There are going to be a lot of these "Keys to the Season" types of articles written as the season gets rolling over the over the next few days. So I wanted to throw my two cents in on what is going to be key to the Dolphins having a successful 2011 season. Some of my keys are obvious. But the reasons for them beings keys may not be so obvious. Here we go, my Keys To The 2011 Dolphins Season:
1) Reggie Bush Must Stay Healthy: The 2010 Dolphins averaged almost 28 rushing attempts per game. They had 445 total attempts for the year. Reggie Bush has never had more than 157 rushing attempts, during 12 games in ’07, for a season. (Source: CBS Sports)
For the Dolphins to be successful, Bush has to carry the ball in the neighborhood of 225+ times (15+ carries per game). To do that Bush has to be healthy. Even when healthy, someone else on the Dolphins is going to have to carry the ball another 225+ times. If Bush gets injured, then it is up to Thomas, a rookie who has been less than impressive in camp (why else was Larry Johnson, a has-been, brought in at the end of camp) and Hilliard to carry the ball 300+ times. That is a scary proposition, IMO.
2) Score More TD’s: This may seem obvious, but last year the Dolphins were pathetic scoring TD’s. We all know that the Dolphins were 30th in the league in scoring last year. Did you know that the Steelers only had 4 more scoring possessions than the Phins (60 – 56) but averaged 6 points more per game? (Source: CBS Sports)
Why, because the Steelers scored 15 more TD’s.
One of the stats that I always look at is the TD / FG ratio in scores. High scoring teams usually end up in the 2:1 TD / FG range. The Dolphins were a pathetic 0.86:1 ratio, 26 TD’s to 30 FG’s. Even if the Dolphins don’t get more scoring opportunities this year, if they just score more TD’s, that will lead to more wins and the playoffs.
3) Better Field Position: This is a combination of Defense and Special Teams. The Dolphins Defense last year didn’t create enough Turnovers, they ranked 29th in the league. (Source: CBS Sports)
Turnovers typically lead to scoring opportunities for an offense because they lead to better field position. The team with the best average starting field position last year, the Bears, was also among the tops in the league in creating Turnovers (tied for 3rd). (Source: Football Outsiders)
The Bears also had a dynamic return game in Special Teams. Hester, Knox, Manning etc either gave the Bears outstanding field position with their returns or teams kicked away from them allowing the offense to start in better field position. The Dolphins last year had a pathetic return game. Now that Livas is off the team, hopefully Gates and / or Bush can revive the Special Teams return units. Being a threat in the return game can create as much field position as the actual return. This unit needs to be feared by the Dolphins opponents.
The Dolphins offense (any offense for that matter) needs short fields to be successful. The Highest Scoring Team in the league last year, the Patriots, had the 3rd best starting field position in the league. The Dolphins were 29th in starting scoring position last year. Better starting field position (more TO’s and better returns) means more scoring.
4) Chunk Yardage: The Dolphins had only 7 runs of 20+ yards last year. The Raiders had 33. The Dolphins had only 48 receptions of 20+ yards last year. The Chargers had 80. As shown in the TDs/Dr stat, the Dolphins ranked 30th in the league. (Source: Football Outsiders) Part of that has to do with starting field position. The other part of that has to due with a lack of big plays. It is hard for an offense to drive consistently down the field. They need big plays or Chunk Yards. Last year, the Phins only big play threat was Marshall. This year they have Gates and Bush along with Marshall that are capable of making people miss in the open field and scoring long TD’s. Bess and Hartline are nice players, but they don’t make people miss or have the speed to turn a short pass into a big gain. Marshall, Bush, and Gates need to get the football in space to use their speed and quickness to get Chunk Yards.
5) QB Play: Successful teams have very good QB play. I did a post on this a while back:
Let’s just say that most winning NFL teams have one thing in common: A QB with a 90+ passer rating. If the Dolphins want a winning season and a playoff berth, Henne needs to be a 90+ passer rating.
Those are my keys to the season. What are yours?
[written by Phinsider member ct1361]