GLS Preview: Miami Dolphins

For months, all we’ve heard is that the Miami Dolphins need a quarterback. That is probably true, but while the media and fans bitched and whined about the team’s inability to pull the trigger on a trade for Denver’s Kyle Orton, the team got better elsewhere.

The Dolphins weren’t terrible through the air in 2010, but they did struggle to run the ball. In fact, only the Bengals had a lower yards-per-carry average than Miami’s 3.7 mark. Gone are aging running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. In are young playmakers Reggie Bush, who was acquired in a trade with New Orleans, and Daniel Thomas, who was the team’s second-round pick in the 2011 draft.

Throw in a few more quality additions and consider that the Phins haven’t had a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino and it might not be crazy to declare that this Miami team is better than the one that went 11-5 in 2008.

2010 in a nutshell: They put up fights against the Jets, Packers and Steelers early, but the offense struggles badly and injuries play a large role as they finish 7-9 for the second straight season.

Three predictions for 2011:

1. The defense will be good. Really good: It was good last year, but it’ll be really good in 2011. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, who was signed as a free agent last week, will be a major upgrade over Channing Crowder. Cameron Wake and Karlos Dansby are stars and Koa Misi is becoming one. The line is stacked with three extremely talented 20-somethings and Vontae Davis and Sean Smith make up one of the best young cornerback duos in the league. Will Allen, A.J. Edds and Jared Odrick return from injury to add depth to boot. If they can stay healthy, this is a top-five defense against both the pass and the run.

2. Barring injury, Chad Henne will start throughout the year: This is obviously a gut feeling more than anything, but I don’t think Matt Moore has what it takes to supplant Henne and I doubt they acquire someone new at this point in time. It would be interesting to see them take Terrelle Pryor in next week’s supplemental draft, but Pryor would have trouble contributing in 2011 anyway. And although Henne is shaky as a starter, I want to point out that he still completed over 60 percent of his passes for over 3,300 yards last year. This might not be a total disaster.

3. Reggie Bush will have his best season as a pro: Bush’s offensive numbers have declined for four consecutive seasons and he’s had trouble staying healthy during his short career. That said, I get the feeling a new environment will be good for the former No. 2 pick. And I’m hoping that new Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will use Bush as part of unique offensive looks in the same way he changed Josh Cribbs’ career in Cleveland. Bush just needs to stay healthy, and the presence of Thomas, Mike Pouncey and Marc Colombo should help.

The final word(s): The Dolphins will exceed expectations. If Henne can come around and limit his interceptions, they might even push for a playoff spot. I’ll give them a 9-7 record, but I can’t help but wonder if Orton would’ve put them over the top in 2011.