The Miami Dolphins
In this second installment of the State of the AFC East Nation, we take a closer look at the Miami Dolphins. Theyare a team that many predict to be on the rise in 2013, thanks to a budding young quarterback, some big name free agents, and the return of a stout defense. However, many people are not convinced that the team has improved at all and are spouting doom at the followers of this once elite franchise.
Starting at the top of the roster, the Dolphins have second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He was a reach at #8 overall in the 2012 draft and proved it by posting numbers that were barely even mediocre. He came out of college with a relatively low number of starts at the position and it definitely showed during the first 11 games of the season, when poor decisions lead to a 7:11 TD:INT ratio.
The blame cannot be laid entirely at young Tannehill’s feet, however. He was cursed with the poorest cast of skill position players of any rookie QB in the league who started in 2012; when your best receiver is Brian Hartline, you know there’s some problems with the roster.
On the positive side of 2012, Tannehill played comparatively better down the stretch. Despite a 2-3 record in the final 5 games, he posted 5 TDs to 1 INT. His completion percentage still left a lot to be desired, as did his total yardage, but he showed poise and command in the pocket, finally giving the rest of the world a glimpse of what must have impressed Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland enough to draft him in the first place.
The Dolphins have made some key acquisitions this offseason with an eye towards carrying that momentum over to 2013.
First on the list is Mike Wallace, the biggest free agent of 2013 and the crown jewel of the Dolphins’ 2013 Off Season Championship. Tannehill now has a legitimate #1 WR to throw to, who, despite his limitations as a route runner, is a real threat to take the top off a defense that coaches and players around the league must respect.
They’ve also picked up a good 3 WR in Brandon Gibson who will likely replace Devon Bess as the Dolphins’ slot receiver. Another big signing for the Phins was Dustin Keller, but his leg fell off at the knee after a low blow in a preseason game and he currently resides on the IR. The severity of the injury may actually end his career, so the Dolpins have to make do with the likes of Michael Egnew and Dion sims.
The offense also lost one of it’s most experienced and consistent players in Reggie Bush. A man with more than his share of detractors, he still posted back to back 1,000 yard rushing seasons, something Miami hasn’t seen since Ricky Williams. The Dolphins released him in favor of the young and totally uproven Lamar Miller, who definitely has the talent to be a “CJ SPiller Jr” level of RB, but has yet to show that he can handle the load. The offensive line also took a hit with the loss of Jake Long. While no longer the monstrous force of nature at Left Tackle he once was, Miami let him go without a viable replacement in mind. Jonathan Martin was the heir apparent, but he has not shown himself to be a reliable LT to protect their QB’s blindside and hasn’t been an effective run blocker either.
The defense of Miami has long been a stength and despite a few losses at linebacker this offseason, it remains so.
Cameron Wake is a top 5 pass rushing DE, arguably in the top 2 and his DT buddies of Paul Soliai and Randy Starks are one of the best DT tandems in the NFL. The unknown on the line is the other DE position.
The Dolphins traded up in the 2013 draft to take Dion Jordan at #3, but he has yet to show why due to a shoulder injury. He was regarded as one of the best pass rushing prospects in the draft, with speed and length to get to the quarterback quickly if given the chance. If he comes into his own this season, Miami could very well have the most dangerous and skilled front 4 in the NFL.
Another key signing was Brent Grimes at CB. The secondary was the Miami D’s only weakness last year and Grimes has apparently bounced back from his torn Achilles without a problem.
On paper, the Dolphins are most certainly trending up, but their fortunes ride on the shoulders of a second year quarterback who has only shown flashes of promise. I truly believe that Tannehill has legitimate skill and a chance to turn into a good NFL QB, but it might take more time than a lot of the Miami fans think. This year isn’t make or break, this year is Step 2 in a multi-year process of improvement and learning for young Tannehill.
But that’s just what I think. What I know is that the Dolphins drew a favorable Week 1 matchup, despite going on the road. Cleveland is another “trending upward” team, but they’re not as far along the path as Miami. Their strength is their Offensive Line and Trent Richardson and it will be an interesting match up between them and Miami’s stout D-Line.
As a Bills fan who grew up hating the crying little girl face of Dan Marino, it pains me to predict a Dolphins victory, but I see them taking a close game against Cleveland in Week 1.
Miami – 26
(Tannehill goes 17 of 30 for ~220 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT)
Cleveland – 20
(Richardson puts up over 100 yards on the ground and 2 TDs)
Written by: CJ gets too many carries