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  Final Grades and Awards for 2008
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

Click Here To Contact Chris

 

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Note: all stats regular season

 

Defense

 

Front Seven: B

This was not a dominant group by any means, but the pieces functioned reasonably well together. OLB Joey Porter received Pro Bowl and 2nd team All-Pro honors for his stellar 17.5 sack season, far and away the best of his 10 year career. Without Porter, however, the pass rush would have been anemic; he accounted for almost half of Miami’s 40 sacks. ILB Channing Crowder had his best season as well, registering 113 tackles. While he didn’t make anyone forget Zach Thomas, he more than held his own. Was it enough to get a new contract from the Dolphins? OLB Matt Roth acquitted himself fairly well in his first season at OLB, especially in wearing down opposing tight ends, but the Dolphins had to hide him frequently in pass coverage due to his lack of speed. ILB Akin Ayodele (75 tackles) had a solid effort and improved as the season went on. He was a good acquisition, as was NT Jason Ferguson, a force inside that regularly demanded double teams. Paul Soliai, high in potential ability but raw in maturity, must get his act together if he is to remain a Dolphin. Randy Starks’ athleticism and versatility was welcomed; he was consistently active up front and did a good job versus the run. Defensive captain Vonnie Holliday also had another solid season, but there is some question as to whether or not the Dolphins will continue to find his contract palatable, especially with the emergence of rookies Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford. The last time the Dolphins has two defensive line rookies with this sort of impact was 1998 (Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell).

 

Secondary: B-

The good news is that they held opposing passers to a 77.0 efficiency rating, which was 9th lowest in the NFL (and 20.4 points below Chad Pennington's), and a 58.1% completion rate (also 9th lowest). The bad news is that they surrendered 227.8 yards per game (8th worst) and gave up more passes of 20+ yards (49) than every team except five. Big, physical receivers were troublesome for this bunch all season long. SS Yeremiah Bell is one of the best in the NFL and led the team in tackles with an incredible 130; he is expected to be re-signed. FS Renaldo Hill’s value to the team, tangibly and intangibly, is significant. He played hurt all season long, yet shored up a shaky secondary in Week 3 and immediately improved the overall caliber of defensive play. He even took special teams snaps when the coverage teams were especially bad. CB Andre Goodman, whom many believed was the top corner on the team at season’s end, had his best year as a pro. CB Will Allen, who played hurt for a good portion of the season, was solid again. CB Jason Allen, so promising at mid-season, hurt his hand and wasn’t a factor again.

 

Overall: B

A mixed bag for this unit, numbers-wise: 15th in total yards, 25th versus pass, 10th versus run. But three key stats really defined the good work this defense did. The first is Time of Possession (28:57, 10th best in the NFL). The second is Points Allowed (317, 9th best in the NFL), which is a testimony to good red zone defense. The third is Turnover Differential (+17, #1 in the NFL); while the offense did a terrific job in protecting the ball, the defense was tied for 10th in fumble recoveries and 8th in interceptions.

 

Offense

 

Line: B

This unit was ranked in the top third of the league in fewest sacks allowed (26), and racked up almost 120 yards per game on the ground (11th best), a remarkable achievement given the injuries to both starting guards (Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas). Smiley was having a good year until he broke his leg. Thomas’s replacement, Ikechuku Ndukwe, did his best work in drive blocking situations but was limited otherwise. Smiley’s replacement, Andy Alleman, had many of the same shortcomings. Starting center Samson Satele suffered through a sophomore slump of sorts, not matching his eye-catching rookie effort and regularly needing help. Was it the new system on offense or something else? Expect the Dolphins to actively look to upgrade the interior of the line. If the Dolphins decide to re-sign RT Vernon Carey, who was especially good in the run game, they will be set at Tackle for many years to come. Rookie LT Jake Long played very well and earned alternate Pro Bowl honors; the Dolphins chose well when they drafted him first overall.

 

Tight ends: B+

Anthony Fasano and David Martin had their best pro seasons in 2008. Fasano, acquired in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys, was one of the best stories on the 2008 Dolphins. Yes, the Dolphins knew they were getting a good blocker but couldn’t know they’d get so much productivity out of him in the passing game. Amongst TEs, he was 3rd in receiving TDs (7) and 7th in first down conversions (77% of his catches went for first downs). Martin was in the top 10 in average yards per catch, and in receptions of 20+ yards. Of special note, Martin finished the season still overcoming the lingering effects of a concussion.

 

Receivers: C+

Greg Camarillo was having his best season before being lost in Week 12 (knee). He possesses Wes Welker-like skills. Last year’s top draft pick, Ted Ginn, Jr., was improved, especially in getting off the jam, but still has maddening bouts of inconsistency. He is a dangerous weapon on the flanker reverse. Devone Bess, the pleasant surprise of the team as an undrafted rookie, was especially effective on quick-hitting routes; his ability to go from zero to full speed in the blink of an eye is especially valuable in creating separation and gaining yards after the carry. He is also a polished route runner.

 

Running backs: B+

The combination of Ronnie Brown (915 yards) and Ricky Williams (659 yards) was especially potent; their combined output would be good for third best had all the carries gone to one player versus splitting them as the Dolphins chose to do. Brown earned Pro Bowl honors despite his low rushing totals, mostly due to his work as the Wildcat QB and his exceptional all-around skills as a player. Williams earned a contract extension after proving to the new regime that he still has the goods. Patrick Cobbs proved that he deserves more snaps as a terrific change of pace back; defenses regularly underestimated his ability. Lousaka Polite, an in-season pick-up at FB, was a short yardage conversion machine on belly plays. He was a very valuable in keeping the chains moving. In summary, this corps of players powered the Dolphin offense.

 

Quarterback: A

Chad Pennington, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, had the best overall season by a Dolphin QB in over a decade, and was a deserving candidate for NFL MVP. He was a transformational player and, though he has shortcomings, is capable of leading this team to a world championship.

 

Overall: B

The offense was not a scoring machine (345 points – 21st in NFL). But the reason the grade is a B is that it was hyper-efficient and made the most of what they had. They didn’t turn the ball over (+17 turnover differential), they won Time of Possession (31:03), and they were innovative.

 

Special Teams

Kicker: B-

Dan Carpenter’s work on field goals (21 of 25 – 84%) and PATs (100%) was critical to the number of wins this team had. Unfortunately, he was one of the worst kickoff men in the league, netting only 7 touchbacks and missing the designated side of the field to which he was supposed to be kicking far too often. This placed added pressure on the kick coverage teams to make more tackles. In fairness to Carpenter here, he was often asked to sacrifice distance for hang time. Still, he has much work to do this offseason to improve his kickoffs.

 

Punter: B-

Brandon Fields had an average year for a player of his ability. He ranked just 18th in gross average (43.9 yards), which means he didn’t flip field position as well as he could have. On the other hand, he downed 24 kicks inside the 20 (10th best) and forced 24 fair catches (3rd best). Fields must continue to work on his consistency in order to be regarded among the best in the NFL.

 

Returns/Coverage: D

The most disappointing area of the team, considering the investment made in free agency. In almost every return and coverage category, the Dolphins ranked in the bottom third of the league. The only exception was punt returns, where they ranked 11th. Coverage teams cost the team one win (Houston) and almost another (Denver). A bad snap by John Denney in the season finale versus the Jets could have been ruinous. Every time the Dolphins had to cover a kick, we held our breath. Not good.

 

 

Coaching: A

Offense was trend-setting and innovative; Dan Henning and his staff squeezed everything they could out of them. Defense was better than expected; Paul

Pasqualoni and his staff covered up weaknesses and manufactured pressure when Porter was neutralized. Tony Sparano deserves to be NFL Coach of the Year. Was there a coaching staff out there that got more out of their players? No. Has any team ever had a turnaround from 1-15 to 11-5 and a division title before? No. Case closed, in my opinion.

 

Overall: A+

11-5 and an AFC East Championship, just one year after 1-15, says it all.

 

Awards

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jake Long

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford

 

Outstanding Defensive Lineman: Jason Ferguson

 

Outstanding Linebacker: Joey Porter

 

Outstanding Defensive Back: Yeremiah Bell

 

Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Justin Smiley

 

Outstanding Receiver/Tight End: Anthony Fasano

 

Outstanding Offensive Back: Ronnie Brown

 

Outstanding Special Teams Player: Patrick Cobbs

 

Dolphin Comeback Player of the Year: Joey Porter

 

Ed Block Courage Award: Renaldo Hill

 

Don Shula Leadership Award: Chad Pennington

 

Dan Marino Most Valuable Player Award: Chad Pennington

 

     
   
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