If selecting our bottom-5 Miami Dolphins draft picks of the 21st-century was tough because there were so many valid options to choose from, the top-5 draft picks were equally as difficult to conjure up for the exact opposite reason.
Though there may be plenty of options that you can plug into the list, the unfortunate realization you come to is that this list is so difficult to confidently put together because there are so few clear-cut answers.
At least the rest of the AFC East was able to draft players that would undoubtedly make a similar list:
- Buffalo Bills: Kyle Williams, Marshawn Lynch, Stephon Gilmore
- New England Patriots: (I refuse to name a specific quarterback from 2000), Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymoure, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty (and a plethora of others)
- New York Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in the same draft, Darrelle Revis, Jonathan Vilma
Plenty of more-recent players happened to make (or just miss) this list, but the decisions were just as surprising to me as they may be to you.
There was one great Miami Dolphins receiver that should have instantly made the list, but after comparing and contrasting careers, you’ll see that the decision wasn’t as easy at you’d think. Our perceptions of certain players seem to change depending on how they ended their careers with the Dolphins; we view players that had unorthodox exits as less-impressive than earlier counterparts.
We took into account more than just statistics when deriving this list. How much value did the player provide from their respective draft slot? What is their lasting impression with the team? How expensive or inexpensive were they?
Take a look at the best and most-impactful Dolphins drafted this century and see how you may have listed the players yourself:
5) Laremy Tunsil – 1st-round (#13 overall)
The easiest and best risk the Miami Dolphins ever took in a draft this century, Laremy Tunsil is on his way to being one of the best players in the entire NFL.
Sure, we can crack an unlimited amount of jokes over his draft-day gas mask bong and how his 5th-year extension came just a few days before weed smokers everywhere celebrated their national holiday, but without that video, the Miami Dolphins offensive line is even more inept than it currently is. If his social media account isn’t “hacked”, the team is either still searching for a franchise left tackle or in the process of grossly overpaying for one.
Tunsil was collectively graded out as the best prospect coming out of the 2016 NFL draft, and the Miami Dolphins were in the right place at the wrong time (for Tunsil).
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) April 29, 2016
I’m not sure why a video of a player smoking weed in college is such a turn off to professional football clubs who deal with rapists, murderers, and felons of all types, but it caused multiple teams to skip over Tunsil when drafting their respective left tackle.
After a short public relations “nightmare” (I wouldn’t even call it a bad dream), Miami was able to gloat over the fact that they currently have one of the best left tackles in the game.
What keeps Tunsil from being higher on this list is the obvious abbreviated career he has had with the Dolphins. We don’t know what the future holds for him, and it’s possible injuries mount or his play deteriorates for a myriad of reasons.
However, if Tunsil is anywhere close to the prospect he’s shown he can be, he’ll find himself much higher on this list in the future. It’s not crazy to say that 10 years from now, he could be #1.
4) Vernon Carey – 1st-round (#19 overall)
There isn’t much about this draft pick you can talk about. It’s about as generic as offensive linemen stereotypically are, though his publicity is a far cry from the previous offensive lineman on this list.
Vernon Carey traveled a very short distance from The University of Miami to the Miami Dolphins after being drafted 19th-overall in the 2004 NFL draft.
A career that spanned 8 years and 121 games (107 starts), Carey is your quintessential compiler; never really doing anything wrong, but not dominant enough to be a memorable 1st-round pick.
Really, his longevity and durability (active for 94.5% of all possible games), are what have him on this list. We know that Laremy Tunsil is currently a better player than Vernon Carey ever was, but we still don’t know if Tunsil will survive longer than Jake Long did, let alone go on to have a solid 8-year career like Carey had.
For a guy who was a bit overweight towards the end of his career, he was one of the most reliable Dolphins throughout his tenure. Most casual Dolphins fans didn’t even know who Carey was, and that’s a good thing for an offensive lineman.
This selection speaks more to the the Dolphins draft history this century than it does Carey’s skill. Frankly, Carey should never be on this list – he’s just one of the only draft picks to last longer than their rookie contract while still remaining durable. If the Dolphins were even adequate drafters at the start of the century, or if they knew how to handle immaturity, Carey would most likely be viewed lower than Mike Pouncey.
3) Chris Chambers – 2nd-round (#52 overall)
The toughest debate of this entire piece, Chris Chambers was almost replaced by another wide receiver recently selected by the Miami Dolphins.
Both players are virtually the same, but if you talk to most Dolphins fans they’ll speak glowingly of Chambers while looking down on Jarvis Landry. So you’d think this was an easy decision to make…but taking into account everything involving these players, it was a closer call than we expected.
Like any good story, it begins with their origins. Miami gave up a 4th-round pick in the 2001 draft to move up 4 slots and select Chris Chambers at #52. If you have conviction in a player and he’s someone you want, I will always encourage you doing what is necessary to grab him (similar to what happened when Miami traded up to get Patrick Surtain back in 1998; no one cares what you spent when you get the pick right).
Landry, on the other hand, didn’t cost Miami anything extra. In fact, he was more of a risk than Chambers, as most teams saw Landry’s body type as a detriment in the NFL.
In his 6.5 year career with Miami, Chambers amassed 5688 receiving yards and 43 touchdowns on 405 receptions. Landry accumulated 4038 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns on 400 receptions.
At first glance, it seems like Landry’s numbers are stacked in his favor. The prevailing thought was that Landry was a possession receiver that benefited from Miami’s inept offense and short-passing game. A deeper dive into the numbers tells us that Chambers was almost as “possessive” as Landry was, we just have a different perception of it all.
- Chambers racked up 5688 yards on 846 targets (6.72 yards per target) while Landry had 4038 receiving yards on just 570 targets (7.08 yards per target)
- Chambers’ 5688 yards came in 100 games (56.88 yards per game) while Landry’s 4038 yards came in just 64 games (63.09 yards per game)
- Chambers did score touchdowns at a better pace than Landry, scoring a touchdown once every 2.33 games compared to Landry scoring once every 2.91 games.
The kicker? Their overall value, longevity, and their ball handling.
Chambers cost Miami an additional 4th-round pick in 2001, but the team was able to trade him to the San Diego Chargers in 2007 for a 2008 2nd-round pick. Miami didn’t have to give up any additional draft picks for Landry, but they were only able to deal Landry for a 4th and 7th-round pick last offseason. And that was after the team decided they didn’t want to extend Landry. You can’t fault Chambers for being able to sign a 5-year, $23m extension in 2004, just like you can’t fault Landry for wanting to cash in on free agency.
Difference is, one is better for the Dolphins and the other is better for the player. I’ll always side with the player in those scenarios, but when we’re trying to figure out who the top-5 draft picks are for the Miami Dolphins, the contract differential plays into it.
Chambers played an extra 2.5 years, has 4 less fumbles, and was able to net Miami a 2nd-round draft pick in return for 6.5 years of service. With everything so evenly matched statistically, Chambers gets the slight nod. It was just a lot closer than I would have imagined.
2) Reshad Jones – 5th-round (#163 overall)
Through contract disputes, quitting mid-game, and game-sealing interceptions, Reshad Jones has had an enigmatic career with Miami.
Drafted in the 5th-round (163rd-overall) in the 2010 NFL draft, Jones has been the Dolphins biggest steal of the century. Forever overlooked because he plays for a team no one in America cares about (see Zack Thomas‘ bid to get into the Hall of Fame), Jones has consistently been one of the top safeties in the NFL.
- 21 career interceptions
- 3 career forced fumbles
- 7 career fumble recoveries
- 10.5 career sacks
- 4 career defensive touchdowns
And a swagger to match his aggressive playing style, Reshad Jones was everything you wanted out of a hard-hitting safety; especially one you unearthed so late in the draft.
Regardless of how the rest of Jones’ career with the Dolphins plays out, it’ll be hard for him to negate all of the passion and love he received from the fans throughout his 9+ year tenure. While recent history may not reflect too fondly on Jones, his name will forever be solidified as one of the great defensive players to put on a Dolphins uniform.
This interception against Tom Brady will always be one of my favorite Reshad Jones plays.
We remember (most of) these players fondly for their time with the Dolphins, though none of us can correlate success with any one of them. You might be able to slot them into this top-5 list, but where would you put them and who are you going to take off?
Paul Soliai – 4th-round (#108 overall)
A 4th-round pick that turned into a dominant defensive tackle for the Dolphins, Paul Soliai was as forceful as he looked. His inclusion on the defensive line theoretically improved the running game, though Miami’s linebackers behind him were typically sub par, leading to underwhelming overall statistics.
That said, Soliai was certainly a steal for the Dolphins, but everything else that encompasses Paul Soliai leaves him just barely off the list.
To start, Soliai took A LONG TIME to develop. We’re talking one training camp away from being cut.
Though active for 22 games his first two years in the NFL, Soliai barely played, and combined to record just 6 tackles between 2007-2008. After a productive 2009, Miami began to realize Soliai was a really good player – eventually causing the team to use the franchise tag on the Samoan defensive tackle after the 2010 season.
After, once again, failing to have the foresight to sign one of their emerging players at a cheaper value and being forced to use the franchise tag, the Dolphins signed Soliai to a more-reasonable 2-year, $12m contract after the 2011 season.
Between his long development, the expensive franchise tag, and frankly, performance that was great but not elite, Soliai finds himself missing the top group of draft picks this century.
Dolphins sign six to one-day contracts so they can retire as Dolphins: P Brandin Fields, DT Paul Soliai, LB AJ Duhe, DE Jeff Cross, OT Vernon Carey, WR Chris Chambers pic.twitter.com/SYtrx2sITc
— Chris Perkins (@chrisperk) April 19, 2018
Brandon Fields – 7th-round (#225 overall)
Annually one of the best positions on the Dolphins roster, Miami always seems to have one of the more-premier punters in the game.
Brandon Fields played 8 seasons for the Dolphins and was active for every game.
At some points, he was worthy of being the team’s MVP; specifically remembering the game against the Jets in 2010 where the Dolphins accumulated 131 yards of total offense and Brandon Fields ended the game with 10 punts for an average of 50-yards per punt. Miami won 10-6 that day.
He was excellent at his craft, and most-certainly worth a 7th-round draft pick. If it weren’t for the fact that Miami’s offense was so anemic throughout Fields’ career, it’s possible we don’t realize how effective he was. Though he certainly deserves the recognition, it’s tough to put a punter into the top-5 category when there are other athletes affecting the game much more than a punter would.
…Still doesn’t mean we don’t love and appreciate what he did for us throughout his tenure.
Charles Clay – 6th-round (#174 overall)
A playmaker uncovered in the 6th-round, Charles Clay provided much more value than we could have hoped from his draft slot.
Selected as a multi-dimensional player who can both block and line up as a possible receiving threat, Clay initially served as a fullback/H-back hybrid before being unleashed more as a receiver the final two years of his Dolphins tenure.
Though never flashy, Clay was exactly what you wanted out of a tight end. He was seen as such a viable asset to Miami’s offense, that Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills devised a contract that made it nearly impossible for Miami to match and retain Clay during the 2015 offseason (this all occurred because Miami placed the Transition Tag on Clay leading into free agency).
The contract proved to be unwise for Buffalo, and it hamstrung them throughout its entirety as Clay was both injured and underwhelming. But that doesn’t negate anything he accomplished with the Dolphins.
Jarvis Landry – 2nd-round (#63 overall)
An offensive playmaker for an organization that hadn’t had a playmaker since pre-marijuana suspension Ricky Williams, Jarvis Landry gave Dolphins fans something to be excited about. It also gave the rest of the nation a reason to tune in to Miami – an otherwise desolate franchise tucked away in the corner of the United States.
He certainly didn’t have the “experience” the other players on this list had for Miami, but between his production, vastly outplaying the original “bust” vibe that followed him out of college because he wasn’t built like a “prototypical” football player, and the passion he brought to Miami, if he wasn’t a breath of fresh air he was certainly a dose of moxie that this club hadn’t had in years.
Though Landry ended his Dolphins career on a sour note, I wouldn’t doubt he’d be welcomed back to Hard Rock Stadium with open arms and a round of applause. His passion bordered on immaturity and toxicity, but it was his infectious desire to win that won over the hearts of fans and fellow teammates. If Miami extended Landry prior to the final season of his rookie contract, he may still be on the team. Instead, the Dolphins let his price tag balloon outside of their price range (and, for the contract he signed, rightfully so).
On the Willingness-to-Block Scale, Jarvis goes to 11. Always has. pic.twitter.com/oCwlJMFpx9
— Chris Sprow (@Sprow) November 6, 2017
Brian Hartline – 4th-round (#108 overall)
You’re tripping if you think Brian Hartline doesn’t deserve to be recognized on this list!
Though the only sexy thing to originate from Hartline’s playing career was his 253 yard receiving game against the Arizona Cardinals back in 2012, we shouldn’t discredit what Hartline has done for the organization.
9th on the team’s all time receptions list with 298 receptions and 7th on the all time receiving list with 4243 yards, Hartline quietly compiled one of the best receiving careers in Dolphins history. Never a player opposing defenses felt threatened about, Hartline seemed like a guaranteed first down every time he was open.
A crafty receiver who was an exceptional route runner with soft hands, Hartline didn’t have the speed, strength, skill or intangibles to defeat his defenders, but he was one of the smartest receivers on the field, and knew exactly what his quarterback was looking for.
Ryan Tannehill‘s “blanket” before Jarvis Landry was drafted, Hartline may get teased for ending nearly every reception with a trip right before being tackled (an extremely healthy tactic, frankly), but at times he was the only legitimate “playmaker” on Miami’s offense.
The team’s lack of success doesn’t help Hartline’s image, but as a 4th-round draft steal, he should be remembered fondly by Dolphins fans. Lest we forget Patrick Turner was the alternative selected one round earlier than Hartline…
Xavien Howard – 2nd-round (#38 overall)
A couple injuries away from being on this list, Xavien Howard is already a star for the Miami Dolphins. Thing is, does a near-shutdown cornerback for 1.5 seasons translate to one of the top-5 draft picks of the entire century?
While we don’t think Howard is going to regress, we can’t put Howard on this list with such minimal experience under his belt. Does he turn into the next Jake Long or does he continue to excel as one of the top cornerbacks in the AFC? You can certainly use the same logic for Laremy Tunsil; how is he on this list but Howard is not?
Tunsil nearly missed the list for the same reason Howard made it, but Tunsil’s durability and the potential length of his career (compared to cornerbacks) has him higher than Howard at this very moment. Ultimately, Miami should have been able to fill the top-5 without such a debate between 2016 draft picks, but that shows you just how poorly Miami has drafted since 2000.
Barring a trade or the Dolphins unwisely letting Howard leave in free agency, expect Howard to land near Tunsil towards the top of this list 5 years from now.
Randy McMichael – 4th-round (#114 overall)
Both a force on the offensive line and a route running threat, Randy McMichael was an absolute bad*** for the Miami Dolphins throughout his tenure.
If his career began 10 years after he was originally drafted in 2002, he would probably be putting up numbers equivalent to (prime) Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.
Reliable and menacing, McMichael started every single game throughout his 5-year tenure – averaging 57 receptions, 619 yards, 3.6 touchdowns and just 0.8 fumbles per season during that time.
If you had any thoughts about including Charles Clay on this list, you can scrap it immediately for McMichael – this is the kind of tight end Miami has been missing since his departure in 2007.
— Dolphins History (@DolphinsHistory) March 8, 2017
1) Yeremiah Bell – 6th-round (#213 overall)
One of the best draft-day steals in the history of the organization, Yeremiah Bell was an underrated, overlooked and unknown safety throughout his 8-year tenure.
Easily the best set of contracts Miami has signed any player to in the past 30 years, on average, Bell annually cost just 1.66% of the team’s cap space. A phenomenal bargain for a starting safety who had a knack for making plays.
While his overall statistics aren’t as glossy as Reshad Jones’, his draft status (selected 50 picks after Jones), career contracts with Miami (Bell’s 8 years with Miami cost $2.5m more than Jones 2019 cap hit alone – $19.7m vs $17.2m), and a non-existent ego that didn’t quit on the team mid-game, Bell is easily the best draft pick the Miami Dolphins have selected this century.
If we had to pick between Jones and Bell for one game or for one season, the answer is going to be Reshad Jones; but take into account all the baggage that comes with Jones, and it makes more sense why Bell gave Miami more value for their draft pick.
While people have various opinions about Jones currently (overpaid, playmaker, quitter, leader, over-the-hill), no one has a negative connotation they can associate with Bell.
On a gloomier note, it certainly says something when the team’s best draft pick factored into just one playoff appearance throughout his 8-year career with the team.
By no means would we ever want to replace Bell, and he certainly isn’t the reason the team didn’t make the playoffs most of those years, but it does give us an indication why the team has been so mediocre all this time.
How many of these players were obvious selections? Now how many of them became obvious selections because there weren’t any other obvious choices you could make?
This list isn’t pretty, but it’s a bit prettier than the bottom-5 draft picks we put together this century. If you’re in the mood to torture yourself leading up to the NFL draft, check out who cracked the bottom-5 here.
Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Guide – Safeties
Over the next two weeks, Locked On Dolphins will bring you your one-stop shop for all things Miami Dolphins 2019 training camp
Game-By-Game Predictions Part 1 – 7/24 (Part 2 coming in September)
For the majority of the Ryan Tannehill era, the Dolphins entered training camp as dark horse candidates to seize a wildcard playoff berth. Things have changed for the worse in 2019, but the step backward comes with the hopes of constructing a perennial AFC East contender capable of winning games in January.
That’s the big-picture snapshot of the Miami Dolphins rebuild. In the interim, however, establishing the core principles of the Brian Flores program, as well as developing young talent, both capture the forefront of this year’s training camp objectives.
Over the next two weeks, we will get you familiar with each player on the roster. With biographies, quick-hitter scouting notes, and a prediction on the player’s ultimate role on the 2019 Dolphins, this serves as your guide for Miami’s summer practice session.
Cross-training promises to serve as the buzz phrase of this rendition of Dolphins camp. No position offers more dual functionality than safety, especially in a defense undergoing sweeping schematic changes.
In the past, the safety spots have been directionally based, opposed to the traditional strong and free distinctions. This round-peg-in-a-square-hole philosophy led to frustration; so much so that Miami’s longest-tenured defensive player pulled himself from a game last November.
Now, these safeties will have specific roles designated to suit their respective strengths. The universal trait of the group will be the ability to come down and cover the slot, tight ends, and running backs.
Tony Oden is one of two holdovers from the previous staff. Oden has been coaching defensive backs since 1996, including a GA stop at Brian Flores’ alma mater Boston College.
Reshad Jones – 9 years of service (10th in MIA)
Opening Day Age: 31.5
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $35M total, $13M guaranteed
Jones’ absence was the story of voluntary organized team activities. Amidst rampant trade rumors, Jones was present for mandatory work and an understanding has, apparently, been achieved between he and Coach Flores.
Jones is still a punishing hitter that excels defending both the strong and weak-side C-gaps on the defense. This scheme will put him back in a familiar situation playing in close to the line-of-scrimmage and sending him on a variety of run and pass blitzes. Jones played single-high, 20 yards off the ball, far too often last season.
Declining coverage ability, the occasional poor angle, and considerable medical concerns all add up to an uncertain future for Jones in Miami. The age and contract aren’t doing Jones’ long-term prospects any favors either.
Gotta love Reshad Jones. pic.twitter.com/gUs18ktATh
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 24, 2017
2019 Projected Role: Strong Safety, 100% snap-taker
Bobby McCain – 4 years of service (5th in MIA)
Opening Day Age: 26.0
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $22M total, $9M guaranteed
After a stellar 2017 season, injuries and position changes led to a down year for McCain. Among the game’s best slot corners two years ago, McCain was rewarded with a new contract, but he was outplayed in the slot by 2018 rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick. In 2019, the two could be interchangeable working in slot coverage and as a single-high safety (as well as two-deep looks).
This scheme utilizes three safeties the majority of the defense’s snaps. McCain could serve as the middle of the field man in those three-safety packages, and come down in two-slot looks for man-coverage responsibilities.
McCain is a terrific leader, astute tackler, and an occasionally effective blitzer.
Let’s start it off with Bobby McCain. Man up with one of the game’s best. Engages, breaks it up – this is teaching tape. pic.twitter.com/aDEHjNBtFf
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 6, 2017
2019 Projected Role: Free Safety, Slot Corner 85% snap-taker
T.J. McDonald – 6 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Opening Day Age: 28.4
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $17M total, $3.6M guaranteed
With one more year of guaranteed salary, McDonald needs to successfully transition into a new role to have a future in Miami. Inexplicably taking the job previously manned by Reshad Jones, McDonald’s inclusion into the defense wasn’t a positive one.
No longer among the top four, or even five, defensive backs on the roster, McDonald will come onto the field in sub-packages. He’s effective working downhill and should provide Miami’s dime package with a quality tackler and sound cover-man in the underneath shell.
McDonald robs Darnold on the INT. pic.twitter.com/J1Mc5jjusB
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 18, 2018
2019 Projected Role: Third Safety, Dime Linebacker (Dollar) 60% snap-taker
Maurice Smith – 2 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Opening Day Age: 24.3
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $645K total, $0 guaranteed
It’s difficult to assess Smith’s value the last couple of years. He rarely made it onto the field, but that could just be another indictment of incompetent coaching. At his best, Smith plays the robber role, dislodges footballs, and steps in front of intermediate passes.
With 10 players acquired in the secondary since Smith arrived in Miami, he has an uphill battle to fend off the newcomers for a job.
2019 Projected Role: Camp cut
2019 Dolphins Safeties at a Glance:
The decision to forego any acquisitions at safety this offseason was surprising. The most important position in the defense, Miami comes up a couple of bodies short unless McCain’s conversion is a success. He’s a bit undersized for the position, but he offers the instincts, tackling, and ball skills to provide some promise.
Jones’ role, and subsequent impact on the defense, is one of the more intriguing storylines of the year for the Dolphins.
With a lot of questions and fewer solutions, this group could be in for more changes next offseason.
Miami Dolphins sign cornerback Tyler Patmon
The Miami Dolphins have filled out the final roster spot by signing a familiar face: Tyler Patmon
After a Sunday night visit on July 21st, the Dolphins have officially signed cornerback Tyler Patmon. The corner was with the team during the 2015 season but failed to leave his mark during his first stint with the team.
Tyler Patmon has, however, managed to keep his career chugging along with time spent in Dallas in 2014 and 2015 and Jacksonville in 2017 and 2018.
The news was broken on Twitter by the official DEC Management account, who represents Patmon.
— DEC Management (@davidcanter) July 22, 2019
The team makes reference to Patmon’s first attempt with the team, but this time should be a better fit for Patmon considering the team’s roster makeup. With a few more years of experience under his belt, Patmon stands a better chance of getting a foothold and making an impact.
Tyler Patmon is also a special signing because of his being the 91st player under contract. The Dolphins have found some value in signing a player internationally, which has allowed them the ability to sign Patmon as a bonus player.
The Tyler Patmon the signing gives the Dolphins 91 players. Reminder that Durval Neto’s position on the roster allows Miami to keep the extra player courtesy of the Internarjonal Pathway Program roster exemption rule.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) July 22, 2019
I can’t say for certain if Patmon will ultimately end up on the final 53-man roster. My initial inclination is that it’ll be an uphill battle, but stranger things have happened. He might be able to step in and make some waves with the experience he has over some of the younger defensive backs.
Remember The Dolphins (Part 3: The 2010s)
True. The final chapter of the Dolphins’ current decade has not yet been written.
At the dawn of the 2019 training camp, the stars of Miami’s 2019 Super Bowl Champion team have not yet emerged and had their names stamped into the NFL history books.
But going by on the widely-held assumption that the Miami Dolphins figure to be at the very bottom of the league in 2019, we’ll draw a line under the decade of the 2010’s as the Dolphins begin their ‘hard’ reboot to bring the franchise back to glory.
In this third part of our Remember The Dolphins series, we’ll trudge up some painful recent memories by taking a look back at the years 2010-2018 and try to pick out those individuals who perhaps deserve some more recognition for the part they played despite the team’s overall lack of success.
For the Miami Dolphins, the 2010’s was a decade filled with unfortunate drama. The Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco; Richie Incognito; the resulting ever-changing revolving doors which built the offensive line; Mike Pouncey’s “Free Hernandez” hat; Dion Jordan; overpaid Free Agents; terrible draft picks; Chris Foerster bringing his out-of-office habits into the team facility; Brent Grime’s wife; a queezy, litter-picking coach; Vontae Davis’ grandma; the “Go” and Go, Go” offense; Matt Burke’s incomprehensible defensive scheme; and last but by no means least, Adam Gase.
It was not exactly a fun-packed decade for fans.
From one year to the next, the 2010’s barraged the Dolphins with national embarrassment off the field and an on-field product which no one could quite figure out.
The 2010’s undoubtedly will be most remembered, for better or worse (depending on which side you sit) for the Ryan Tannehill years.
Landing in the NFL as a franchise’s heralded saviour is generally tough enough. But landing in a city already drowning in football mediocrity, with a fanbase tired of the lacklustre QB carousel and desperately thirsty for a leading passer under the scorching South Florida sunshine was inevitably going to be a recipe for division among fans.
Add in the ever-present shadow of Dan Marino and the unforeseen successes of other young QBs around the league and anything less than spectacular would be deemed a failure.
And that is the past decade of Dolphins in a nutshell…
Cameron Wake was nothing short of awesome as the team’s premier defensive player and remains a living legend, seemingly ready to finish his career in Tennessee. It’s scary to think that Wake spent 10 years with the Dolphins (2009-2018) in which he started 126/146 games, accumulated 98.0 sacks, 358 combined tackles, 97 tackles for loss and 213 QB hits. As Dolfans, we have just witnessed the end of the most successful Dolphins tale of the decade. But that alone was not enough to gain the team anything more than one playoff game.
Save for a handful of highlight performances in 2016 to drag Miami to the playoffs, including Jay Ajayi’s back-to-back 200 yard games and Andrew Franks’ overtime field goal over the Bills on Christmas Eve, the Dolphins continued their desperate struggle for success for another decade.
2010 started badly for Head Coach Tony Sparano, then entering his 3rd year. Chad Henne (301 of 490) threw for 3301 yards, 15 TDs and 19 INTs. The Dolphins had broken the bank to bring in WR, Brandon Marshall to help in Henne’s development and aid a struggling offense. Although Marshall hauled in 1014 yards, a lowly 3 TDs was the ultimate result. The Dolphins found themselves sitting at 30th in the league in points scored and achieved a 7-9 record.
Things didn’t exactly improve quickly, if at all.
2011 saw the firing of Coach Sparano who was temporarily replaced by defensive co-ordinator, Todd Bowles after a 4-9 start to finish 6-10.
2012 saw the arrival of Joe Philbin and rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill which produced a now-familiar 7-9 record. The QB/HC relationship lasted 3.5 years and left everyone a “little queezy”.
The Dolphins scraped .500 records in 2013 and 2014 before falling to 6-10 in 2015 under the final year of Philbin’s reign.
Nothing of note had begun to shine out from the shadows of mediocrity and the patience of Miami fans was beyond tested.
Enter, Adam Gase.
The Peyton-Manning-endorsed offensive ‘genius’ arrived in 2016 taking the Dolphins to the playoffs despite a season-ending knee injury to the starting QB. And whilst the victories of 2016 weren’t repeated, the rare taste of playoffs had bought Gase enough stature that even the team’s brightest stars weren’t safe from his methods and relationships continued to sour to the point of breaking and eventual trade.
Jarvis Landry had stolen headlines with some highlight-reel catches and was unanimously adored by the Dolphins fanbase. Jay Ajayi had bulldozed his way into the history books before his relationship with the head coach turned to ash. Both players were quickly gone, uncerimoniously – their departures embodying the Dolphins’ constant inability of retaining success.
A number of players publicly spoke out against Adam Gase, as prime examples of what the Dolphins had become at their core – divided, unstable and without direction.
But looking back over the dysfunction of the 2010’s, let’s try to pick a handful of names out of the rubble who (outside of the Miami Miracle) deserve to be looked at in a brighter, warmer light and be remembered despite the team’s on-field and off-field failures.
Position: Running Back
The Saints’ 2nd overall pick of the 2006 draft found his way to Miami in his 6th year, following a trade with the Saints in July 2011. That season, he provided a spark of electricity to Miami’s offense and rushed for 1000+ yards for the first time in his career and scored 6 rushing TDs with an average of 5.0 yards per carry. Bush remained with the Dolphins for 2 years (2011-2012) and despite having been labelled as injury prone during his time in New Orleans, managed to be a dependable on-field presence, rushing for 2072 yards and 12 TDs as a Dolphin, whilst hauling in a further 588 receiving yards and 3 TDs. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of The Week in 2011 following a 203 yard performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.
Position: Running Back
The homegrown running back was drafted in the fourth round by the Dolphins in 2012 out of the University of Miami, sharing his rookie year with Reggie Bush. By his second season, Miller had adopted the starting role, but it wasn’t until 2014 when he really began to find his feet out of the Dolphins’ backfield. Miller’s totals of 1099 rushing yards and 8 TDs in 2014 remain his career highs, with a highlight 97 yard TD run against the Jets on 28 December 2014. Over the course of his 4 years in Miami, Miller started 48/61 games and rushed for 2930 yards and 19 TDs whilst catching 117 passes for 887 yards and a further 3 scores, before signing a 4-year $26m deal with the Houston Texans in March 2016.
Karlos Dansby came to Miami in 2010 after 6 years in the league with the Arizona Cardinals. His final 2 years in Arizona saw him tally 228 combined tackles including 17 for a loss, 5 sacks, 3 INTs and 3 forced fumbles. He was therefore a big-name target for the Dolphins in 2010 to help solidify the linebacker group under Tony Sparano. Dansby joined the Dolphins on a 5-year, $43m contract which (at the time) was the highest paid contract for an ILB in NFL history. In his 3 years at Miami, Dansby started 45/46 games and racked up 332 combined tackles, 1 INT, 5 forced fumbles and 6 sacks.
Position: Defensive Tackle
An absolute man-mountain, Paul Soliai was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He became a staple on Miami’s defensive line and spent 7 years in Miami (2007-2013), working his way to a full-time starting spot in 2010. Soliai started 62 of 99 games in his Dolphins career and had a knack for swatting down passes with 12 deflections. A huge body in the middle of the Dolphins defense, Soliai was predominantly a space-eater but also racked up 117 solo tackles (160 combined) including 25 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. He signed with the Falcons in March 2014 and the Panthers in March 2016 before signed a one-day contract to retire as a Miami Dolphin on 19 April 2018.
Position: Wide Receiver
A productive fourth round pick of the Dolphins in 2009, Hartline spent 6 years in Miami (2009-2014). Hartline’s best years came in 2012/2013 following the arrival of Ryan Tannehill and he developed into something of a trusted safety blanket for the young QB and set a Dolphins franchise record for receiving yards (253) in Week 4 of 2012 against the Cardinals. With over 130 targets in each of those years, Hartline caught 150 passes for 2099 yards, but only 5 TDs which is an indication of the team’s lack of productivity in the red zone. Injured early in his career, Hartline started 69 of 92 games in Miami hauling in 4243 yards and 12 TDs with a catch rate of 57.1% and 8.1 yards per target. In the final game of 2014, Hartline suffered a PCL injury which ended his tenure at the Dolphins and a quick year in Cleveland saw the end of Hartline’s NFL career and he is now WR coach at Ohio State.
Position: Wide Receiver
Similar to Hartline (and more recently Jarvis Landry) Davone Bess spent his first NFL years with the Dolphins before being signed by the Cleveland Browns. Arriving with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Hawaii, Bess quickly exceeded expectations. He was primarily positioned at slot receiver until injury forced Greg Camarillo off the field. Bess finished his rookie year positioned 3rd amongst rookie WRs in receptions. During his time as a Dolphin, Bess hauled in 12 TDs and had dependable hands (63.8% catch ratio) with a 6.9 yards-per-target average and he amassed a total of 3447 yards receiving. Bess was traded to the Cleveland Browns in April 2013 before troubling issues saw him placed on the non-football illness list in December 2013 prior to a series of arrests.
After 4 years in Dallas and 2 years in San Diego, Kevin Burnett signed as a Miami Dolphin in July 2011. He started all 32 games at linebacker during his 2 years with Miami (2011-2012) and stole 1 Pick-6, had 5 sacks with 216 combined tackles and 15 TFLs. Although always the truest of professionals, the productive and dependable player was released following the mistake-riddled free agent signings of Darnell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in March 2013.
Position: Defensive End
I liked Jared Odrick. Generally considered a surprising first round pick (28th overall) of the Miami Dolphins in 2010, he unfortunately suffered a foot injury in October 2010 cutting short his rookie season. Returning with a strong 2011 season, he registered 6 sacks and and an INT as a backup DE and didn’t take himself too seriously, evidence by his very odd Pee Wee Herman sack dance. Odrick spent 5 years in Miami (2010-2014) but suffered with injuries and started only 41 of 65 games. Alongside his INT, Odrick swatted down 11 passes and caused 3 forced fumbles, had 16.5 sacks and 129 combined tackles including 30 for a loss and 47 QB hits. Following his Dolphins career, Odrick spent 2 years in Jacksonville before his retirement after being placed on IR in December 2016.
A fifth round pick (145th overall) by the Dolphins in the 2010, Carroll was seen as a promising rookie and played a considerable amount on special teams. Fans will recall that during a kickoff return on 13 December 2010, Carroll was tripped over on the sidelines by the Jets’ strength and conditioning coach, Sal Alosi. Carroll was promoted to a starting role in 2012 and over the course of his 4 years in Miami he started 26 of 58 games, grabbed 5 INTs with 23 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 3 sacks. He racked up 123 combined tackles before signing a 2-year $5m contract with the Eagles in March 2014.
And there we have it.
At the dawn of the 2019 season, with the imminent start of training camp, the Dolphins now have an opportunity to write the decade’s final chapter.
Under the leadership of Head Coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins seek to change the story of their long-term mediocrity. With a young group of talented players ripe for development, we can only hope that many of them will seek to etch their names into the future of Dolphins’ history from 2020 and beyond.
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- Remember The Dolphins (Part 3: The 2010s) July 22, 2019
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