Miami Dolphins' Most and Least Improved Players

Mario CuadrosContributor IIOctober 26, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30:  Wide receiver Brian Hartline #82 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the football after a reception against cornerback Jamell Fleming #23 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 30, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Carindals defeated the Dolphins 24-21 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We are near the end of Jets week. With a win against Miami's most heated rival, the Dolphins will be over .500 for the first time this season and will keep pace with the New England Patriots for the lead in the division.

Miami has certainly turned a lot of heads so far this season and a lot has to do with new players improving at a fast pace and established players also showing improvement.

The Dolphins have received major contributions from four drafted rookies, an undrafted rookie free agent and a player signed from the Canadian League. These players have proved that not only is the present looking bright, but the future looks brighter than it has in over a decade for Miami.

Even though Miami has seen a lot of players improve, they have also seen some remain at the same mediocre level, or some that have even taken a step back.

Here is a list of some of the Dolphins' most and least improved players going into Week 8 against the New York Jets.

Most Improved: Ryan Tannehill

I can probably count on my hand how many people believed Ryan Tannehill would be a successful NFL starting quarterback this early in his career. Tannehill had a lot of doubters that condemned the Dolphins for drafting him with the No. 8 pick.

Tannehill has not only proven to be a viable starter in the league, but he has also given Dolphins fans everywhere a sense of hope that their franchise might finally have a reliable quarterback. 

As the season has progressed, Tannehill has shown constant improvement. From his three-interception game against the Houston Texans in Week 1 to the Dolphins victory against the St. Louis Rams in Week 6, Tannehill has proven that he can handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback and has the ability to lead a team to victory.

Most critics that questioned the Tannehill pick (including myself) are now eating their words with the way Tannehill is performing. If he keeps growing at this rate, he might be able to help the Dolphins make a playoff run late in the season.

Most Improved: Brian Hartline

It would have been nice to see the Brian Hartline we are seeing today when Brandon Marshall was still in town. Then again, it would have been nice to have a quarterback that could actually throw them the ball.

It's hard to say whether Hartline's breakout season has to do with the fact that he has figured out how to be an impact wide receiver in the NFL, or because Chad Henne was so bad Hartline was never able to catch any passes.

In his fourth year in the league, Hartline has really improved from his previous three years. His best season included 43 receptions for 615 yards and one touchdown. In only six games this season, Hartline has already accumulated 29 receptions for 514 yards and one touchdown.

There's no question that Hartline has been a big part in helping Tannehill improve and feel more comfortable, but Tannehill has also helped Hartline become a better wide receiver than most people thought he could be.

Least Improved: Daniel Thomas

This was the year Daniel Thomas would complement Reggie Bush in the running game with hard runs down the middle and picking up the first down on 3rd-and-short. Thomas, however, has been mostly ineffective in the games he has played.

He has been hampered by two concussions which have caused him to miss two games already. He has also failed to be a factor in the running game as he has averaged only 3.1 yards per attempt.

Thomas does have two touchdowns from inside the red zone, but he has also had two costly fumbles. There is still hope for Thomas to become the player some expected him to become. The problem with Thomas is that Joe Philbin and this coaching staff didn't draft him, so they wouldn't have a problem letting him go.

Least Improved: Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter is one of those players that have actually taken a step back. Carpenter was a Pro Bowl kicker in the 2009-2010 season, but has has since been about average.

This season, Carpenter has been highly inconsistent for a team that needs points however they can get them. He has made seven of 11 field goals this season and has not been able to make clutch field goals at the end of games. 

He hasn't missed a field goal in his last two games, but the damage Carpenter caused against the New York Jets in Week 3 and Arizona Cardinals in Week 4 has already been done.