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  Dolphin Likes, Dislikes for 2010
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule |  

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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It’s another cold January for Dolfans.


Weather? Yes.


But what really chills the bones of the faithful is the absence yet again from the playoffs. 


2009 was a train wreck, with NFL MVP runner up Chad Pennington going down early and a defense that couldn’t stop anyone from hitting them up for big plays. In short, it was a major comedown from a division championship.


2010 started off with real promise, but will end on Sunday with a dull thud. Even a win over the Pats won’t offer much relief. And yet it would be wrong for us to consider the season a total loss. That’s why I am pairing my “likes” with my “dislikes” for 2010.

LIKE: Brandon Marshall. He is everything the Dolphins hoped for: a big, physical, dominant receiver who cannot be guarded one-on-one. This man is clearly one of the top five wideouts in the game today. When he doesn’t have the ball, his blocking skills can make a difference on any running play. It’s impressive that, even with all the challenges the passing game has faced, Marshall still has a good shot at breaking OJ McDuffie’s reception record. He is an amazing talent who will thrill us for years to come.

DISLIKE: Trading Ted Ginn, Jr. to the 49ers for a fifth round pick. This proved to be one of worst decisions of the offseason because it denied the offense of the only offensive weapon they had to stretch defenses and threaten the deep third of the field. The kick return game also suffered badly. Ginn’s critics overly focused on his softness, forgetting the impact he made to defensive schemes even when he didn’t have the ball.

LIKE: Karlos Dansby. This was one of the best free agent signings of the current regime, a major upgrade. Dansby, a team captain from the start, immediately solidified the middle of the defense and earned the respect of players and coaches with his leadership, smart, and physical play. He will finish second on the team in tackles, which is what you want from an inside linebacker.

DISLIKE: The overall lack of productivity from the rookie LB class. The Dolphins spent half their 2010 draft picks on linebackers and got very little in return. Second rounder Koa Misi, the best of the lot, has had a modest rookie campaign. The others…Austin Spitler, Chris McCoy (cut), and AJ Edds (injured reserve, knee)…did almost nothing.

LIKE: Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones, the Dolphins’ young safeties. Last season we saw Clemons’ range and ball skills, but we also saw inexperience. This year Clemons took a huge step forward, with mature play and playmaking ability. But the biggest improvement was his tackling; he will finish in the top four on the team. Jones, a rookie fifth round pick, has been coming on strong and possesses huge upside for the future. He will push for a starting job in 2011.

DISLIKE: How Tony Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland handled CB Will Allen's knee injury. Instead of being patient with Allen, they placed him on injured reserve against his wishes so they could have the services of other bottom roster types who would end up making no meaningful impact. Soon after being placed on I/R, Allen returned to full health as expected. The defense sure could have used him this year to defend multiple WR situations. His loss was shortsighted, stupid, and unnecessary.

LIKE: The improvement that Chad Henne made. Through all his struggles, he is clearly a better QB this year. Especially improved was his touch passing and his footwork. To say that Henne “regressed” is not an accurate statement. I feel he has done enough to encourage the Dolphins to keep working with him, though he will have competition next season.

DISLIKE: The lack of sufficient improvement by Henne. Especially troublesome was his decision making and his exasperating penchant for staring down receivers. These were things he got away with more often than not in 2009. Now that the opposition has a book on him, those bad habits were exploited and magnified repeatedly this season. Objectively, we can no longer say that Henne is the Dolphins’ QB of the future. Expect competition next season for that “next” title. This time, Henne will have to earn it back.

LIKE: DT Paul Soliai. When the season began, Randy Starks was pegged as the starting DT. But when rookie DE Jared Odrick was lost for the season, Starks was moved back outside and Soliai was called on to fill the DT spot. To his credit, all his hard work during the summer paid off with the best season of his career. Some feel his play inside was among the Top 5 at his position. While I can’t say if that’s true, but I do know that he is a big reason why the Dolphins now possess a championship caliber defense.

DISLIKE: Losing Odrick for the season. He showed flashes of first round ability before going on I/R. Concerns about his durability from his days at Penn State have unfortunately been resurrected.

LIKE: TE Anthony Fasano. He rebounded from a very pedestrian 2009 to have his best all-around season as a pro. The Dolphins justly rewarded him with a two year contract extension worth almost $8 million. This is the kind of progress the team needs from all of their young players.

DISLIKE: The lack of quality depth behind Fasano, which crippled the team’s two TE formation and limited the offense all year. Inexplicable and indefensible moves by Ireland and Sparano, especially the release of David Martin, were solely to blame.

LIKE: Jake Long and Vernon Carey. These two will go down as the greatest pair of tackles in team history. Long has a chance to be regarded among the best ever at his position. Yeah, he’s that good.


DISLIKE: Sparano’s game of musical chairs at the guard and center position during the preseason, brought on by a poor assessment of the talent he had. The continuity of the offensive line and the offense as a whole suffered from this major blunder. Long was hurt as a direct result of Sparano’s decision to play his starters well into the final preseason game. The season ending loss of Nate Garner to injury didn’t help matters, but Sparano and Ireland just didn’t manage this group well.


LIKE: Special teams coach Darren Rizzi. He inherited one of the worst squads in NFL history when Sparano fired John Bonamego midseason, and Rizzi turned them into a group that could be counted on to help win games. That’s a lot more than anyone could have expected.


DISLIKE: Sparano apparently allowing his friendship with Bonamego to cloud his judgment. Bonamego just wasn’t getting it done in his two plus seasons with the Dolphins, and the lackluster performance cost the team games. Why did it take so long for Sparano to make a change?


LIKE: Offensive coordinator Dan Henning. Many jumped all over him for a perceived lack of creativity with his playcalling. I wish more people would stop to think that much of his decision making was predicated by the limitations he was dealing with across the interior of his offensive line, at quarterback, and across the offense as a whole with an overall lack of speed. This is a guy who knows his business as well as anyone in the game. If he does retire, the Dolphins will be poorer for it.


DISLIKE: The job Ireland did in stocking the offense with the talent needed to compete. A lot of the problems started with Henne, but that doesn’t absolve Ireland. He and his staff have to do better.


LIKE: OLB Cameron Wake. What a great story he became this year, growing up from a one-dimensional situation player out of the CFL to become an every down difference maker and newly minted Pro Bowler. Wake is another key piece of the championship puzzle. Ireland and his staff deserve enormous credit for scouting and signing Wake, as do Sparano and his defensive coaches for helping Wake to develop his abilities.


DISLIKE: Allowing Jason Taylor to leave via free agency to the rival NY Jets. The greatest defender in Miami Dolphins history, still capable of situational impact, was flatly told he was unwanted by Bill Parcells. JT deserved better than that. He deserved to end his career with the only team he loves.


LIKE: CB Vontae Davis. He emerged in his second season to become a legitimate shutdown corner, one of those cornerstone pieces a team needs to win a championship. The current regime hit it big when they got Davis with the 25th overall selection.


DISLIKE: The entire handling of the Pat White situation. It was a mistake for the Dolphins to draft him in the second round. It was a mistake for QB coach David Lee to change his mechanics and prohibit him from using gloves. It was distasteful watching the media assault him on an almost daily basis. In the end, it is just a waste when a player with his credentials goes bust as badly as he did.


LIKE: Tony Sparano. Yes, he’s made mistakes. Big ones. But so did Don Shula and every other man who has coached in the NFL. Sparano’s an outstanding motivator, communicator, and football man, a no-nonsense leader who has worked hard to rebuild the winning culture in Miami. The job is far from finished but he deserves more time to complete it.


DISLIKE: The real possibility that new owner Stephen Ross will clean house at the end of the season. Ross wants an exciting team, run by people he trusts to deliver. Ross inherited Parcells, Ireland, and Sparano and probably wouldn’t have hired any of them because their football philosophy doesn’t mesh with his ideas of what an exciting football team looks like. While I am not suggesting that Ross doesn’t trust Ireland and Sparano, the Dolphins were one of the most boring teams in the league this season and that must have galled Ross. The danger here is when an owner who knows nothing about football starts to meddle. The results are almost always bad, and I fear this is ominously close to where Ross may be headed.

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