In 2013 Ryan Tannehill became the first Dolphins QB in over a decade to throw for more than 20 TDs. He is the team’s undisputed starter but has yet to record a winning season with the Dolphins.
At No. 29 on the fanatix NFL Power Ranking is the flailing Miami Dolphins, who are trying to make noise in the AFC despite a very weak draft and residual fallout from a bullying scandal:
Recap of 2013
The Dolphins started the 2013 season 3-0, QB Ryan Tannehill was playing great and everything looked fine. Then they lost four of their next five and the Bullying Scandal with Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito and everyone else occurred and basically set the team into a tailspin. A three game winning streak in December put them at 8-6, needing only one win to clinch the playoffs. But a shutout loss in Buffalo preceded a season-ending blowout loss at home against the rival New York Jets, leaving them at 8-8 and their fifth straight year without a playoff appearance.
Recap of 2014 Offseason
The Dolphins lost six offensive lineman in the offseason: They traded Jonathan Martin after the Bullying Scandal and cut alleged mastermind Richie Incognito. Starting Center Mike Pouncey also suffered a leg injury that may leave him on the sideline for the first 6-8 weeks of the regular season. OLs Tyson Clabo, Bryant McKinnie and John Jerry also left the team.
But the Dolphins did try to be diligent with replacing the lineman, adding top rated LT Branden Albert from the Chiefs, as well as Shelley Smith from St. Louis. But the issue was with their draft, where they took Ja’Wuan James from Tennessee, a big reach pick in many analysts’ opinions.
The Dolphins also added some starters in the secondary with Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan.
Position of Strength: Defensive Line
Defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake combined for 20.0 sacks in 2013. And DTs Randy Starks and Jared Odrick are stout inside. Despite their poor offensive production, the Dolphins were still 8th in the league in point allowed and 11th in the league in sacks. The team has a lot of strength on the defensive line that it can use to cause havoc, especially in the passing game.
Position of Weakness: Running Back
Neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas were able to get much more than 700 yards on the ground in 2013, and both averaged at or below only 4.0 yards per carry and combined for just 6 TDs. The addition of Knowshon Moreno was the only significant move to improve the unit (the team did not draft any other RBs), but Moreno had only two good years in Denver – and both of them immediately followed Peyton Manning’s appearance there, so there might be a significant correlation.
Even if Moreno does prove to carry over his production from Denver, he has been very injury prone and only recently was removed from the PUP list. Without a strong running game, it is doubtful that Tannehill will be able to take control of the games all by himself.
Best Case Scenario
With only six games against teams with winning records and only two games against a team with a top 10 defense (both Patriots games), the Dolphins may be able to string together a bunch of wins assuming Ryan Tannehill has progressed enough to take a game over by himself. If the Dolphins can make it to December with about a .500 record, the Dolphins could easily make a playoff run in their last three games against the Patriots, Vikings and Jets.
Worst Case Scenario
After finishing 21st in yards allowed in 2013, the Dolphins will have to play seven games against top 10 offenses in 2014. With the entire AFC West and NFC North on the schedule, as well as six games against the much improved Bills and Jets and the juggernaut Patriots, the only reprieve the team might get would be against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A team with very little offensive chemistry combined with having to face so many overpowering offenses may be too much for the Dolphins to handle, which could cause the team to be in freefall by the time they reach the Patriots and Jets a total of three times in December.
Prediction: 4th place in AFC East, no playoffs