MIAMI DOLPHINS (Consensus division finish: 4th)
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|DIVISION FINISH: 4 The recent addition of quarterback Chad Pennington makes them better. They might actually win three games this year.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Bill Parcells has turned around the roster and brought toughness to both sides of the football. Chad Pennington can get the team to six wins and eventually set up a transition to Chad Henne at QB.
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Acquiring Chad Pennington will steady the offense and give the Dolphins a better chance to win each week. But they have a long way to go just to be considered mediocre.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Miami will be better than last season, but the team is still a long way from making noise in the AFC East. The Dolphins still have serious concerns at QB and RB. Defensively, they are a lot younger, which should lead to more playmaking ability but also more mistakes.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Being slightly more competitive will have to suffice as progress. The powers and the plan are in place, but need time.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Quick, name a Dolphins player. There's Jake Long, Vonnie Holliday ... fresh out!|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Chad Pennington brings credibility and knowledge of the division. The offense needs receivers and the Dolphins must learn how to win.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Talk about starting from scratch. At least the Dolphins got themselves a respectable quarterback in Chad Pennington -- even if it wasn't until midway through training camp.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 They'll win more than one game this year, but not many more. Expect another long year in Miami.|
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|DIVISION FINISH: 3 Lost six games last year by three points or less. With Tony Sparano and a much-improved coaching staff providing more discipline and fundamentals -- and with a revived Ricky Williams -- Miami will win more of the close ones.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 Bill Parcells makes the Dolphins relevant, but they should still be a train wreck on the field. This team will be lucky to win five games.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 A handful of wins would be a great accomplishment in Year 1 of this massive rebuilding project. Just don't judge the progress of this franchise solely on wins and losses this year. Steps will be made in the right direction.|
|DIVISION FINISH: 4 The arrival of quarterback Chad Pennington will make the Dolphins a bit more respectable. But the rebuilding job here will take so long that Bill Parcells, who has a history of impatience, might not see this one through.|
||CONSENSUS DIVISION FINISH: 4 | NFL standings|
BEST OF THE DOLPHINS
Best offensive player: RB Ricky Williams. The explosiveness is there. If Williams maintains a heightened desire -- as he has through the offseason and training camp -- he will be the odds-on favorite for comeback honors. He's only 31 and hasn't endured much contact in recent years, combining for a mere 283 carries in the CFL and NFL since 2003.Best defensive player: LB Joey Porter. Now that mainstays Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas are off the roster, it's time for Porter to prove he's worth the suitcase of cash the Dolphins gave him. His 2007 was disjointed, and he played like a classic example of a player who can turn it on whenever he wants. His final stats were impressive, but he went long stretches without making a big play. Best playmaker: WR/KR Ted Ginn. The former Ohio State star had a rough rookie season for the 1-15 Dolphins, but his speed and field vision make him a dangerous player. If not for penalties, he would've brought back four kicks for touchdowns. He'll also be the primary receiver this year. Best rookie surprise: G Donald Thomas. Viewed as a project when the Dolphins selected him late in the sixth round, Thomas became the starting right guard early in training camp. He's a physical specimen who was discovered while playing pickup basketball on the Connecticut campus and didn't become a starter until his senior year. But he still outplayed fourth-round pick Shawn Murphy and some journeyman vets. -- Tim Graham, ESPN.com
SCOUTS INC.'S FAB FIVE
|Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,400 NFL players heading into the 2008 season, giving Insiders a leg up on the competition with exclusive grades, alerts and scouting reports.|
|Top five players
1. Samson Satele
6-3 | 300
|(Grade 79) He has adequate size with good strength and athleticism. He was a versatile player coming out of college, who played center, guard and tackle. He can snap and step well to gain leverage in a confined area.|
1. Ronnie Brown
6-0 | 230
|(79) He is an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism. When healthy, Brown has the tools to be an effective inside runner with deceptive speed to bounce off-tackle plays to the perimeter.|
3. Vernon Carey
6-5 | 350
|(75) He has played both offensive tackle positions and is effective at either side. Carey doesn't have great foot quickness or lateral agility, but can be light on his feet for a man of his stature.|
4. Justin Smiley
6-3 | 310
|(74) He is a wide body who has above-average foot quickness and agility. He is a good technician who gets a good fit and understands angles when getting out to the second level or when pulling around the corner.|
5. Will Allen
5-10 | 196
|(73) He is a seven-year veteran who is an excellent athlete with average size. Allen has been a very durable player for his position and does a nice job to keep leverage with good body position.|
|Player grading scale: Elite (90-100), outstanding (80-89), solid starter (75-79), good starter (70-74)|
SCOUTS INC.'S ANALYSIS
Miami will rely on the running game in '08. Here's how it opens up running lanes for RBs Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams.
More best plays
New attitude, stability: Bill Parcells has walked into terrible situations before, turning bad teams into contenders -- even Super Bowl champions. His pedigree for rebuilding down-and-out clubs is impeccable, and everyone around the Dolphins' franchise knows it. He already has done a terrific job of bringing in coaches, scouts and players who are his type of people.Offensive linemen: LT Jake Long might not have been the best player in the draft, but he is a very good fit with the Dolphins as they begin the rebuilding process. Drafting Long pushes Vernon Carey to right tackle, where he could thrive. C Samson Satele already has established himself as a player with Pro Bowl potential, and Miami wasted little time in free agency signing OG Justin Smiley. This group could be quite good this season. Ronnie Brown: Though Brown may not be himself yet after coming off a serious knee injury, the Dolphins appear to have the proper running back on the roster to build around for the long term. Brown was exceptional before getting hurt last season and does everything well. He should be a star once he is fully healed.
Depth: Turning a 1-15 team around doesn't happen overnight. Parcells was shrewd to find linemen who fit his system, while adding tough role players at other positions. But only so much can be expected after one successful offseason. Even if the Dolphins improve dramatically on the field, they should have a long list of needs heading into the next offseason.Difference-makers: Finding playmakers on this roster is tough. WR Ted Ginn Jr. could develop into a deep threat who stretches the field and opens up room underneath and in the run game, but he has a long way to go. On defense, DE Jason Taylor will be greatly missed. Overall, there isn't one player opponents must build a game plan around. Patience: This is a monumental project Parcells has undertaken, and it isn't a forgone conclusion that the Dolphins will play a lot better in 2008. While many of the right moves are being made, significant improvement in the win column might not occur until 2009. But it will come eventually.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles.
JEREMY GREEN'S X FACTORS
FOOTBALL TODAY PODCAST: DIVISION PREVIEW
MY MOST CHALLENGING OPPONENT
Dolphins QB Chad Pennington on Patriots safety Rodney Harrison:He's a quarterback out there on the field, and he does a great job of getting the secondary lined up, communicating the calls and doing all those things to make sure the guys are on the same page. He's always someone that you have to understand where is because of his run support ability, and he also understands the passing game. A lot of times he'll leave his area because he understands the route. He'll show up somewhere you don't expect him to. You have to respect him. You have to know where he is on the field. The minute you lose him on the field, bad things happen to you and your offense. Your focus level has to increase when you play a guy like that. Ball placement is very important against that guy because he's a headhunter, especially routes across the middle. Any time you're coming into his area, ball placement's important. If you leave your receiver in a vulnerable position, you're probably going to pay for it. -- As told to Tim Graham, ESPN.com
Andy Lyons /Allsport
In a vote by SportsNation, quarterback Dan Marino was selected best Dolphin ever. He's second all time in passing yards, completions and TD passes. Complete results
BLOGS: PRO AND FAN
Looking for more Dolphins coverage? You've come to the right place. Tim Graham writes about all things AFC East in his division blog.
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Improving on a 1-15 record that was headed by a completely insane choice for a coach, Cam Cameron, should not be too difficult for Miami with all of the new help that has come in, both on the field and in the front office. Blog
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