Miami Dolphins 2010 Season Preview: Was Marshall the Missing Piece?
In most offseasons, the Dolphins' signing of Brandon Marshall would have been the biggest free-agent news in South Florida. The Miami Heat -- or more to the point, LeBron James -- had something to say about that.
But even though Marshall played second fiddle, he won't be considered a second act on the field on Sundays. His presence in Miami is simply a next step in the plans for the Dolphins to move a little further away from a power running attack and air it out a bit. Quarterback Chad Henne is progressing nicely as a passer and this team could be ready to challenge in the division.
Offense -- When Chad Pennington went down with a shoulder injury last season, Henne stepped in. He has the size, strength and confidence to be an elite NFL quarterback, and the Dolphins brought in Marshall to make sure Henne had everything he needed to succeed. Miami still has the tools at running back to steam roll over the defense, but Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have had injury issues -- they may be better suited now as players to take heat off of the passing game by changing up speeds a bit. Heat Index: 7
Defense -- The Dolphins' front seven used to be a feared unit that teams hated to face on game day. But Miami was unable to stop teams from running against them in 2010, and gave up 114.7 yards per game on the ground and 16 rushing touchdowns. Karlos Dansby was brought in to help make plays at linebacker and Randy Starks will be welcomed back as well. But where this unit is truly in flux is in the secondary. The Dolphins were forced to start two rookie cornerbacks -- Vontae Davis and Sean Smith -- last year, and both took turns getting burned. They did, however, learn on the and enter the 2010 season improved, although neither is a game-changing defensive back. Heat Index: 5
Special Teams -- There are no complaints on the kicking front, as Dan Carpenter missed just three field goals last season. While the receiving corps won't miss Ted Ginn Jr., the return game will. The Dolphins are holding open tryouts for both kick and punt returners and Bess and possibly even Pat White may be options for the team to consider. Heat Index: 7
Coaching -- Tony Sparano was aces his first season with the Dolphins, but didn't quite live up to the hype in 2009. His game-management decisions have been called into question, as has his desire to run the ball over passing it. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning will try to push for a more prolific passing attack as Henne continues to grow -- especially now that the Dolphins have a true No. 1 option at receiver. Heat Index: 6
Intangibles -- This is truly starting to look like a Bill Parcells football team, and you can't argue with the success that has followed Parcells anywhere he's gone. Miami is getting big and physical at just about every position and the skill players are starting to come along nicely. Heat Index: 7
Total Heat Index: 32/50 -- Even with the addition of Marshall and the improvement of Henne, the Dolphins -- unless forced to change because of injury to either or both running backs -- are a run-first football team. The needle will move towards the pass a bit in 2010, but this won't look like a traditional NFL pass-happy offense any time soon. It's going to take at least one, maybe two more drafts and free-agency periods for Miami's defense to catch up. Until it does, the Dolphins will be on the outside, looking in.