In keeping up with my preview of each team heading into the 2017 season, we’re going to stay in the AFC East and take a look at those Miami Dolphins. The ‘Phins shocked everyone last year when they started 1-4 through the first five games and then made an incredible run to the playoffs. They eventually got bounced out in the Wild Card round to the Steelers, but I believe there’s some hope for the Dolphins heading into ’17.
One of the biggest strengths of the Dolphins a year ago was their running game. Jay Ajayi came out of nowhere and stole the show in the Miami backfield. He proved he could be the guy to take over the workhorse role for the Dolphins and give quarterback Ryan Tannehill a security blanket, especially when the game is on the line. Another strength of Miami is their offensive line and defensive line. The offensive line, starting out in 2016, was abysmal. Tannehill was getting put on his butt on almost every play, they could not consistently run the ball and Miami was struggling to even put three points on the board. Head coach Adam Gase made some changes and all of a sudden, the offensive line came together and protected Tannehill beautifully as well as opening up running lanes for Ajayi. The defensive line, with Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and Earl Mitchell was very solid. They got to the quarterback and stuffed the run. Looking at that unit in 2017, the Phins will still have the savvy veteran Wake on the edge as well as Suh plugging up the middle. Miami also added veteran pass rusher William Hayes, formally of the LA Rams, in free agency and drafted Charles Harris out of Missouri to give some youth to their pass rush. Miami has the capability now to rush the passer in so many dynamic ways, which is critical if they want to keep up with the upper echelon teams of the AFC.
One of the bigger weaknesses for Miami has been finding a capable and consistent playmaker at wide receiver alongside Jarvis Landry. Kenny Stills had a great season a year ago and was rewarded with a nice contract, but one has to wonder if his great play was hindered on a pay day. Miami also has third year receiver Devante Parker who has shown some flashes of brilliance, but hasn’t put it all together. Head coach Adam Gase does believe Parker will take off this year, and if he indeed does, it would really propel the Dolphins passing attack, especially with them adding veteran tight end Julius Thomas in a trade with the Jaguars.
Players To Look Out For:
As I mentioned before, Miami turned their attention to bolstering their pass rush this offseason. One guy who I think can really excel is rookie Charles Harris. He has the ability to learn from guys like Cam Wake and William Hayes, two very productive veterans, and not be rushed into starting right away. Harris is in a great situation and an even better position having a lot of guys offensive lines will key in on. On the offense, tight end Julius Thomas is poised to break out of the slump he was in, in Jacksonville. Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver when Thomas was at his best, so look for the Dolphins to utilize Thomas a lot more as he has the potential to really flourish in an offense that wants to rely on the tight end position.
The Dolphins have a lot of really solid, up and coming players. Their secondary was a huge surprise a year ago and their defense as a whole really gave the Dolphins a new identity. The offense has some chinks in the armor to work out, but they definitely could be a top unit in the league if the offensive line continues to grow together. Miami has the capability to make another playoff run in 2017, and I expect them to continue to blossom with Gase and Tannehill leading the charge.
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