Another Fine Piece Thanks To Tony Nicoletti!
All this talk of mediocrity. About how the Dolphins are doomed, and not going anywhere. That they don't have the cap space to buy what they need in free agency. (Much less the draft positioning to get the impact players that will help them reach the playoffs). To all the naysayers out there I say....nonsense!
These Dolphins are in better position to make a push for the playoffs than they have been in 6 years. Yes, they need to recoup cap space by eliminating some of the dead weight. (But doesn't every team have that problem each year)? Dennis Hickey has done a good job with some of his free agency and draft picks. A second year will only get this franchise closer to building a team that will fit what Joe Philbin and company, are trying to field in Miami.
Bringing Mike Tannenbaum on board, (who some claim was instrumental in the Jets having back to back playoff seasons) should benefit this club as he will be able to offer his insight and expertise. Dawn Apointe has been shrewdly and successfully handling the contract negotiations for a number of years in Miami. With their help, Hickey should be able to procure the right personnel to guarantee this Dolphins team is playoff bound. It's a make or break season so everyone is going to have to work in concert to that end.
Miami has a 1,000 yard running back, (Lamar Miller) who's average yardage per attempt helped Miami become the second highest in the league. with a 4.7 yards per running attempt. Not bad when you consider Miami was predominantly a passing team. Miller was also running solo, without a lot of help from a, "change of pace" running back to spell him. And while the offensive line started to go downhill in week 9 when Branden Albert sustained a season ending injury, (allowing 46 sacks) they still managed to do enough to open up some running lanes.
The Dolphins had 3 players in the Pro Bowl. Cameron Wake, Brent Grimes and Mike Pouncey. All of which are healthy and will be back for 2015. There are a host of other players on this roster that could easily be starters for any team in the NFL. There were also some surprise first and second year players that showed considerable promise and upside for the coming year.
Unlike the beginning of the 2014 season Miami will not have to devote most of their resources to the entire offensive line. A starting guard or two and depth is all that is needed. Albert is ahead of schedule with his recovery and barring any unforeseen setbacks, could be available by the start of the first regular season game. The Dolphin offensive line was trending upward before Albert's injury. If Miami finds a serviceable guard and allows everyone to shuffle back to their regular positions, there is no telling how good their running and passing game will be.
This Dolphin team had a top 5 defense for three quarters of the season, before injuries and fatigue set in. Getting a few players healthy and a couple of key acquisitions will help shore up that side of the ball and make this team stingier in 2015. A run stuffing Linebacker, ball hawking Corner Back and Safety will certainly further their cause. The Dolphins could also use a big bodied Nose Tackle to draw double teams so the pass rushing duo of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon can do their thing. And would someone please find a way to successfully integrate Dion Jordan's unique skill set into the lineup.
The Dolphins have the highest price group of receivers in the NFL with a diverse mix of talent. If Miami trims the fat and brings in a big red zone target and/or a speedy receiver, our success inside the 20 and on third down conversions will improve. With better pass protection Ryan Tannehill might have enough time to let plays develop down field so he can finally start connecting on his deep passes. It showed signs of coming around near the end of the season. (Though he fell victim to several dropped balls that should have been caught).
Speaking of which, the biggest reason Miami will fare better in 2015 comes from the fact that they have resolved a problem that has plagued them for more than 15 years. They finally have a quarterback they can build an offense around. I know plenty of you will scoff at the idea that Ryan Tannehill could be a franchise quarterback. Many of you think he is at best, average and that there are other quarterbacks, (especially from his 2012 draft class) that are better. I'll admit, there are other young quarterbacks that have actually brought their teams to the playoffs and have won more games. But all of them are with teams that have had more tools and talent than Ryan has had to work with.
I won't bore you will all the statistics that show just how much Tannehill has progressed in his third year. He was only 64 yards away from breaking into the top ten quarterbacks last season. And who was just ahead of him in total passing yards? The quarterback that won the Super Bowl, Tom Brady. The only signal caller that came from the 2012 quarterback draft bonanza that made the top 10 list was Andrew Luck, and (the last time Miami played the Indianapolis Colts, they beat them). Only the Detroit Lion's Mathew Stafford has been sack nearly as many times as Ryan Tannehill. (45 Sacks versus 46). All the other top 10 quarterbacks were sacked at least, 10 fewer times than Tannehill.
The fact is, I don't think you will find another quarterback that has been sacked more than Ryan Tannehill over the last two seasons. Yet, he managed to throw for more than 4,000 yards, with a completion percentage that only 3 quarterbacks in the top 10 list surpassed. That is one tough, accurate passer that performs well under pressure. He also happened to be the 5th best rushing quarterback, too. This makes him a dual threat with athletic skills that few field generals can match.
And when you think about it, Tannehill's total passing yardage were a bit skewed as he didn't really start to show much improvement until the fourth game of the season against the Oakland Raiders. (A game where he was well on his way to 300 yards passing, were it not for Joe Philbin wisely pulling him out when the win was secured). There were also a couple of other contests where he wound up coasting late in the game because they had built up an insurmountable lead. (A Miami Dolphin team that runs the score up on it's opponent)?
After being with the same Offensive Coordinator/Coach for 5 years, it only took the preseason, and 3 regular season games for Ryan to start getting comfortable with the new offensive that Bill Lazor installed. That tells you how intelligent he is and how willing he was to work harder to make this new system productive. You have to believe that a second year under Lazor's tutelage is where Ryan Tannehill is really going to make the biggest strides in all facets of his game.
2014 was a, "getting acquainted" season for Bill Lazor and the Miami Dolphin players. Now that he has a better idea of what talents and abilities he has to work with, he will be able to utilize these skill sets to put this offense in a position to score and win games. This offense has already impressed under his reign. (Tannehill threw more pass completions than any quarterback in franchise history, last season). Rookie Jarvis Landry has made a huge contribution as a slot receiver in his first year, which is unheard of for a rookie. And Miami hasn't had a 1,000 yard Running Back since Ricky Williams. The last time the Dolphins scored 392 points in a single season was in 1995.
I believe this Miami Dolphins team is only a few players shy of reaching the playoffs in 2015. If they have a free agency and draft similar to last years, there is no reason not to think that they can reach the post season for the first time in 7 years.
Fear Not Dolphin Fans. The Miami Dolphins Will Rise Again!
Fear Not Dolphin Fans. The Miami Dolphins Will Rise Again!
KennyV (13kvFINS) Nicholas
AFC East|Brent Grimes|Cam wake|Dawn Aponte|Dennis Hickey|Jarvis Landry|Joe Philbin|Lamar Miller|Miami Dolphins|Mike Pouncey|Mike Tannebaum|Ryan Tannehill|Tony Nicoletti|