The Dolphins entered the offseason with an incredibly difficult task: retool the offensive line. Last season, an argument could be made that the Dolphins’ offensive line was one of the worst and volatile in history. Besides for leading the league in sacks allowed, they were in the center of the media world due to the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy. Due to the multiple problems, the Dolphins will be starting four new offensive lineman. The edge of the line should be significantly improved because of the addition of Brandon Albert and Juwan Johnson. Miami will likely have problems running up the middle because Shelley Smith and Dallas Thomas, the starting guards, have played very little in the past and are unlikely to become even average interior linemen. Along with their putrid offensive line, the running game provided little help for Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins attempted to better their running game by adding stud running back Knowshon Moreno.
On defense, Miami wanted to solidify their secondary by adding veteran safeties and cornerbacks. In order to put a quality corner opposite of two time Pro-Bowler, Brent Grimes, the Dolphins signed Cortland Finnegan. Although Finnegan is on the wrong side of 30 and coming of an injury plagued season, he wants to prove that he can still be starting corner and a turnover machine. Also, Finnegan will add a physical and nasty attitude to Miami’s entire team. Along with Finnegan, the Dolphins signed ex-Lions safety Louis Delmas. Delmas is a ball hawk and picked off three passes last season.
The most important player on the entire Dolphins’ roster is Mike Wallace. The former speedster and playmaker for the Pittsburgh Steelers signed a $60M deal with the Dolphins last offseason. The Dolphins expected Wallace to be the same dynamic receiver that would blow by opposing corners and stretch a defense. Although Wallace averaged 1100 yards and 9 touchdowns during his last three years in the Steel City, he accumulated only 930 yards and 5 touchdowns. Although he underachieved last season, the Dolphins need him to play at a high level if Ryan Tannehill will better his skills and lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. If the Dolphins are able to improve their offensive line, Wallace will have more time to run down the field and Tanneill will have more time to find the open receiver. In Pittsburgh, they ran at a high level because safeties could not creep toward the line due to Wallace’s speed. This could create more lanes for Daniel Thomas and Knowshon Moreno.
After winning the Super Bowl with the Ravens, Dannell Ellerbe was one of the hottest names on the free agent block. Consequently, he signed a huge deal with the Dolphins, who hoped that Dannell would stabilize the linebacking core and make the Dolphins one of the better rush defenses in the league. However, Dannell, like Wallace, was unable to live up to his contract in his first year. Although Ellerbe had an average season with 93 tackles, he recorded only one double digit tackle game over the final 7 weeks of the season. Also, Ellerbe was unable to make the Dolphins an above average defense against the run. Last season, they ranked toward the bottom half of the league in stopping the run. Along with his less than expected tackling numbers, Ellerbe only one sack, after a 4.5 sack season with Baltimore, and did not force one fumble the entire season. The Dolphins need Ellerbe to return to his 2012 form, if they are going to surprise teams and reach the playoffs.
Last season, Miami nearly made the playoffs, but they could not win one of their last two games against the Jets, at home, or the Bills. In 2013, the Dolphins were one of the worst running teams in the NFL as they were 4th to last in attempts and 7th to last in yards. Although they would be a reasonable strategy if the quarterback was Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or Peyton Manning, they were sporting a second year quarterback, who has played quarterback for only about 3 years in his life, including college. Although Ryan Tannehill had a nice season, more touchdowns than interceptions and over 3500 yards of passing, he should not be given 600 attempts. The Dolphins became predictable on offense, which allowed teams to blitz and sack Ryan 58 times. This season, fans should expect a more balanced offensive scheme, as they signed Knowshon Moreno and added offensive line through the draft and free agency. Tannehill should continue to improve as a passer, as he has looked great in preseason, but he will likely never be more than a top 20 quarterback in the NFL. On defense, the team will continue in their quest to apply pressure on the quarterback. Last season, the Dolphins’ front four was able to accumulate 27 sacks, including 8 from their interior lineman. The Dolphins will be a very intimidating defense because, unlike most teams, they can apply pressure up the middle with Odrick and Starks and pressure from the ends with Vernon and Wake, two of the best pass rushers in the league. Miami’s secondary should continue playing aggressive and look for turnovers as many quarterbacks will be under distress and force bad passes. Overall, the Dolphins should be a similar to team as last season and barely miss the playoffs. However, if Tannehill is able to up his game and play like a top 15 or even top 10 quarterback and the defense can learn how to stop the run, the Dolphins may be competing with the Patriots for the AFC East division championship.
Tied for second in AFC East
This year, the position with the least depth is obviously the tight end position. Outside of Graham, Gronk (when healthy), Davis, and Witten, the tight end position is lacking talent. However, Charles Clay could be a sleeper this year. Last year, Clay started all 16 games and produced solid number, 750 yards and 6 touchdowns. In the red zone, Clay is a large target that young quarterbacks love to hit when under duress. At the end of the season, Clay was drastically improving as a tight end and pass catcher, as he had been a full back the previous season. In a year with bad tight ends, Clay would be a good late round find and a solid tight end that should produce over 125 points this season.