Monday, May 3, 2010

Mile High Miami

May 3, 2010

A few pieces of Denver, Colorado, have made it to Miami, Florida, and we are not talking about souvenirs from the local tourist shop. We are talking about the acquisitions of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos. These changes have metaphorically changed the landscape of Miami to that of the Mile High city, potentially elevating the Miami Dolphins to the level of contention.

In essence, the Dolphins have taken two of the Broncos' fortes and added them on their team in what clearly is a dramatic improvement on paper.Coach Nolan has a solid track record as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, while Marshall has emerged as one of the NFL's elite receivers.

      Nolan began his career at the collegiate level in 1981, coaching linebackers on Stanford University's football team. In 1987 he made the transition to the NFL, becoming the Broncos' defensive coordinator. He went on to have stints with five other NFL teams before landing back in Denver last season. In his relatively recent tenure with the Baltimore Ravens, Nolan coached his team's defense to top defensive rankings in three of his four seasons in Baltimore. Beyond that, when he returned to Denver, Nolan was able to help a much-maligned defense finish the season as the seventh ranked defense in the league.

      Nolan's experience is just what Miami needs after a dismal 2009 season on defense. With the defense-heavy draft selections the Dolphins recently made (seven of their eight picks addressed defense), it's clear Miami is taking strides to provide their new defensive coordinator with the proper tools to succeed. Just like in Denver, Nolan should be able to make due with the pieces he is given as no challenge seems to steep for the seasoned veteran.

      In his four NFL seasons, Marshall has accumulated 4,019 receiving yards with three consecutive 1,000+ yards seasons. At his rate of production, he will probably gain enough career yards in his first season with Miami to surpass the height of the Rocky Mountains' highest peak (Mount Elbert - 4,814 yards). And this young man, 26, has plenty in his tank to produce at a high level for seasons to come.

      Miami was 20th in passing yards last season and averaged just under 200 passing yards per game. Furthermore, no single receiver on the Dolphins roster secured more than three reception TDs during the '09 season. Marshall himself had just five less reception TDs (10) than the Dolphins completed all last season (15). His addition brings a consistent 100-reception, 1,000-yard weapon to the receiving core with the additional threat of big play after the catch. If Marshall continues on his current path, barring any injuries, he will improve Miami's offense instantly and dramatically.

      Thus, Miami is left with two wonderful Mile High gifts without the Holiday season anywhere in sight.  

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