Parting Words for the Offseason: How Good Could the Miami Dolphins Really Be in 2015?
Over the last two seasons, the Miami Dolphins have been your run-of-the-mill average football team. Since Dan Marino left, the team has been stuck in an 8-8 cycle. Plagued by sub-par coaches and quarterbacks, the Dolphins have been somewhat of a laughing stock, while the Patriots have won four championships and dominated the AFC East.
Is this year different? The Dolphins inked their franchise quarterback to a contract extension through 2020, they signed arguably the second biggest free agent of all time (behind Reggie White), and have their longest tenured coach since Dave Wannstedt eleven years ago.
On offense, Ryan Tannehill is entering as his fourth season as Miami’s starting quarterback and his second in Bill Lazor’s offense. At times, there have been concerns to whether Tannehill was a “good” starting quarterback, but he has always flashed talent. With a lackluster offensive line, he has kept the Dolphins competitive, even if they have fallen short over the last few seasons.
When Tannehill has time to step-up and throw the ball, he shows above-average accuracy, especially over the middle. Tannehill has gotten better every year, which is somewhat incredible going into his fourth season. He survived two years under Mike Sherman’s “Catch-and-fall-over” offense, which featured the hard to figure out go and go-go system. Go represented a pass while Go-Go represented a run….. Try to keep up with me.
But like I said, Tannehill improved every year. With linemen like Tyson Clabo, Jonathan Martin, and Bryant McKinnie, it is pretty shocking. Let us not forget that these offenses featured explosive weapons like Brian Hartline and Daniel Thomas. Did I mention how he has gotten better every year with literally NO help.
Moving on… Miami’s offensive line is the best one they have had in some time. Lead by Pro-Bowlers Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert, the Dolphins should have no problem moving the ball (also keep in mind, Ju’Wuan James is no slouch). The guard position is somewhat of a hole for the Dolphins, but every team has its holes. If the Dolphins’ biggest issue is the guard position, this team will have a shot at a serious playoff run. Think about it, they should’ve made the playoffs with Dallas Thomas, Samson Satele, and Shelley Smith as starters.
The Dolphins also have one of their best receiving corps of in team history. The contingent of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and Jordan Cameron provides play makers all over the field. Keep in mind, the Dolphins also have DeVante Parker, Matt Hazel, and Rishard Matthews, three players who deserve playing time if not starter reps. DeVante Parker should get there as he eases into the offense.
On defense… What is there to say that hasn’t already been said? The Dolphins have one of the best edge rushers in Cameron Wake, the league’s best defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh, and that is only the start. The Dolphins also have a premiere safety in Reshad Jones and a Pro-bowl corner in Brent Grimes.
The defense fell apart last season down the stretch, mainly because the unit was built around undersized and older players. Now, the Dolphins have a young and aggressive defense. It does have some holes, but the young players like Walt Aikens and Jamar Taylor (or any of the young DBs) should have more than a few shots to make a game-changing play.
While there are plenty of people worried about Miami’s special teams, I am not one of them. Yes, the Dolphins feature a rookie punter and kicker, but Miami’s special teams were terrible last season. Darr has looked great this preseason and Franks looks like a consistent enough field goal kicker, at least for one year. Based on last season, the only direction to really go is up.
Overall, the Dolphins look like they could be a powerhouse this year. The team has holes, but I believe they won’t have trouble making up for the deficiencies in the roster. Combine that with a very easy schedule, I believe the Dolphins have a shot to go 12-4 and take the AFC East title. They have the talent and I’ll even say the coaching to get them there. It comes down to game-planning and execution, but knowing Bill Lazor and Joe Philbin, that may not be an issue with everything on the line in 2015.