FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Brandon Marshall #19 of the Miami Dolphins catches a touchdown pass against the New England Patriots in the second quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
With the 2012 Pro Bowl just a few hours away, it's time to take a look back at the seasons of the Miami Dolphins three Pro Bowlers. The Dolphins had two players named to original team, with left tackle Jake Long slotted as a starter, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall making it among the original four receivers. Earlier this week, the Dolphins' nose tackle, Paul Soliai, was named to the team as a replacement for the Baltimore Ravens' Haloti Ngata.
Now, let's look at the seasons the three players had:
Jake Long, Left Tackle - Long had a down season by the standards he has set over his first three years in the league, and yet was still selected by the players and coaches to be a starter in this year's Pro Bowl. That should say a lot about how dominating a left tackle Long is. For the first time in his career, Long missed playing time, having to sit out one game with a back injury, and missing the final game with a torn bicep - which will also hold him out from appearing in tonight's game. Long allowed five sacks and six quarterback hits this year,but four of the sacks came in the first four games of the year, when Long's knee and shoulder injuries from last year were obviously still hampering his performance. In fact, of the six QB hits, four of them came in Week 1, after Long had sat out the entire preseason. After Long got back into game shape, he was able to shut down the Kansas City Chiefs' Tamba Hali (12 sacks on the year), the Washington Redskins' Brian Orakpo (9 sacks), and the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware (19.5 sacks). Long did not allow a sack or a QB hit after Week 8 of the season. Long has been named to the Pro Bowl every year he has been in the league.
Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver - For the fifth straight season, Marshall eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark, finishing the year with 1,214 yards, the tenth highest total in the league. He averaged 15.0 yards per reception in 2012, the second highest of his career, trailing just his 20 reception rookie season average of 15.5. Marshall only found the endzone 6 times this year, and seemed to have a problem with hanging on to the ball (especially in the endzone), but still was one of the league's top receivers, ranking tenth in receptions with 81. This is Marshall's third Pro Bowl appearance, and his first as a Dolphin.
Paul Soliai, Defensive Tackle - Similar to Jake Long's start, Soliai seemed to struggle early in the season. However, the big man didn't quit, and eventually began playing like a player worthy of the franchise tag, and associated salary, the Dolphins were giving him. He began to stuff the middle of the offensive line, freeing up the Dolphins' linebacking corps to pursue running backs and quarterbacks. Last year was probably Soliai's better year, but the coaches and players made Soliai an alternate - and eventual Ngata replacement - witha fan vote that largely ignored the Miami nose tackle. With Soliai a free agent after this year, unless the Dolphins place the franchise tag on him again, Soliai's first Pro Bowl appearance will only add to his contract demands, and, ultimately, could be the reason the Dolphins allow Soliai to walk in the offseason.