With all of the negativity that surrounded the Miami Dolphins this offseason, it is a surprise to see the winning attitude that permeates from the team. It would have been easy for the players to accept the fact that they are in a rebuilding stage and just give minimal output until the team was in a better position to win. It would be easy for the coaching staff to game plan for the next few years, rather than the season at hand. After all, the team has been ridiculed about everything from their inability to sign marquee players, to being “settled upon” by HBO’s Hard Knocks.
Instead, the Dolphins have come in to this year’s OTA’s with a desire to work hard, and the belief that they can win. This winning attitude has third year linebacker Karlos Dansby so excited, he told the world he believed the Dolphins would win the AFC.
While it may be a bit early for Super Bowl predictions, Dansby’s claim is one that is shared within the locker room. Even though a starting quarterback will not be named until after the preseason games, as a whole, the team believes they can be a true contender, challenging the New England Patriots and New York Jets for the top spot in the AFC East.
The coaching staff in Miami is filled with fresh faces, but with fresh faces comes new philosophies and systems. First year head coach Joe Philbin, and his staff, are pushing something in South Florida that has the players looking around and seeing the talent the rest of the nation is missing.
The most likely candidate to win the starting quarterback position this fall is Matt Moore who took over last season after an injury to Chad Henne. Moore had a decent outing, winning 6 of 9 down the stretch, including the final game of the season in which the Dolphins played spoiler to the rival Jets. Most people write Moore off without giving him a second thought, but he is a decent quarterback who has not had a team dedicate to him long enough for him to develop to his full potential. Behind him on the roster will likely be David Garrard, who played 9 seasons in Florida for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Dolphins first round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, taken 8th over all.
There is no doubt that Tannehill is the quarterback of the future in Miami, but letting him sit behind a couple of veterans for a season makes a lot of sense right now, and Moore has proven that he can not only get the job done, but do it well.
The biggest problem may be the wide receivers, but it is hard to say anything with certainty just yet, simply because of the amount of new faces lining up for Miami this season. The absence of Brandon Marshall will be noticed, but what else is to be expected when you take away a target of Marshall’s caliber. This was painfully obvious after a poor showing by the receivers during OTA’s, and in response the Dolphins signed veteran wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco. Miami is hoping that he will be able to provide the experience needed to solidify the ranks. The entertaining wide out has seen a dramatic decrease in productivity over the last two seasons, and only time will tell if he has anything left to give on the field. If he can still play at a high level, Ochocinco has the ability to become the biggest threat on the field.
Regardless of who is throwing, and who is catching, the depth at the running back position should be able to take some of the pressure off of the quarterback/wide receiver tandems. Reggie Bush is coming off of what was arguably the best season of his career, and he has his eyes set on claiming the rushing title this season. Behind Bush will be second year back, Daniel Thomas, who had a couple of hundred yard performances during an injury riddled rookie season, and this year’s rookie Lamar Miller, who could very well turn out to be the biggest steal of the 2012 NFL Draft. The backfield may be a bit crowded, but it is full of potential game changers that will give the Dolphins a legitimate ground attack, and with an offensive line anchored by Pro Bowl Left End, Jake Long, things on offense don’t look so bleak.
On the defensive side, Cameron Wake heads up the talent pool, and with the team switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3, the defensive end/linebacker hybrid, will find himself back in his natural position at the end of the D-line, giving him plenty of opportunities to put the opposing quarterback on the turf. He will be playing along several other play makers, including Jared Odrick, Paul Sollai, and rookie Oliver Vernon. The line looks stacked, and while there are many who believe that the switch will take time to adjust to, the Dolphins appear well equipped to make the change.
The outspoken Karlos Dansby, and fellow linebacker, Koa Misi, both are at a point where they need to prove they are worth the money that has been invested in them, and the new defensive scheme may be just what they need to do just that. Vontae Davis and Sean Smith will also need to step up this season, but both have the talent to play at the next level, and are backed up by several solid defensive backs that will play well in the 4-3 set.
The reasons to doubt the confident Dolphins are everywhere you look, but even at their worst, the Dolphins have never been an easy victory. It is doubtful that any team is looking at the schedule and marking a W by a Dolphins match up. The Dolphins have always been known to have a stout defense and the Denver Broncos showed last season that if you keep a game close, anything can happen.
People can laugh at the team’s offseason bravado, but the Miami Dolphins will be looking to prove themselves come the start of the season, and they just may be more successful than anyone is willing to believe.
Jeff Everette is a featured columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on twitter @jeverettesports, or his facebook page Jeff Everette- RantSports.com, for all of his latest articles, opinions, and rants.