Last season, the Dolphins finished third in the AFC East division with six wins and ten losses. However, the Dolphins ended the season winning six of their final nine games and they are looking to build on that momentum this season.
Even though the Dolphins had a poor record last season, there were several positive aspects of last season that they can look to to give them hope for this season. First was that 6-3 record in their final nine games. Second was losing by a combined six points on the road to the eventual Super Bowl teams.
Third, they were ranked number 11 in offensive rushing yards per game with 124.2 yards. This is especially impressive because they had a running back, Reggie Bush, in his first season with the team. Things can only improve with a full offseason of preparation under his belt.
Fourth, their defense was ranked sixth in points allowed per game with 19.6 points. This is impressive considering they played three of the top ten offensive scoring teams a combined four times.
Fifth, their defense was ranked third in rushing yards allowed per game with 95.6 yards, especially impressive since they played 8 of the top 20 leading rushers, a combined ten times.
The team has been surprisingly ‘under-the radar’ despite many big off-season moves. One notable move was drafting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the eighth pick. Tannehill is considered the team’s quarterback of the future, although he may be the starting quarterback at some point this season.
The Dolphins also made some other bold moves. They traded away a consistent wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, for two Chicago Bears’ draft picks. Although that move seemed like a huge blunder on the Dolphins’ part, they signed former All-Pro wide receiver Chad Johnson and according to Ross Tucker, they might sign Braylon Edwards as well.
They also improved their pass defense through free agency. The defense was ranked in the bottom 10 in passing yards allowed per game with 249.5 yards. The two free agents are cornerback Richard Marshall and outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman.
The final notable off-season move was hiring a new head coach. The team signed the Green Bay Packers’ offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, “Joe has all the attributes that we were looking for when we started this process” said Stephen Ross, chairman of the team’s board and managing general partner.
All of the Dolphins’ acquisitions, except for Marshall and Tannehill, have reached the playoffs. Johnson has reached the playoffs three times. Coach Philbin has reached the playoffs six times. Westerman has reached the playoffs twice. Edwards has reached the playoffs three times, so that could influence the team’s decision to sign him.
The amount of playoff success those players and the coach have had should result in a better locker room environment. They can help teach the rest of the team how to win, what it is like to reach the playoffs and make the rest of the team playoff-hungry.
The Dolphins are ranked in the bottom half of the league in the upcoming season’s strength of schedule with their opponents having a combined 2011 season record of 127 wins and 129 losses.
Reggie Bush, who spent some years in New Orleans, believes this team is for real. “I believe every year,” Bush said. “Even when there is no reason to believe, I always believe. Even if we are on a losing streak, I still believe, and I think you have to have that self-belief and that belief within your team because the second you lose that, that’s when everything goes bad.”
The Dolphins’ fan base should believe as well.
By Noah Weintraub