It can never be too early to discuss who will face the San Francisco 49ers in the team’s second year under Jim Harbaugh. Throughout the offseason, we’ll take a team-by-team look at the 49ers’ 2012 opponents and the offseason storylines for each team. Up first is the Miami Dolphins, who are scheduled to visit Candlestick Park in the fall, as the 49ers will face all four teams from the AFC East next season. View the 2012 schedule.
Team: Miami Dolphins
When: Week 14 (Dec. 9)
2011 Record: 6-10 (2-6 road)
All-Time Series: 6-4 Dolphins
2011 Recap: After losing seven straight games to start the season, the Dolphins finished with a 6-3 mark in the final nine games of year. But that wasn’t enough to save the job of coach Tony Sparano, who was relieved of his duties following a Week 14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Under interim coach Todd Bowles, the Dolphins went 2-1 to close out the year. Running back Reggie Bush became a focal point of the Miami offense in his first year with the club, notching his first career 1,000-yard rushing season (1,086 yards) while scoring seven touchdowns. The end of the year was marked by an emotional exit from defensive leader Jason Taylor, who wrapped up his 15-year NFL career with a 19-17 win over the New York Jets in Week 17.
2012 Outlook: Former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was hired as the 10th head coach in Dolphins history in January. While with Green Bay and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Philbin conducted one of the league’s most explosive offenses in 2011. Since hiring Philbin, Miami general manager Jeff Ireland said the team needs to upgrade at quarterback, despite having last year’s primary starter Matt Moore under contract for another season. Reports out of Miami have named the Dolphins as a potential destination for Peyton Manning should he be released from the Indianapolis Colts, while Green Bay backup Matt Flynn has also been reported as a possible option. Ireland has also said he wants to upgrade the team’s tight end and pass-rushing positions. Defensively, the Dolphins are expected to move from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 defense or a hybrid under new coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami holds the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft.
Three to Watch
C Mike Pouncey: As the No. 15 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, much was expected out of Pouncey in his rookie year. The brother of Pittsburgh Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey kept the family name's reputation strong after impressing over 16 starts. But the agile and athletic center will have his hands full with nose tackle
LB Karlos Dansby: The 49ers are very familiar Dansby, as the veteran linebacker spent six seasons with NFC West foe Arizona before signing with Miami in 2010. Ireland has said he thinks Dansby has the skill set to be the team’s middle linebacker in the new 4-3 defense, so it will be interesting to see how he handles his new responsibilities.
T Jake Long: The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft has lived up to his billing, being named to four Pro Bowls in four years. The hulking left tackle has been a consistent force of the Miami offensive line and is arguably his team’s most valuable player.
New York Giants
St. Louis Rams
Green Bay Packers
New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints
New York Jets
St. Louis Rams
Season tickets for the 2012 season are officially sold out. Click here to join the priority wait list.