Andy Cohen: Hartline's 'Grand' Season And Other Opinions

Posted Dec 20, 2012

Emptying a cluttered mind with just two games left in the regular season.

• One of the great stories of this season has to be Brian Hartline. Last Sunday against Jacksonville, he became only the eighth player in team history to reach 1,000 receiving yards for a season.

That’s a pretty exclusive group, joining names like Clayton and Duper and Fryar and McDuffie. But did anyone really see this coming?

Hartline missed all of training camp and most of the preseason with a calf injury which followed an emergency appendectomy that tore 25 pounds off an already slender frame. With the Dolphins trading away Brandon Marshall and with a mostly untested receiving core, someone had to step forward.

Hartline did.

You’ve heard all the talk about how badly the Dolphins need a No. 1 receiver and how big plays just don’t come easily for this offense. Well, imagine where they would be without Hartline.

His previous best yardage total was 615 two seasons ago and that was with the benefit of Marshall demanding all sorts of the double coverage. This season he simply has reached another level, demonstrating sure-hands, above average speed, excellent toughness and a large dose of consistency.

“I’m blessed,” Hartline said after the Jacksonville game, his 68 catches also leading the team. “This was important to me. It has always been a goal I wanted to reach. There are a lot of receivers who don’t get that opportunity.”

Not bad for a fourth round pick who showed up with a resume that featured more questions than answers. The chemistry Hartline has developed with Ryan Tannehill is important. It was never more evident than in week four against Arizona when all Hartline did was catch 12 passes for a franchise-record of 253 yards. Why, just  that game alone put him 25 percent of the way to 1,000 yards.

That got everyone’s attention. And while it is too much to ask for a repeat performance like that one, it isn’t too much to expect Hartline to continue to grow in this offense. With a couple of good games to close out the season, he could very well have numbers unsurpassed by very few players in team history. That should not go unnoticed.

• As we evaluate this season, we can’t lose sight of the fact that, except for a few minutes against Houston and a forgettable afternoon against Tennessee, the Dolphins have had a realistic chance in every game. The record may say they are not close to reaching elite team status. But the performances indicate they really aren’t that far away. With so much money under the cap and five picks in the first three rounds of the draft, this could prove to be one of the most important off seasons in team history.

• I’ve listened to Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby at the past two Dolphins Touchdown Club luncheons and I can’t say enough times that this defense is in excellent hands with a pair of leaders like these two talented linebackers. They are impressive players and equally impressive people. To think they are both in the prime of their careers provides a real comfort zone for this defense moving forward.

• Has anybody noticed that Dan Carpenter has converted 15 of his last 16 field goal attempts? If he could only have the one back that he missed in the first Jets’ game.

• My own personal wish list for the Dolphins: More down-the-field speed on offense, an elite pass rusher to complement Cameron Wake, a play-making safety and an early retirement for Tom Brady. Is that too much to ask?

• Is it just me, or is defensive lineman Jared Odrick finally playing like a No. 1 pick?

• Part of me wishes the Dolphins had a chance to face the Vikings this season so we could see this rushing defense against Adrian Peterson. I know Peterson is a special player. But what this defense has done against the run this season can not be overstated.

• Not since Don Shula have I seen a Dolphins head coach with as impressive game management skills as Joe Philbin. You notice it at some point in every game.

• If you are looking for one over-riding reason for a 6-8 record, it is this mind-baffling stat: The Dolphins have forced one turnover in the last seven games. That they have been competitive, despite that, is remarkable.

Marcus Thigpen has a long, promising future in this league.

• Not big on predictions, but I can’t see any way the Dolphins don’t beat the Bills on Sunday.

• Not as confident the following Sunday at New England, but who can be confident playing that team in that stadium in late December?

• Really enjoy my regular one-on-one meetings with Philbin. Get interesting tidbits. Like I asked him his most memorable Christmas gift growing up: “A color TV,” he said.

• Happy holidays to all and here’s wishing that next year at this time the greatest dilemma facing the Dolphins is deciding whether they want to rest their starters before the playoffs begin.