It is becoming more apparent that the days of rookies having to wait their turn when it comes to becoming integral to the success of a team has passed. The Miami Dolphins’ Class of 2012 was proof of that.
Starting with quarterback Ryan Tannehill
, Miami’s first-round draft pick and No. 8 overall, all the way to undrafted free agent fullback Jorvorskie Lane
, these rookies delivered in crucial situations. Tannehill became the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to start all 16 regular-season games and had rookie offensive tackle Jonathan Martin
(2nd-round pick) protecting his right and left side at different points during the season.
Lane won the starting fullback job in training camp and started five of the 16 games in which he played, finding the end zone three times. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass in Miami’s 24-3 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 15.
Two former Miami Hurricanes left their mark as well, with third-round pick Olivier Vernon
emerging as a situational pass rusher with 3.5 sacks and a solid special teams players with two blocked field goals and a touchdown on a blocked punt. Miller, taken in the fourth round, led all Miami running backs with an average of 4.9 yards per carry and finished with 250 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries.
Wide receiver Rishard Matthews
, selected in the seventh round with the 227th overall pick, came on strong at the end of the season and wound up with 11 receptions for 151 yards and a 13.7 yards-per-catch average. Fellow seventh-rounder Kheeston Randall
and undrafted Derrick Shelby
were part of the regular rotation on the defensive line, finishing with a combined 16 tackles (8 each). Undrafted Miami native Josh Samuda
dressed for all 16 games and backed up center Mike Pouncey
, third-round pick Michael Egnew
played the final two regular-season games at tight end and fifth-round pick Josh Kaddu
, a linebacker, appeared in four games. Signature Moments
All eyes were on Tannehill pretty much from the moment he was drafted, but definitely after he beat out Matt Moore
for the starting job and became the first rookie quarterback in franchise history to start on opening day. His first NFL touchdown, on a 2-yard scramble in a 35-13 Week 2 win over the Oakland Raiders, is one that he’ll never forget, but his three-game stretch in Weeks 4, 5 and 6 was his signature moment. Tannehill led the Dolphins to a 2-1 record in those games and evened their overall record at 3-3 headed into the bye, with his most prolific performance coming in a 24-21 overtime loss at Arizona. He threw for 431 yards in that game and followed that up with passer ratings of 92.3 and 112.0 in wins at Cincinnati and at home over St. Louis. His best passing performance in terms of efficiency came in a 24-3 win over Jacksonville in Week 15 when he went 22-of-28 for 220 yards, two touchdowns and a 123.2 passer rating. … Martin made the tough transition to right tackle as a rookie after starting at left tackle his entire college career at Stanford, then moved back to the left after Pro Bowler Jake Long
suffered a season-ending arm injury. … Vernon’s defensive best came against the Rams when he recorded two sacks of Sam Bradford, the last one basically sealing the victory by forcing St. Louis to try an ill-fated 66-yard field goal, and on special teams his touchdown and blocked field goal in Miami’s 30-9 win at the Jets stood out. … Finally, Miller gave fans a glimpse of his potential in Week 2 against Oakland when he rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He saved his best for last in Miami’s 24-10 win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 16 when he rushed for 73 yards on 10 carries. Coaching Perspective
“Well, it’s a good group of guys. They are serious about football, they have been professional in the building and they work hard at it. I think they have acclimated in their adjustment from college football to pro football. I think it has been relatively smooth. … Our staff has done a great job with these young guys. So yeah, I’m excited about them. There’s still a ton of room for improvement and hopefully more contributions and production out of those guys, but overall it’s a good group.” – Head Coach Joe Philbin Teammate Perspective
“I think the biggest compliment you can pay them and the other rookies is that we forget how many rookies we have on this team. They play well and we ask a lot out of them because we have a rookie starting quarterback and a rookie right tackle and rookies like running back Lamar Miller
and wide receiver Rishard Matthews contributing. We’ve had a lot of young guys step up and have to really take on a lot of responsibility real early, but I think they’ve done a great job.” – Pro Bowl left guard Richie Incognito