Every year, every team in the NFL with the exception of the Raiders and Lions have hope for great things from their respective teams. This is true with the Dolphins with the expected leap many expect them to take with key additions such as Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall. Our other expectations is that some of our younger players take the next step and step up their game.
So this year, who is on Miami's roster that may be able to step up their game to the next level and become a Pro Bowl player? For the sake of making it easier, we'll exclude those players who have already made the Pro Bowl. This includes Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Jake Long, Yeremiah Bell, Brandon Marshall, and Dan Carpenter.
We had a few players last year such as Lousaka Polite and Randy Starks that deserved to go to the game. I fully expect Polite to again be in the conversation and hopefully be there in Hawaii. Unfortunately, I don't think Starks will be in the mix with his move to NT. I'm not saying I don't think he'll succeed, but I think with other big men like Ngata and Wilfork in the mix, it'd be hard for Starks to get the recognition in his first year as a NT.
The Dolphins fanbase and the front office expect great things from Chad Henne, but can we truly expect him to make the jump to greatness this year? I expect good numbers from Henne, but it would surprise me to see him in Hawaii in February with other high profile QBs in the AFC. It'll be hard to beat out Brady and Peyton Manning. Other players fighting for the third spot will be Big Ben, Schaub, and Rivers. No matter how well Big Ben plays, he may lose votes based on his recent hit to his reputation.
On the offensive line, I would like to imagine Vernon Carey would have a chance since he is one of the most consistent RTs in the conference. The drawback is the Pro Bowl tackles generally all play on the left side of the line. Can Carey beat out Ryan Clady, Joe Thomas, and teammate Jake Long? I didn't think so.
There is too much uncertaintly on the defensive line to really suggest and of the players can make a case for the Pro Bowl. I've detailed the reasons for Starks already. Our linebackers show a lot of potential. We've read how effective Wake was last year when he was rushing the QB, but the questions will linger about his pass coverage ability up until the season arrives. Can Mike Nolan work his magic though like he did for Elvis Dumervil and turn Wake into a pass rushing monster? We all hope so. Possibly a bit of a surprise on here is Karlos Dansby. This is not because talent is a question, but many probably already viewed him as a Pro Bowl player. He's had great seasons with the Cardinals, but none of them ever lead to a Pro Bowl selection. Could his luck turn with a new team in a different conference?
Our secondary is loaded with lots of potential, but we don't even know who will be the starting CBs on the team. Will Allen, prior to his injury, showed the ability of a Pro Bowl player. Can he really come back from a severe injury in one year to show the same ability? Even if he shows he is completely recovered, the front office may prefer to keep the young guys on the field and gain experience. There is no doubt both Sean Smith and Vontae Davis have shown lots of ability, but they both still need to refine their skills. If I had to bet on one of them emerging as a star this year, I'd put my money on Vontae Davis. Smith shows the physical skills, but Davis has more of a nose for the ball when it is in the air.