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Miami Dolphins offer plenty of fodder for 'Hard Knocks'

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Hard knocks? Oh, the Miami Dolphins have taken plenty of those over the last 18 months. They've been embarrassed, ridiculed, exposed -- enduring a number of public hits that have yielded one too-little, too-late explanation of context after another.

With every action that has put Miami in its current state of demise, there has been a reaction from the organization to insist that's not how things went down. Dez Bryant? Jim Harbaugh? Jeff Fisher? The public had it wrong each time, they'd argue.

 
HBO "Hard Knocks" Teams
Year Team Record Playoffs
2012 Miami Dolphins ?? ??
2010 New York Jets 11-5 2-1
2009 Cincinnati Bengals 10-6* 0-1
2008 Dallas Cowboys 9-7 None
2007 Kansas City Chiefs 4-12 None
2002 Dallas Cowboys 5-11 None
2001 Baltimore Ravens 10-6 1-1
* Won division

It has always been the reason -- particularly in recent months, when some NFL players with grudges publicly said nobody wants to play for this organization -- that Miami needed to provide more transparency. And now, like never before, the Dolphins are about to provide it in a form nobody could have anticipated, not even head coach Joe Philbin, who said as much in March at the NFL Owners Meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

"I'm built for radio," he said. "Not TV."

So what will we learn about this little-known, little-respected Dolphins team that we never knew before? How will more than 1,000 hours of footage filmed by a 24-person crew provide a better understanding of this roster and this organization?

We'll soon find out. But since there's still more than two months before the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" airs on Aug. 7, we'll just have to guess. Here are some intriguing aspects of this team you should expect to be addressed:

Getting to know Ireland

General manager Jeff Ireland has as much to gain from this venture as anybody. A good man with a wonderful family, Ireland's national reputation has instead been defined by a multitude of issues that often spiraled out of control because he never really cared to defend himself. Now, the cameras could help do that for him.

Now, I'm not saying Ireland won't come off as terse in certain business dealings -- but I do anticipate the audience will see him as a far smarter businessman with a far more intricate plan than they had previously.

Should they also turn the cameras on his family -- including his wife, Rachel, and his twin daughters, who have been diagnosed with autism -- you'll learn about a man you've never really known.

Inspirational Tales

Of the few players many will recognize, two will most certainly have the chance to share their unlikely paths to the NFL.

Linebacker Cameron Wake and wide receiver Davone Bess -- both solid starters -- are among the more inspirational players you'll hear about in the league.

Wake flopped in his first try to make it as a pro, and he landed on his couch for nearly a year before he took a shot in the CFL. This offseason, after three successful years with the Dolphins, he signed a new contract that guarantees him $20 million.

Bess, meanwhile, lost his college scholarship at Oregon State when he was sentenced to serve 21 months in a juvenile detention facility after allowing a friend to store stolen items in his car. Bess played 7-on-7 football during his time at that facility and was given an opportunity at the University of Hawaii. An undrafted pick-up by the Dolphins in 2008, he's been producing ever since.

On the fringe

Plenty of Dolphins might be featured as guys fighting for a job -- but the two most personable and interesting characters are likely to be wide receivers Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore.

With a thin pool of proven talent at the position, both have a major opportunity. If they don't break out, the third-year receivers will likely be on their way out.

Wallace is a big, athletic player whose body is similar to that of former Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall, while Moore could make a very speedy downfield threat if he can put his tools to use. Wallace has a particularly interesting story; he didn't play football until his junior year of high school, instead growing up as a soccer player in Panama.

Crunching numbers

Whether or not tight end Les Brown makes the team, he'll undoubtedly find a place on HBO's lineup if he's still around during training camp. Brown is the accountant-turned-football-player who was discovered this offseason when he ran a fast 40-yard dash after being convinced to give pro football a shot. He never played in college and was a complete unknown before this year, living in Palm Beach as a number-cruncher.

These are the types of stories that make this show great -- even if it's a far bigger leap to wonder whether Brown will eventually also make the Dolphins great.

Love Birds

It will be interesting enough to follow Ryan Tannehill around for a few months as he gets acclimated to life in South Florida and in the NFL. Battling for the starting quarterback job, Tannehill comes from a small Texas town that's far from the glitz of South Beach.

But there's another member of the Tannehill clan -- his wife, Lauren -- who has been tabbed as an early favorite to get plenty of camera time. An aspiring model, Lauren has already proven comfortable in the public eye. As a result, we're likely to learn quite a bit about this couple's transition into a much bigger spotlight.

Class clowns

Under Pressure

Around the League will examine one key player under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season:

AFC East
Bills | Dolphins | Jets | Patriots
AFC North
Bengals | Browns | Ravens | Steelers
AFC South
Colts | Jaguars | Texans | Titans
AFC West
Broncos | Chargers | Chiefs | Raiders
NFC East
Cowboys | Eagles | Giants | Redskins
NFC North
Bears | Lions | Packers | Vikings
NFC South
Buccaneers | Falcons | Panthers | Saints
NFC West
49ers | Cardinals | Rams | Seahawks

Had Ricky Williams or Channing Crowder still been on this roster, they'd easily be the most entertaining and most interesting players for the cameras to follow. In fact, it's a downright shame that neither are with the team. But since we're forced to watch on without them, there are two players with a pretty solid chance to make viewers laugh, either with them or at them: cornerback Vontae Davis and center Mike Pouncey.

Davis has the type of personality that will merit a montage or two of all his quirky sayings. With a high-pitched voice and a free-spirited demeanor, Davis is a fun-loving guy who lives in his own hilarious world. Don't worry: You'll soon find out exactly what that means.

Pouncey, meanwhile, is one funny big man. The twin brother of Pittsburgh Steelers Pro Bowl offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, Mike is sure to provide some type of humor -- whether in the form of practical jokes or otherwise.

Going Incognito

Dolphins guard Richie Incognito once was known as one of the "dirtiest players in the NFL," according to those annual player surveys done by Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News. He was often penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and his disruptive nature on the field led to his eventual release from the St. Louis Rams.

Incognito has made a very conscious, very effective effort toward getting his career on a solid track, and he has also done quite a bit in his life to manage his behavioral issues. His is not a guaranteed storyline for "Hard Knocks," but if the producers choose to dig a little, they could find that he's among the more interesting people on the roster.

Etc., etc., etc.

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Of course, you're bound to learn plenty more about this Dolphins team that you've never known. Perhaps more about the private life of running back Reggie Bush. Or maybe the story of nose tackle Paul Soliai and his adopted child. Or David Garrard's continued push to become a star quarterback in the NFL.

Whatever the case, this might be a team of mostly unknown players. It might be an organization angling for some much-needed momentum. But it is still a team -- like most organizations in this league -- made up of interesting people whose lives should provide plenty of fodder for HBO in the months to come.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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