Today we continue our 32 NFL Team Preview by dissecting the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are looking for their first Playoff win since 2000 and first appearance since 2008. Last season Miami hired Joe Philbin to his first Head Coaching job in the NFL, and he finished with an admirable 7-9 record. Philbin is known for being an exceptional Offensive Coach, but his team only finished 27th in Total Offense (26th Passing and 17th Rushing) for 2012. Many feel Miami can win the AFC East this upcoming season. They’ll need a strong year from Philbin, game planning, if that is going to become true.
Offense: Miami believes they have their franchise Quarterback for the future in Ryan Tannehill, who they selected with the 8th overall pick in 2012. Tannehill is a mobile Quarterback who ran for 211 yards last year, as well as threw for 3,294 with 12 touchdowns. Tannehill hasn’t had a lot of experience playing the position, as he started out as a Receiver in college. He’s going to need to advance in making the proper reads if he wants to throw more touchdowns and less interceptions (throwing 13 in his rookie year). Ryan got an exceptional deep threat during Free Agency in Mike Wallace. The Wide Receiver caught 32 touchdowns in 4 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Dolphins can get the same production out of Wallace, it’ll open things up for the other Receivers, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. Hartline is a solid hands-catcher who brought in 74 passes in 2012 for 1,083 yards and (team high) 48 first downs. Gibson comes to the Dolphins from St. Louis, where he had a career high in yards (691) and touchdowns (5) last year. The wild card for this Offense is an un-drafted free agent from Mount Union, Jasper Collins. I believe someone should have taken a chance on Collins in the draft; his 2012 production of 92 catches, 1,694 yards and 22 touchdowns was overlooked due to the competition he was playing against. I think Collins will force his way onto the field in Miami and, when he does, will be an immediate impact. One position that isn’t guaranteed for anyone is the starting Running Back. Miami has two players who will more than likely win the position, and a third who is a long shot. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are the two favorites going into Training Camp. Miller, a 4th round selection in 2012, showed nice promise in his few carries last season, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 51 attempts. Daniel Thomas has had opportunities to take over the main spot at Running Back the past 2 years, but was hampered by injury in each. Thomas also got in hot water with Coach Philbin when he violated three team rules (late for a lifting session, improper dress code, and being late for a team plane). The long shot to win the position is Mike Gillislee, a rookie from the Florida Gators who the Dolphins selected 164th overall. Whoever does win this job for Miami, will have definitely earned it. At Tight End the Dolphins tried to bring in a reliable pass catching target for Tannehill to work with, in Dustin Keller. It was a rough year last season for Keller, as he battled a hamstring and ankle injury. If Keller can stay healthy in 2013, he’ll be a security blanket for Tannehill in the Red Zone, or when things seem like they’re breaking down. Dion Sims is a Tight End who Miami took in the 4th round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Sims should provide to be reliable as well in the Red Zone, and be a strong contributor in Run Blocking. The Dolphins have a few key players along the Offensive Line. The biggest is Center Mike Pouncey, one of the best Centers in the league. Pouncey is going into his 3rd NFL season and has a great chance of being selected to his 1st Pro Bowl. The left side of the line is strongest for the Dolphins. Left Tackle Jonathan Martin and Left Guard Richie Incognito are guaranteed their spots barring injury. Martin will be getting his first full season starting on the blindside with the departure of Jake Long. The Dolphins signed Tyson Clabo in Free Agency from Atlanta to play the Right Tackle. Clabo is more accustomed to playing Left Tackle, but should be just fine on the right side. The Right Guard position will be up for grabs between John Jerry, Dallas Thomas, and Lance Louis during Training Camp. Jerry and Thomas are the favorites to win the job. If Miami is going to live up to the expectations their fans have in 2013, the Offense is going to need to play at a high caliber. They have the talent to make it happen, but having it and doing it are totally different things.
Defense: Miami’s Defense was ranked 21st in the NFL last year. They placed 13th against the Run and 27th versus the Pass. Koa Misi is the only returning starting Linebacker for Miami in 2013. Misi had a career high in tackles (65) and forced fumbles (3) for the team last year at Outside Linebacker, also brining the Quarterback down 3.5 times. Newcomers Dannell Ellerbe (MLB) and Philip Wheeler (OLB) round out the starters. Ellerbe had a career year last season. He was an impact for the Ravens and helped lead them to a Super Bowl Ring. Philip Wheeler is seeing his 3rd team in just as many years. He also had a career year in 2012, totaling 109 tackles with 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. If all 3 of these players can keep up the level of play they put out in 2012, they’ll be one of the better Linebacker groups in the league. The Defensive Line for Miami has a stud in Defensive End, Cameron Wake. Wake went un-drafted in 2005 and bounced around between the NFL and CFL, before finding a home with the Dolphins in 2009. Since joining the team, Wake has accounted for 43 sacks and been selected to 2 Pro Bowls. Wake is the perfect teacher for rookie pupil Dion Jordan. Jordan was picked 3rd overall in the Draft and will be getting the start at the other Defensive End position. This is a little interesting as many thought Jordan would be better slated as an Outside Linebacker, but in Miami’s 4/3 scheme they decided to put him at End. The Defensive Tackle slots should see Randy Starks as one, and either Paul Soliai or Jared Odrick, as the other. Odrick was 2nd on the team in sacks in 2012 with 5 from the Defensive End position. They’ve been tinkering with him at Tackle to try and get him on the field more after bringing in Jordan. I could see Soliai being the guy Miami has in to play the run and Odrick being brought in to replace him during passing situations. The Secondary might be the weakest part of the Defense. Safety’s Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons had pretty good performances for the Dolphins in 2012. They accounted for 192 total tackles and 6 interceptions last year. The Cornerbacks played poorly for Miami, and the team tried to address the situation during the Offseason. They brought in Brent Grimes through Free Agency, drafted Jamar Taylor in the 2nd round, and Will Davis in the 3rd. Davis intercepted 5 passes in his last 5 regular season games at Utah State in 2012. Davis will see time as a backup as he polishes his game this upcoming season. Taylor has a good chance to be a starter for Miami in 2013. He possesses good speed and coverage skills that he can bring to the team immediately. Jamar should give Richard Marshall a run for his money as the starter during Training Camp. Miami’s success Defensively will hinge on their front 7. They contain all the assets needed to be a Top 15 Defense in the upcoming year.
End Result: I predict Miami will finish 2nd in their division with a record of 8-8.