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Dolphins First Quarter Review

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The NFL season, as great as it is, can be very frustrating in that we wait all offseason long for it to begin and then the season just zips on by in what seems like just the blink of an eye.  Believe it or not, the Dolphins are already at the quarter pole of their season.  Needless to say, you won't find a Dolphin fan anywhere who is satisfied with where the Dolphins stand right now.  But there are a lot of football games left to be played - don't give up hope just yet.

Anyways, today we take a look back at the first quarter of the Dolphins season.

Offensive MVP: Ronnie Brown
This one is pretty easy.  Ronnie has been a tremendous force running the ball and operating the 'Wildcat' for the Dolphins through these first four games.  His 136 yard, 2 touchdown effort back in week two on Monday night against the Colts should have been enough to win that football game.  His 115 yard, 2 touchdown effort last week against Buffalo did lead the Dolphins to a nice easy win.  And for the season, Brown is third in the entire NFL in rushing yards (369) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (4).  And his 5.1 yard-per-carry average ranks second among all backs who have at least 50 carries.  At this pace, Brown is on his way to a 1,400 yard season.  Now let's pay the man and keep him in Miami!

Defensive MVP: Kendall Langford
This one was very tough.  The two players who lead the team in tackles have been victimized a lot in the passing game and have missed a lot of tackles (Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson).  Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor lead the team in sacks.  But Wake has only been a factor in one game and Taylor has been quiet for at least half of the 16 quarters of football played by the Dolphins.  But what has been outstanding is Miami's ability to stop the run - ranking second in the entire NFL.  And Kendall Langford is a big reason why.  Using a complicated method, Pro Football Focus ranks Langford as the 4th best 3-4 defensive end in the league thus far.  He also leads all Dolphins' linemen in tackles and has a sack to go with his effective play against the run.  Being completely honest, I believe the Dolphins uncovered a true gem when they spent a 3rd round pick in '08 on this kid - he just might be a special player.

Offensive Least Valuable Player: Ted Ginn Jr.
Teddy has been taking a beating recently by fans and the media alike.  And for good reason.  He was supposed to make that big "3rd year leap" that young receivers make and finally become the number one receiver this team desperately needs.  Instead, he has seemingly taken a step back.  Ginn has been targeted 30 times - more than any other Dolphin - but has just 14 catches and is averaging 9.9 yards per catch.  And over the last two games, Ginn has just one catch on nine targets.  He's also losing snaps now to other receivers and seems to be in Tony Sparano's "doghouse."

Defensive Least Valuable Player: Gibril Wilson
You can probably go with Wilson or Channing Crowder here.  But I chose Wilson because his mistakes and poor play has been more costly than Channing's.  Using Pro Football Focus and their metrics to measure safeties, Wilson ranks 113th among NFL safeties in production - and that's out of 118 who were ranked.  Truth be told, though, statistics and various metrics only tell half the story.  If you've been watching the Dolphins all year, then you know just how poorly Wilson has played.  He's missed many tackles and has allowed far too many completions when he's asked to cover.  Is this what we get for a 5 year, $27.5 million contract that includes $8 million in guarantees?

Most Pleasant Surprise: Run Defense
It's not that the Dolphins were bad against the run last season.  They were ranked 10th in the league.  But they still surrendered 101 yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry.  Many of us also had some concern about their defensive line heading into 2009.  Kendall Langford, Phillip Merling, and Randy Starks had all shown some flashes - but still weren't as consistent as they needed to be.  Meanwhile, we all worried about Jason Ferguson because of his age and wondered who would be the primary backup nose tackle.  But through four games, the Dolphins are ranked 2nd in the NFL in rush defense, allowing only 61 yards per game and just 2.9 yards per carry.  If the Dolphins can keep this up, they certainly give themselves to win any game they play from here on out.

Most Unpleasant Surprise: Pass Defense
Last year the Dolphins were not very good against the pass, allowing 227 yards per game through the air - which ranked 25th in the NFL.  While we all expected the Dolphins to have some trouble defending the pass in 2009 because of their two rookie corners having big roles, I don't think many people expected this kind of struggle.  They've allowed 238 yards per game through the air in '09 - only 11 yards more than last year.  But that only tells half of the story.  Because of how well the Dolphins have done in controlling the ball and keeping the opposing offense off of the field, they haven't given up a ridiculous amount of yardage.  But they are allowing a putrid 8.7 yards per pass attempt - the worst figure in the league.  They have also allowed the second most passes of 20+ yards (16) and the second most passes of 40+ yards (5).  Not good.

Biggest Storyline: Chad Henne takes over
We all figured that we'd see Chad Henne get some reps - maybe even some starts - at some point in 2009.  But nobody thought it would happen this soon.  It was a total shame to see Chad Pennington go down like that for the season.  Even if you you did want to see Henne start over Pennington, CP is just too classy and too good of a person to wish injury on - especially something that could end his career.  But it is what it is and now Dolphin fans get the chance to see Chad Henne make 12 more starts this year.  We're all hoping for the best - and a win over the Bills and Jets to start your career is a great way to gain support.  Get it done on Monday night, Chad!

Breakout Player of Remaining 12 Games: Brian Hartline
We've already seen the rookie from Ohio State catch his first touchdown pass.  Is it long before we see him take a fellow Buckeye's starting spot?  Ted Ginn is already losing snaps to Hartline and the rest of Miami's receivers.  Hartline is a better run blocker and has better size than Ginn as well.  Chad Henne also probably has a better rapport with Hartline already after working more with the second team offense in training camp.  I expect to see more and more of Hartline as the season progresses.

Key to Remainder of Season: Chad Henne
It would be easy to claim that the offensive line is the key to the final 12 games for the Dolphins.  And I agree that those big guys up front will be very crucial to the success of the team.  But if the Dolphins want to get back into the playoff hunt and remain there for the year, there is going to come a point in the season - especially with how the defense has struggled against good passing attacks - where Chad Henne will be asked to win a football game or two.  Will the young gunslinger get it done?  It's a lot to ask, especially with these receivers.  But stranger things have happened and if Henne can develop quickly and provide a balance to Miami's dominant ground attack, the Dolphins very well could surprise a lot of people by the end of the year.