Where Is The Love?

Joey Porter and Channing Crowder both were very vocal last week about saying the Dolphins weren't getting the respect they feel they deserve because so many observers are picking New England as the favorites to win the AFC East. But it's not just as a team that the Dolphins are having a tough time getting embraced nationally, as evidenced by The Sporting News' recent series of rankings.

Using a team of former NFL scouts, sportingnews.com ranked the top 20 at every position in terms of their expectations for 2009, although it limited the punters, kickers, centers and fullbacks to the top 10, and the return specialists to the top 15.

That's 20 players at 12 different positions (safety, cornerback, inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, defensive end, guard, tackle, running back, tight end, wide receiver and quarterback), 10 players at four more and the 15 returners, which adds up to a total of 295 players recognized.

Of those, 295 players, only six play for the Dolphins. By comparison, the Patriots had 13.

That's quite a disparity, given the fact the Dolphins won the AFC East title last year.

Now, we're not suggesting the Dolphins have as much talent as New England because they probably don't. But the difference shouldn't be this drastic.

The six Dolphins players who made the sportingnews.com rankings were Chad Pennington (19th at quarterback), Ronnie Brown (16th at running back), Lousaka Polite (fifth at fullback), Jake Long (eighth at tackle), Vernon Carey (19th at tackle) and Joey Porter (fifth at outside linebacker).

Breaking down some of the positions, Pennington clearly belonged in the top 20, and probably higher than 19th. For goodness sakes, he's ranked behind Washington's Jason Campbell. Are you kidding me?

At tight end, one wonders why it was that Anthony Fasano couldn't crack the top 20. He had seven touchdown catches last year and there's no reason to doubt he'll build on that this season. We also would expect him to do better than oft-injured Jeremy Shockey or Brent Celek of the Eagles.

Justin Smiley was shut out of the guard rankings, but that can only be attributed to his recent injury history because he's clearly a top 20 talent at the position.

At defensive end, we would take exception to Kendall Langford being shut out, while 3-4 ends Igor Olshansky and Brett Keisel both made the list. Olshansky is coming off a mediocre season in San Diego and will try to rebound in Dallas, while Keisel is nowhere near as good as fellow Steelers starter Aaron Smith, who is No. 6 on the DE list. Langford is coming off an impressive rookie season, and he should be even better in Year 2.

At cornerback, it was interesting to see Patriots offseason acquisition Leigh Bodden come in at No. 15, while there was no sign of either Will Allen or Dolphins first-round pick Vontae Davis. We'll venture to guess either of those two players will have a better season than Bodden, who was mediocre in Detroit last year.

Finally, it was also interesting to see former Patriots No. 1 Brandon Meriweather be ranked as the No. 17 safety when he's had very little impact since entering the NFL, while Yeremiah Bell wasn't considered one of the top 20 safeties for 2009.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't be surprised the Dolphins didn't get more respect. Their title last season came as a shock to a lot of folks, and there are many who have suggested it was largely the result of a soft schedule.

Considering their 2009 schedule is the toughest in the league, based on last year's records, the Dolphins' talent level will be tested early and often starting in September. We'll start to find out then whether those scouts were on the ball or badly underrated the Dolphins.

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