Miami Dolphins fourth year wide receiver Brian Hartline is looking like a guy who is ready to take steps forward in 2012. The ‘Phins drafted Hartline in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of THE Ohio State University, where he was decent at best with three years, 90 catches for 1,400+ yards and a dozen TDs.
Ohio State had Antonio Pittman, Chris Wells and then Terrelle Pryor, so they mostly ran the ball. Plus WR’s like Dane Sanzenbacher, Ted Ginn Jr, Anthony Gonzalez, and Brian Robiskie were getting their share of catches too). He joined a WR group in Miami that included Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Ginn and Patrick Turner, who was drafted ahead of him that year too. Next season Miami added Brandon Marshall. Hartline continued his hard work, outlasted most of those WRs, and 2012 should see career highs for the 25 year old.
Six weeks ago, as Miami had their initial preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chad Johnson was the #1 WR, Legedu Naanee was rapidly climbing the depth chart and Bess was Bess. In that game, Roberto Wallace was Miami’s best WR and Clyde Gates was around the corner from returning from injury. All the while, Hartline was sidelined with a calf issue. Fast-forward to now and Johnson/Wallace/Gates are no longer on this team plus Naanee has all but disappeared. Meanwhile Hartline is getting closer and closer to 100 percent and it is the Miami WR group (and rookie QB Ryan Tannehill) who are starting to reap the benefits of a healthy Hartline.
In Hartline’s previous 23 starts for Miami, he averaged three catches for 42 yards. He shattered those numbers this week in his first 2012 start. How about nine catches for 111 yards vs the Oakland Raiders? He really is establishing himself as a BFF for Tannehill, a reliable guy who is adept at tough catches. I love the formations with Hartline out wide and Bess in the slot on the same side. These two guys are crafty and I think they can create manual passing windows for Tannehill and really help the rookie out.
At 6’2″ he has good size. He is not super-fast (4.5/40 yard dash) but he gets to his full speed right away. He runs good routes, often making numerous moves within a short/medium route to shake a defensive-back. He can make the physical catches when a DB is all over him. Hartline is very good at coming back to the pass so that DBs cannot beat him to the ball. He attacks the ball in the air using his wonderful hands to snag the catch before the ball gets too far into his body. Hartline is very good vs zone defenses as he is sneaky and finds soft spots in the zone. He is an excellent possession WR who leads by example.
Hartline is also an asset as a run-blocker, so we see the ‘Phins will want to get him as much playing time as he can handle. This is a contract year for a few stars on offense, Hartline being one of them (Reggie Bush and Jake Long the others) and the timing is perfect for him to put together a career-season. He was targeted a team-high 12 times versus the Raiders so we see his stock is on the rise big-time.
Hartline is well aware of the poor pub that the 2012 Miami WR group has received so far, but this is a guy who has football skills and brain/leadership skills that could influence and contribute to this group.
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