The preseason is over after tonight and we are now one week away from the NFL season actually beginning with the New England Patriots breaking the single game scoring record. Many are already crowning the Patriots the AFCE champions since no other team has stepped up to the plate since 2009. This year however, there is a team that is ready to step up to the plate and possibly take the throne away from the Patriots. That team is the Miami Dolphins and they have a lot of key areas of why they will be a contender.
They got the Quarterback
Ryan Tannehill has been a product of a franchise being patient and letting a QB actually develop. He has had his ups and downs and overall he has developed into a good QB. Last year he took that big leap as he threw for over 4,000 yards, 27 TD passes and 66.4 completion percentage. For his development and solid play, Tannehill got an extension and will be the Dolphins QB for the near future. What Tannehill has improved the most has been getting the ball out quickly. He had a tendency to hold on to the ball far too long, resulting in far too many sacks. Now he gets the ball out quicker. His ability has improved each year and this year he is knocking on the doors of the top 10. Tannehill is going to be a big reason why the Dolphins are a contender.
They got the coordinator
Bill Lazor is a very underrated offensive coordinator. Coming from Philly, Lazor runs a very similar offense to what Chip runs as well as adding some of his own wrinkles to it. Lazor, like Chip, runs a spread based offense which opens up running lanes and gives the receivers open areas to run after the catch. This offense gave success to Lamar Miller who ran for over 1,000 yards despite being extremely mediocre. Lazor also schemes a lot of quick passes which helps negate the poor offensive line and with receivers like Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills gives many opportunities for big plays after the catch. I expect the offense to get even better with a healthy Albert and better receivers on the outside than last year. Top 10 is really possible, and Lazor might be getting head coaching offers this offseason.
Their defense isn’t horrible anymore
The second half of last year the Dolphins defense collapsed, struggling against the run and forcing the offense to match touchdowns with the opponent. They addressed part of it with signing Suh. Suh is a top three defensive tackle in this league and he will cause a lot of interior pressure. This will help the edge rushers get favorable opportunities. The linebackers should be better with the two Ireland mistakes gone and the younger, better players taking their place. The secondary is led by Grimes who had another solid year and will continue to play great. Overall the defense will be middle of the pack but with opponents (in theory) playing catch up, the front four will be able to cause havoc and shut teams down.
Overall the Dolphins have steadily improved in talent the past two years and some of it will finally start to pay off. The offense will be very good and the defense will be able to create more pressure as opponents will be pass happy to catch up. The only concern that could possibly hold the team back is the head coach. Joe Philbin isn’t a good coach and his decisions the past two years are a big factor of why they were 8-8 both years. But with the talent on this team, at the very least 9-7 is achievable and if the talent starts producing like it should, watch out New England.