It's too early for '09 season previews, and too late for '08 season reviews. What's an NFL blog to do in the never-ending quest to overcover the bejeezus out of the NFL? Offseason progress reports. Let's go in alphabetical order. Today, the Miami Dolphins.
Free agents lost: QB John Beck(notes), CB Andre Goodman, OT Daren Heerspink(notes), S Renaldo Hill(notes), DE Vonnie Holliday(notes), OL Al Johnson(notes), G Matt McChesney(notes), LB Kelvin Smith(notes)
Drafted: CB Vontae Davis(notes), QB Pat White(notes), CB Sean Smith(notes), WR Patrick Turner(notes), WR Brian Hartline(notes), TE John Nalbone(notes), FS Chris Clemons, OT Andrew Gardner(notes), OLB J.D. Folsom(notes)
The biggest addition the Dolphins have made in the '09 offseason is a sense of confidence that the organization hasn't had since Dan Marino was sliding his Isotoner'd hands under the center's crotch. The Dolphins and their fans expect to be contending for the AFC East crown, and for the first offseason in a long time, that doesn't even sound crazy when you say it out loud.
Sure, there are questions. Last year, the Dolphins were the beneficiaries of a relatively soft schedule, and that's not likely to be the case again. They won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. The Wildcat formation will no longer be a surprise to anyone. And a certain quarterback is recovered from a knee injury and expects to return the rival New England Patriots to dominance.
But the Dolphins are still right there in the mix. It'll be year two of the Sparano regime, everyone will be more comfortable with the system, and the stability and confidence that developed last year should only grow this year.
There are individual players to be excited about, too. Ronnie Brown(notes) expects to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) expects to have a breakout season at receiver. Jason Taylor is back in town and looking to get after the quarterback. Draftee Pat White could add another wrinkle to the offense. Sort of a Wildcat within a Wildcat.
What I like most about the Dolphins offseason, though, is that you look at the players that they cut, allowed to walk away as free agents, or traded away, and you don't see anyone they'll miss terribly. That kind of continuity from year to year is what builds quality teams.
Progress: Progress for the Fish doesn't necessarily come in the form of new additions to the roster, but instead, from building on what they accomplished last year. There's no reason to believe that they won't be better, and that's good, because they'll have to be a much better team to achieve the same record a year later.
Minus 1 game. 11-5 last year, 10-6 this year.