by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist
Here are my final grades and awards for the 2005 Dolphins. I have also listed the players I believe the Dolphins will definitely retain for 2006. In the end, expect somewhere between 25-40% turnover on the 2006 roster.
Offensive Line = B
Comment: The play of this unit was improved dramatically over 2004. Once again, credit Hudson Houck and hard work by the players. Really, there is no way this team could have won nine games without the improvement this group made. That being said, the offensive line still needs a real talent upgrade…especially at left tackle.
Rex Hadnot, Jeno James,
Potential Job Openings: 6-7
Running Backs = A-
Comment: Ronnie Brown proved his worth as the second overall pick in the draft. He’s only going to get better. Ricky Williams proved that Nick Saban was right to welcome him back to the team. It says here that Ricky will be a Dolphin in 2006 as his value to the team exceeds the compensation they’d receive in a trade.
Definite Keepers (3): Brown, Williams, Sammy Morris
Potential Job Openings: 2
Wide Receivers = B+
Comment: Starters Chris Chambers and Marty Booker produced over 1,800 yards of receptions with Chambers going from “decent” to Pro Bowler over the final six games of the season. The grade here would be higher if not for all the dropped balls. Slot receiver and return man Wes Welker once again proved his mettle; pound for pound, he may be the best player on the team.
Definite Keepers (2): Chambers, Welker
Potential Job Openings: 3
Tight Ends = B-
Comment: Solid work blocking, much improved over 2004. Starter Randy McMichael stepped up his game over the last third of the season, better justifying his new contract.
Definite Keepers (2): McMichael, Lorenzo Diamond
Potential Job Openings: 1
Quarterbacks = B
Comment: Gus Frerotte was a good improvement over A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler. Expect to see Gus in a Dolphin uniform next year, as a starter or as a backup; valuable vets like him are tough to come by. Sage Rosenfels won two games in relief, canceling out his horrid effort against the Browns. Nevertheless there will be at least one new QB on the 2006 Dolphins, maybe two.
Definite Keepers (1): Frerotte
Potential Job Openings: 2
OVERALL OFFENSE: B
Comment: From the moment offensive coordinator Scott Linehan traded in his press box seat for a sideline view, playcalling and production improved. The offense was the key to the six game win streak.
Defensive Line = B+
Comment: Better than expected production from this group as Keith Traylor, Kevin Carter, and Vonnie Holliday proved to be terrific free agent pick-ups. Expect them all back next season. Jason Taylor is a warrior, earning a Pro Bowl berth while fighting through a painful foot injury and learning a new scheme. Is there any doubt that he is the best defensive end in team history?
Definite Keepers (6): Traylor, Taylor, Carter, Holliday, Manuel Wright, Matt Roth
Potential Job Openings: 3-4
Linebackers = B
Comment: Pro Bowl MLB Zach Thomas proved that he can play great football in any system. Channing Crowder had an awesome rookie campaign and will be a Dolphin fixture for years to come. Donnie Spragan was a solid free agent pick-up. With all of the other needs this team needs to address, will Junior Seau be able to sneak on to the 2006 roster?
Definite Keepers (3): Thomas, Crowder, Spragan
Potential Job Openings: 3-4
Defensive Backs = D
Comment: This unit seemed to be on its heels all season long. Major changes are coming. Will Sam Madison return? Can Will Poole successfully return from major knee surgery? Will safeties Travares Tillman, Tebucky Jones, and Lance Schulters be retained? Will Reggie Howard be released? Stay Tuned.
(4): Schulters, Travis Daniels, Yeremiah Bell,
Potential Job Openings: 5-6
OVERALL DEFENSE: B
Comment: This unit was much better against the run than the pass though they did tie a team record for the most sacks in a season (49); only the Seattle Seahawks got to the QB more (50). They also set a new team record for the most safeties in a season (3).
SPECIALISTS = A-
Comment: Donnie Jones had a solid season, earning Pro Bowl honors as an alternate. Olindo Mare was #3 in the league in average kickoff distance and in total touchbacks. Long Snapper John Denney quietly turned in a solid year, silencing the ghost of Ed Perry.
Definite Keepers (3): Mare, Jones, Denney
Potential Job Openings: 0
COACHING/PERSONNEL = A
Comment: Saban and
his staff made a lot of progress cleaning up the big mess that Dave Wannstedt
and Rick Spielman left behind. The 2005 Draft was a smashing success as every pick
made the team in one capacity or another. The Dolphins also got a good amount
of productivity from its free agent signings; for 2006, the salary cap is
expected to be in excellent shape ($12-15 million under). On the field, the
coaching staff was successful in translating new philosophies into wins. However,
there could be changes forthcoming as Saban re-tools his staff and other head
coaching jobs become available; Linehan will reportedly interview for the
Texans job while Will Muschamp was considered by
OVERALL GRADE: A
Comment: All things considered, nine wins is a major accomplishment this team should be very proud of. Of special note is the team’s 6-0 record after a dismal 3-7 start, including a 5-0 record during December and January, a sure sign of the mental toughness that’s been wanting in the past. The only way this team could have earned a higher grade (A+) was by making the playoffs. With another solid offseason the Dolphins could return to the postseason as early as next year.
Comeback Player of the Year: Ricky Williams
Most Improved Offensive Player: Chris Chambers
Most Improved Defensive Player: Yeremiah Bell
Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Rex Hadnot
Most Outstanding Offensive Back: Ronnie Brown
(Honorable Mention: Gus Frerotte, Ricky Williams)
Most Outstanding Wide Receiver/Tight End: Chris Chambers
Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman: Jason Taylor
(Honorable Mention: Keith Traylor)
Most Outstanding Linebacker: Zach Thomas
Most Outstanding Defensive Back: Lance Schulters
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Wes Welker
Most Valuable Player: Jason Taylor
(Honorable Mention: Zach Thomas, Keith Traylor, Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers)