Recently, I wrote a post titled 'Can Henne be the Greatest?'. With all the hype our owner has recently created for our young QB, I wanted to make a post comparing him to the great Dan Marino. This one will be a follow up post, taking a deeper look into the statement saying that we will be playing in the Superbowl come February 2011.
While this statement isn't completely ridiculous and is definitely possible, the odds are not in our favor. Being in the AFC East will be tougher than it has ever been, with three legitimate contenders in the division this year. The Pats got better this year through the draft, adding more weapons for Brady. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez should definitely improve their offense and open up the passing game. Plus they're still the Pats.
The Jest have gotten better on paper, and in my opinion have been over hyped this offseason. I don't believe that replacing Washington and Jones with Greene and LT is an upgrade, not at all. However they did steal Santonio Holmes, who will be a legitimate playmaker for them. The loss of Kerry Rhodes hurts. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the second best safety in the league overall. Brodney Poole is not an upgrade there. In addition to that, they brought in Antonio Cromartie who should help take the pressure off Revis Island, if he returns to his form in 2007 (18 passes defended, 10 ints in only 8 starts).
Not only will the AFC East be the toughest division in the NFL, but we have a very tough schedule in the first 9 weeks. Let's take a look:
|@ Buffalo Bills||Sunday, September 12 2010||1:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Minnesota Vikings||Sunday, September 19 2010||1:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|New York Jets||Sunday, September 26 2010||8:20 PM EDT||coverage|
|New England Patriots||Monday, October 04 2010||8:30 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Green Bay Packers||Sunday, October 17 2010||1:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Sunday, October 24 2010||1:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Cincinnati Bengals||Sunday, October 31 2010||1:00 PM EDT||coverage|
|@ Baltimore Ravens||Sunday, November 07 2010||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Tennessee Titans||Sunday, November 14 2010||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Chicago Bears||Thursday, November 18 2010||8:20 PM EST||coverage|
|@ Oakland Raiders||Sunday, November 28 2010||4:05 PM EST||coverage|
|Cleveland Browns||Sunday, December 05 2010||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ New York Jets||Sunday, December 12 2010||4:15 PM EST||coverage|
|Buffalo Bills||Sunday, December 19 2010||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|Detroit Lions||Sunday, December 26 2010||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
|@ New England Patriots||Sunday, January 02 2011||1:00 PM EST||coverage|
As you can see, other than the Bills, we have a very hard road in the first 9 weeks. The Vikings, Packers, Bengals and Ravens especially scare me. I think we beat the Bills week 1 because well, they're terrible. But after that we have 8 possible losses in front of us. Now I'm not saying we will lose all of those games, but it will be tough. If we're able to beat the Vikings in week two, that would be a huge momentum boost for us, and hopefully that momentum can carry over to the entire season. Confidence and momentum can be a huge factor in football (see 2009 Saints), and if we can beat a team like the Vikings early in the season like that, we can make a nice run.
Although we have a tough first half of the season, we were luckily blessed with a fairly easy second half. So even if we lose some of the harder games in the first 9 weeks, we can still make a playoff run late in the season.
What makes a Superbowl contender? (No particular order)
1) A stellar offensive line
This is one thing I have extreme confidence in when it comes to the Dolphins. I think we had a top 5 O-line last year and we improved it this year by signing Incognito. We also drafted John Jerry in the 3rd round, but I think that Donald Thomas will end up being the starter. He's been overlooked a lot but I believe he has what it takes to improve, and be a solid starter at right or left guard for us.
2) A solid run-game
I think we all know that the Dolphins have much more than just a "solid" run game. With Ronnie, Ricky, Cobbs, and Polite, we have one of the best in the league. I'm hoping that Ronnie will stay healthy all year, and if he does we could have the best ground game in the league.
3) A top 10 passing game
For the last few years as we all know, the league has been pass-happy. In reality, you need to have at least a good passing game in order to get deep into the playoffs. The Jest did it without one last year, but they also did it behind the best defense and running game in the league. As we all know, they weren't able to put up enough points to get to the big game. If any of you didn't watch the AFC Championship game, Sanchez threw an INT in the last 2 minutes of the game, sealing the deal for the Colts.
Obviously the progression of Chad Henne is crucial to our passing game next year, and the addition of Brandon Marshall will definitely help that come along. There were many moments of last season where Henne was forced to put the team on his shoulders and come from behind to win games. And he executed very well, especially in high pressure situations. If there's one thing Ross said that we all know for a fact, it's that Henne can handle pressure. I believe that with our o-line and our now complete receiving corps, it's possible for us to have a very deadly passing game.
4) The hidden stat: Turnover Ratio/Top ten defense
In the past I have been a strong believer in the phrase "defense wins championships". However this past year the New Orleans Saints won the Superbowl without a statistically good defense. They were ranked 20th in points allowed, 25th in yards, 26th in passing yards, and 21st in rushing yards. I thought, how could a team with this bad of a defense win the big game? This brings me to the "hidden stat": the turnover ratio. The Saints had 26 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles in the 2009 regular season. They were +11 when it came to turning the ball over. This is why they were able to get away with their lack of defense, they made plays.
With the addition of Mike Nolan and Karlos Dansby, our defense should be improved this season. Although the loss of JT hurts, getting rid of J Peezy is what I'd like to call, addition by subtraction. Plus, I think we will see a breakout season from Cameron Wake this year. Also with the progression of our two young corners, our defense should be interesting to watch. Recently I read that Nolan has instituted the "every ball is in play" rule in practice, to instill a more aggressive mentality in the defense. I think this will help us make plays in the season, and even if we don't have a top defense, we should hopefully be on the positive side of the turnover ratio.
Reasons for Optimism
This coming season is going to be a tough one, while competing in the AFC East and having a not so easy schedule to look forward to, the 2010 year should be fun to watch. We have a young strong armed QB in Chad Henne, and with Brandon Mashall in the mix, the passing game should open up tremendously. Now that we have a legitimate #1 threat at WR, it will open things up for guys like Bess, Hartline, and Camarillo. Also with the R&R Express back in full gear, I think this should be the most well-balanced Dolphins team in years. I mean think about it. Back in the Marino days, we didn't have a running game. Then after he left, we didn't really have much of a passing game to talk about, and it was all about the run. It's been that way since, until now.
Next year is more realistic
I hate to break it to all the homers here, but Stephen Ross' recent comments putting us in February's Suberbowl, were mainly to sell tickets. Ross is a business man, and a good one at that. I know that before the season begins, every teams' goals should be to get to the Superbowl. So no it's not farfetched to say we can do it, but we're still young, and most likely won't be able to make it to the big game til 2011. Actually, we have a very good chance of getting there in the 2011 season, as long as we keep improving. The Jest are going to have some serious contract issues in 2011, and I think the Patriots' downfall is looming near.
With all of these factors, the odds seem to favor us in 2011. With another good draft under our belts, and time for our young guys to develop, 2011 looks promising. Bill Parcells has been building a powerhouse for the future since 2008, and he has been doing it from the inside out. I believe that with all of the progress we've made, we should be a serious contender for years to come.