Niles Pender - NFL Fan Appeal
The 2012 Miami Dolphins will officially kick off their regular season on September 9 against the Houston Texans. That game will mark the beginning of a campaign surrounded by question marks. It's a fair assessment to say that the Dolphins could easily find themselves in the playoffs, or they could easily find themselves with a high draft pick heading into 2013.
Expectations for the 2012 season start with the 2011 season. Last year's squad started 0-7 before finishing strong, managing to go 6-3 down the stretch. The highlight of the season came when Miami rattled off three straight wins against Kansas City, Washington and Buffalo. Although the 6-10 record was identical to the end of their 2010 campaign, the strong finish was enough to give fans hope.
The biggest difference in the 2012 Dolphins will start with coaching. After Tony Sparano was relieved of his duties in December, many fans were anxious to see who would be his successor. That man ended up being Joe Philbin. Philbin was plucked out of Green Bay, where he spent almost a decade directing the Packers offense and molding the team into the powerhouse that it is today. The prospect of having Philbin inject the Dolphins offense with some new life is an exciting one, and he's sure to be beneficial to more than just the offense.
Much of the season is also going to hinge on whether the team can find some consistency at the quarterback position. Although the team lobbied hard to sign Peyton Manning, they came up short and found themselves looking elsewhere for an answer at the position. Finding that consistency will likely depend on Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins' rookie quarterback out of Texas A&M. The recipient of a decent amount of attention during college, Tannehill's stock soared in the weeks leading up to the draft. That culminated in the Dolphins trading up to take him with the eighth overall pick.
Then again, there's a chance that Tannehill won't be under center once September arrives. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently stated that Matt Moore would likely be the starting quarterback during 2012, something that won't be too upsetting to fans who thought Tannehill was a reach. Between the relative stability of Moore and the potential of Tannehill, the Dolphins should be able to find someone who will deliver results at the position.
Another change that will certainly be noticeable once the team takes the field is the retention of Paul Soliai and Cameron Wake on defense. Richard Marshall and Ryan Baker will also benefit the defense as well. No matter what look Philbin gives the defense, it appears as though the team has enough weapons on defense to at least maintain, if not improve, its defense. Considering that the unit was ranked 15th in the league last year, this isn't a bad thing, but it's also hard to see it as a positive.
Perhaps the most visible difference will not be who's there, but rather who's not there. The team traded mercurial wide receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round draft picks. Marshall's ability to produce will be missed, but the baggage that comes with him - such as promising to get thrown out of one of last year's game against the Jets - certainly will not.
Again, the 2012 season could go either way for Miami. In a best-case scenario, Joe Philbin will turn out to be the leadership spark the team needed, and the Miami Dolphins will live up to the potential that they showed in the last half of 2011. Anything's a possibility, but the wait is getting shorter. Fans have less than four months to wait until the 2012 Dolphins take the field for the first time.
Miami Dolphins Schedule 2012
1 Fri, Aug 10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Tampa Bay
2 Fri, Aug 17 Carolina Panthers @ Carolina
3 Fri, Aug 24 Atlanta Falcons vs Atlanta
4 Wed, Aug 29 Dallas Cowboys @ Dallas
1 Sun, Sep 9 Houston Texans @ Houston
2 Sun, Sep 16 Oakland Raiders vs Oakland
3 Sun, Sep 23 New York Jets vs NY Jets
4 Sun, Sep 30 Arizona Cardinals @ Arizona
5 Sun, Oct 7 Cincinnati Bengals @ Cincinnati
6 Sun, Oct 14 St. Louis Rams vs St. Louis
8 Sun, Oct 28 New York Jets @ NY Jets
9 Sun, Nov 4 Indianapolis Colts @ Indianapolis
10 Sun, Nov 11 Tennessee Titans vs Tennessee
11 Thu, Nov 15 Buffalo Bills @ Buffalo
12 Sun, Nov 25 Seattle Seahawks vs Seattle
13 Sun, Dec 2 New England Patriots vs New England
14 Sun, Dec 9 San Francisco 49ers @ San Francisco
15 Sun, Dec 16 Jacksonville Jaguars vs Jacksonville
16 Sun, Dec 23 Buffalo Bills vs Buffalo
17 Sun, Dec 30 New England Patriots @ New England