Monday, May 28, 2012

Phins have bigger question mark than QB: Receivers

Photo: Photo-Gator, Flickr 


Most questions about the Dolphins lately revolve around the quarterback position, and for good reason. But no matter who lines up under center this year for the Dolphins, another question must be asked.

Who will that guy throw the ball to?

After Miami shipped Brandon Marshall to Chicago earlier this offseason, the best receivers left on the roster are Brian Hartline and Davone Bess. They are solid players in their own right, but let's just say that Darrelle Revis probably isn't trembling at the thought of playing the Dolphins this year.

The rest of the Dolphins' receiving corps consists of rookies, career practice squad players and journeymen free agents. The team will have to figure out which players will be able to thrive with a heavier workload, or they'll have a long year on the offensive side of the ball.

Hartline, who is currently listed as No. 1 on the depth chart, has one more career touchdown reception than Marshall had in last year's Pro Bowl game.

In fact, three players on the Patriots' roster have more career receptions and yards than the all of the Dolphins' wideouts combined, and seven have more touchdowns.

So who is going to carry the load for the Dolphins' passing game?

Since there's little to no history to look at, one must speculate on potential when assessing this unit.

Hartline has the best chance to have a huge jump in production this season. He has deceptive speed, runs good routes and reliable hands. He compares favorably to Jordy Nelson, who scored 15 touchdowns for the Packers last year under then-coordinator Joe Philbin.

His career-highs are just 43 receptions and three touchdowns, so it won't take much for him to have a "breakout" year.

Bess is already one of the better slot receivers in NFL, and he will be more productive with an improvement in quarterback play. His shiftiness and good hands make him a solid option in third down and short yardage situations.

Unlike Hartline, Bess has shown that he can be an effective receiver. Unfortunately, he isn't a big play threat and he couldn't be expected to fill that role this season.

Rookies B.J. Cunningham and Rishard Matthews, taken in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively, play similar styles and should be given every chance to find a role on the team this season. As big, possession receivers, they are both the type of wideout that fits in the west coast offense.

The receiver trio of Roberto Wallace, Marlon Moore, and Julius Pruitt have been at the bottom of the Dolphins' roster for a couple years now. They all have paid their dues on Miami's practice squad and this season is likely their best chance to finally make the roster and even see major snaps in the offense.

The only player the Miami signed after Marshall's departure was Legedu Naanee. Though he disappointed at both of his stops in San Diego and Carolina, he possesses all of the physical tools to be a good receiver and might just need the right system to show what he's got.

All in all, these Dolphins' receivers are nothing to get excited about. They lack any one player that scares the defense or could be considered a go-to-guy. Last season, Marshall could be counted on to get open, draw double coverage, or just make something happen if the ball was thrown his way.

Not one of these guys has shown they can be anything close to that. It'll take a combination of good game-planning by the coaches and effective quarterback play to help this unproven bunch avoid becoming a liability for this offense.

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