The Dolphins are a franchise that has failed miserably in satisfying their fans ever since Dan Marino’s retirement. The players they draft rarely end up on the field, and they seldom land their desired free agents. All good, job-seeking head coaches are seemingly chased away by upper management. The owner seems to know little about what is going on with his team. The coaching staff has no control over the players…and the players have no control over themselves. The Miami Dolphins have been a disappointment for such a long time, that each season feels like a cruel parody of the last. Can these Dolphins finally break this dreaded cycle? Let us find out.
Remember last year when Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller were new in town, and there was some hope for a 4,000 yard passing season in the air? Also remember when those dreams were dashed more and more each of the 58 times Ryan Tannehill’s face was smashed into the dirt? The offense scored a miserable 19.8 points per game last year. It was inept and still no one really knows how good Tannehill is. He flashes oodles of potential, but has not yet fully realized it, and he may continue to have excuses as to why he has not realized it since his offensive line is Swiss cheese.
The former Bronco and breakout rusher of 2013, Knowshon Moreno, was signed this offseason but reported to camp out of shape and has undergone knee surgery. Since he will likely miss all of preseason, his chances of going into week one as the starter are non-existent. Lamar Miller will run the ship, and he looks to have generally improved over last season. The big concern is that Miller is not large enough to handle a sizeable load without breaking down at some point. Guess that theory will be put to the test.
Hope and joy was soaring through the roof with the signings of Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller a year ago. Two of them got knocked out for the season due to injury and Mike Wallace was just not good enough to make a difference. Brian Hartline led the receivers again with another 1,000-yard season. Third round rookie Jarvis Landry should take over Gibson’s role in the slot. Charles Clay made his name known last year, and his great rapport with Tannehill should move on over into this season. Keller has left the team and will not be missed by the fans.
Miami beefed up left tackle by signing Brandon Albert, or so they think. While Albert is good at his craft, he’s very injury prone. In six years, he’s played one full season, and he turns 30 this season. Nineteenth overall pick Ja’Wuan James should start at right tackle, but he was a huge first round reach, who could have easily been had in the second round. Shelley Smith was not good enough for the Rams to make him their full-time starter last season, but he will fill the right guard spot for the Fins. Manning center will be Mike Pouncey, who (while being an awesome center) will miss several games due to hip surgery. A 2014 third rounder, Billy Turner could wind up starting at left guard, and he looks promising — more promising than Ja’Wuan James — and could be the second best lineman in this group. While the line play stands to be better than last year, Tannehill will still be running for his life.
Paul Soliai’s departure forced Miami to sign former Houston DT Earl Mitchell, who is a bad fit for this defense. He is not used to playing the 4-3 and was not good in the 3-4, but at least Randy Starks is still a solid defensive tackle. Defensive end Cameron Wake regressed last year due to a knee injury, but being on the wrong side of 30 certainly does not help his chances for a better year. Olivier Vernon had a great sophomore year (11.5 sacks) and will also start at DE this year, leaving last year’s third overall pick, Dion Jordan, to ride the bench again.
Run-stopping specialist Koa Misi will quarterback the defense as the middle linebacker, but he will get no help from outside backers Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler, who were phenomenal free agent busts last year. It’s possible that fifth rounder Jordan Tripp could sneak into the starting lineup at some point.
Brent Grimes was one of the elite cornerbacks last season, but the Dolphins decided to sign one of the weakest cornerbacks in the NFL (Cortland Finnegan) to place alongside him. As people try to figure out the sense behind that gaffe, it is good to note that high-potential sophomore corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis are competing for the second cornerback job also. Safety Reshad Jones got beat on deep passes in 2013, but he should improve. Also, safety Chris Clemons’ departure hurts, but Jimmy Wilson should be able to hold down the fort fairly well in Clemons’ absence.
The main problem is not the cardboard offensive line. The issue is that there is only one group of players on the team —the defensive line — that would be unanimously considered a top-10 unit in the NFL. They have no other strengths. The team is mediocre at literally every other position, so that will be the real reason why they will fail to reach the playoffs again this year. They bring back the same team as last year and expect things to be different, but these players will get Fins fans nothing except a 7-9 or 8-8 record. This is too bad to make the playoffs and too good to get a high draft pick.
Jonathan Ebanks is an avid sports fan who loves to work as a freelance writer/editor in his spare time. Contact Jonathan at [email protected]