than last season as well as almost 4 fewer handoffs per game for a 0.7 yards per carry dropoff. Obviously, the 2-headed R & R express hasn't lived up to the expectations. Truth be told, Ricky and Ronnie are having a lesser season than 2008 and are even underperforming 2007 (The Dolphins ran 4 times less per game in 2007 but averaged 0.2 yards more per carry) which is miind-boggling considering all of that offensive line depth we were all so thrilled with at the start of training camp. But then the front office decided to dump some high-cost injury-prone players in the hopes that the backups from last season had gained sufficient experience to limit the dropoff in ability. John Jerry and Richie Incognito were drafted & signed respectively to bolster the guard position and Joe Berger won the Center job from Jake Grove (Who was subsequently released) Cory Procter and Pat McQuistan were brought in from Dallas but both proved themselves to be rubbish compared to Smiley. Thusly, we have found ourselves with a rookie right guard that struggles when pulling and an average - above average left guard that we don't use often enough as a pull blocker. Berger has proven himself to be a typical backup center and little more. The other great problem has been the regression in Vernon Carey who used to be a stalwart right tackle that was dependable at the least. This season he has been 2-mistake-a-game kind of guy and was possibly the weakest link against the Steelers. Needless to say, the front office will need to spend some serious time, and potentially money, on getting som quality linemen to put next to Jake Long during the offseason. I would expect all of our current linemen to be retained since they could serve as backups but at least 1 starting guard and a starting center must be found for 2011.
We have only put 18 TDs on the board offensively (MIsi's TD not included) but have seen DC$ nail 27 FGs. DC$ attempted 28 FGs in all of 2009 but he has already made 27 in 12 games in 2010 (He's attempted 33). It's good to know we have such a solid safety valve for when the offense can't get close enough to score TDs but the majority of DC$'s kicks have come from drives stopped in the red zone (14-13). If even half of those red zone FGs were TDs we would have increased our points scored by 28. This would give us 241 on the season and would exceed those points allowed (238) which is a good recipe for success. For refence, Miami has made the playoffs only 1 time when failing to score more points than they allowed (Minus 10 in 1999 - Wild Card seeded 6th, blown out by Jax in Divisional Round 62-7). Miami's average win % for seasons where they allowed more points then they scored is 0.3875 which equates to a 6-10 season. We finished better than .500 only twice (we were -2 in 1993, 1999) when being outscored and both of those seasons finished 9-7. Ironically, we seem quite capable of exceeding .500 this season and matching that 9-7 record which will limit our draft capability.
Anyone expecting 1 TD from Marshall would've been laughed out of the bar that he surely was drunk off his ass in but with only 4 games to go that is where The Beast is standing. If you had Marsall tied with Koa Misi at 1 TD after 12 games, congratulations on being clearly prophetic. As noted, DC$ has exceeded his 16-game FG attempt total from last season in only 69% of the time in 2010 and that was without attempting a FG in 2 of the first 11 games. How is it that we added BMarsh to the Dolphins but have a kicker with 14 red zone field goals in 12 games?!? Marshall was pretty close to his reception totals before the injury but now has no shot at being the first 100 reception WR in dolphins history. Sadly Marshall needed to average 25 catches for every 4 games in the season and missing two games eliminates that possibility. Marshall was actually 2 over the goal but had only 6 catches over the next four games playing in only the first two. Marshall returns against the Jets whom he lit up for 10 receptions and 166 yards (+ his lone TD) back in week 3. Henne is certainly due some of the blame for this as is Dan Henning's play calls but Marshall has dropped more balls than is typical for him this year. Definitely looking forward to 2011 for Marshall and the hope Miami finally get a 100-reception WR. If Henne and Marshall can get on the same page, we could be a deadly pass attack with D. Bess on the other side. Nonetheless, Moore and Wallace will need to shine when their opportunity arises now that Hartline is done for the season
Will not be back and a replacement is needed. I can't think of too many great choices that might be available at this point. My hope would be that Gary Kubiak gets fired by Houston and comes here as the new OC but that's a door that can't be opened until Houston takes the padlock off. Another option that few have considered is a candidate for the Miami Hurricanes Head Coaching vacancy. Marc Treastman knows how to win (In Canada at the very least) having won two grey cups in 3 seasons with Montreal, having been the QB coach during the 1983 Hurricanes National title season and the Raiders OC in 2002 and 2003. Go read up on Trestman for his full resume. It is promising at the least. Granted, Treastman was our QB coach in 2004 but can we really blame him for Wannstedt's stupidity and RW's need for weed? Personally, I would love to have Trestman in Miami so my odds look pretty good with him as a front runner for the UM job but I get a shiver up my spine thinking what he could do with our offense.
No doubt Henne is on the hot seat. Chad has 4 games to prove himself worthy of the starting QB job but he will be back in Miami next season either way. Like him or hate him, Chad Henne cannot be realeased due to his value as a backup even if we draft a solid franchise QB. Chad has improved his game statistically (INTs aside) but still has much to learn and the learning curve may be a little too much for the Dolphins staff (Another reason I would like to see Trestman here) to wait on. The problem Miami faces is that franchise QBs are only ever found in the draft unless (A) they are coming off debilitating injury and are loaded with question marks or (B) a franchise has found a better, younger option and are looking to trade the veteran player to dump his salary or retain younger backups and there are no such players to come in the offseason. People talk about Mike Vick, but he isn't going anywhere. The same is obviously true for Peyton Manning. The remaining free agents are no better than Henne or may be able to be better than Henne (Kevin Kolb). Let's be honest with ourselves. Chad Henne 2011 willl be better than Chade Henne 2010. It would take a monumental screw up by our coaching staff to have Henne regress further and I don't see that coming froma guy like David Lee. A new offensive scheme more commensurate with Henne's strengths will also keep Henne from getting worse (No guarantee it makes him better).
Miami has to move on to 2011 with a new O-line (Sans Jake Long), a new offensive scheme, mentality & mindset, and (Potentially) a new QB. The problem here is that that is a lot of hoels to fill on offense and we have only 2 picks in the first 100 for this years (Relatively thin) draft. Miami will need that second round pick back and will likely have to trade down in round 1 to get it. Unfortunately, finding a trading partner will be more difficult this season since the draft is weaker and so many teams have already given their second round picks to Belichick. The Patsies have a first round pick that will be higher than ours as well so they won't need to move up in round one by trading with us. If a franchise QB is their Miami might take him, but will be relegated to rebuild mode for at least one and moe likely two more seasons until that QB is ready to take over from Henne (We don't want to rush another developmental franchise QB). Cam Newton and Andrew Luck will be gone because of those teams in need of QB in front of us. Mallett and Locker are likely to be gone even if we tank the last four games an we don't have the goods available to trade up in round 1. In short, there is highly unlikely to be a franchise QB available to us in the draft that will be any better than Henne so why waste the pick? We will need to trade down and pick up some offensive talent and pray that Henne really is the guy and he has been unfairly handicapped by Henning's playcalling which is possible considering that Miami averaged 24.4 points per game last season when Henne started but is down to 19.5 in games where Henne Started (Down to 18.7 of you take away Misi's TD and the safety Buffalo gave us).