Assuming the Patriots go 12-4 and wrap up the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins will be hoping to sneak into the play-0ffs via the Wildcard. The defence has the talent, on paper, to be a force this season but on the other side of the ball is where the team may struggle and stop the team from playing football in January.
The defence – better than you think
Ndamukong Suh was a dominant force for Detroit and though that form has yet to arrive in Florida, there were glimpses of it last season and another year with the Dolphins will hopefully be beneficial to the team.
Cameron Wake is coming off the back of an Achilles injury and but hopefully still be a sack machine and with Suh demanding double teams, Wake will hopefully have plenty of 1-on-1 match ups. Olivier Vernon may have been allowed to leave the franchise but Mario Williams was signed as a replacement. Yes, at 31 you ask how much production can we really expect this season but he still has the ability to get to the quarterback and like Wake, should benefit from playing alongside Suh.
Kiko Alonso joins this season after a less than impressive brief stint in Philadelphia and will hopefully add more talent alongside Koa Misi, who was ranked among the NFL’s top 20 at his position by Pro Football Focus. The return of Dion Jordan shouldn’t mean the end of Misi at the team’s strong side linebacker. Though there may be superior linebackers out there in the NFL, Misi is the best the Dolphins have right now.
Another play to make the move from Philadelphia to Miami was Byron Maxwell, to help out a backfield which has lost Brent Grimes – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and seriously struggling for talent. Phin fans will be hoping the Legion of Boom Maxwell shows up and not the one that played under Chip Kelly. If Wake and co can produce a strong pass rush, it should benefit Maxwell and as well as the returning Rashaan Melvin, who will hope to make the 53-man roster. Given that second round pick Xavien Howard will miss the first few weeks due to injury, Melvin’s chances are high.
Bobby McCain, the team’s top nickel corner, should have a good year though the first few days of camp saw Michael Thomas play that role while McCain was on the PUP list. This unexpected camp battle can only benefit the team in the long run.
Reshad Jones is Reshad Jones. As long as he stays healthy, the Dolphins will be fine at safety.
The offence – where things could go wrong
The offensive line should hopefully improve after Laremy Tunsil fell to the Dolphins in this year’s draft.
Though in the backfield, Lamar Miller up and left to join the Texans and in came Arian Foster, another injury-plagued veteran to partner Jay Ajayi, who also struggles to stay fit.
Foster has looked impressive in training camp but everything changes in pads and during competitive games. The Dolphins under-used Miller last season but will need to establish the run in games to take the pressure of Ryan Tannehill.
Wide receiver is where the Dolphins are strongest. Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker offer the most hope to fans, with the pair looking very impressive last season. Landry is a stud is already making plays in camp which suggests he will continue to be a force in the NFL. Parker will be hoping to play all 16 games and kick-on from a quiet but impressive rookie season.
However, the biggest problem lies in the most important position for NFL team. Many argue that if you have a franchise guy in place, regardless of age, you keep him there until his production falls or he retires. However, while the Dolphins view Tannehill as their franchise QB, he has yet to live up to the status.
Joe Philbin made no secret that he wasn’t the biggest Tannehill fan, going as far as considering drafting Derek Carr during the 2014 draft. They didn’t, Carr joined the Raiders, and two years later is already a better quarterback than Tannehill is.
One of the defences of Tannehill is that he is relatively new to the position, having played defensive back in high school and wide receiver in college before transitioning to QB.
Another is that he is yet to be given total control of the offence. Not being able to change a play at the line of scrimmage or call an audible really hampers a signal caller.
The franchise pay him like a star, Tannehill signed a 4 year, $77 million contract in 2015, $45m of that guaranteed, including a $11.5m signing bonus. It leaves them in a precarious position.
New head coach Adam Gase has been brought in to get the best out of the QB and if he can’t, a new QB should be considered in the 2017 draft. Gase has used his contacts to get Peyton Manning to watch Tannehill this summer and if the Dolphins QB can learn nothing from one of the best to play the position, then there isn’t much hope for him.
That doesn’t mean Tannehill should to be shipped out, if anything he can be used as a bridge. But his position should be under-threat if he fails to become better than the 20th best QB in the league.
A dynamic duo in Landry and Jarvis and a possible star in Ajayi, there are some tools there for Gase to work with. And with an improved O-line, the worst thing the Dolphins can do is stick with Tannehill to prove a point.
If it doesn’t work out this season, it is time to move on and give Gase a QB he can mould into a star.