Before you throw things at me through cyber-space, let me start by saying I think the Dolphins are a much-improved team on paper. Ireland did a masterful job in free agency of addressing needs and infusing the roster with youth and speed. I gave the draft a solid "B" grade, so it's not like I am preaching gloom and doom. Instead, this post is saying that IF we don't make the playoffs this year, it will likely be because of these factors.
1. Tannehill fails to develop as hoped
. With all the shiny new toys on offense, it is expected by many fans that Ryan will grow quickly into the QB savior we have all been waiting for. But there is obviously no guarantee that will happen. If Tannehill turns in a similar season to last, (say, 60%, 3200 yards, 15 tds and 13 ints), that's not exactly franchise QB stuff. A mediocre season from our QB will severely lessen the chances of Miami seeing the post-season.
2. Offensive line woes
With the signing of Tyson Clabo, it is assumed that our O-line is set, for better or for worse, with Martin at LT. If that is more worse than better, or if Martin gets hurt, it could be a long season. This scenario would surely contribute to the possibility of #1 above.
3. Secondary is a primary concern.
At CB, we are counting on a handful of vets all either recovering from serious injury or are largely unproven, and a handful of rookies. At safety, things seem a bit more stable, but I read today that Jones' break-out season last year was dependent upon a system being built around him. More will be expected this year. And of course, as with all positions, injuries can totally change how successful the team can be within a system.
We heard it all through free agency... buying a bunch of talented players in free agency very seldom leads to success on the field. If things don't click with Tannehill and the new receivers (see #1 above), or if the new players on defense don't communicate well or learn to work within the system, the playoffs are out of reach again.
5. plain old bad luck
Some times, some teams just seem snake-bit. Whether it be season-ending injuries to key players, suspensions, fluke plays where the ball bounces just exactly the wrong way on a week-to-week basis, bad luck can trump almost any level of preparedness, especially with a young team trying to change its culture.
Having said all of that, I'm not giving in to pessimism. I believe this to be the most talented team Miami has had in well over a decade. Now it's Philbin's job to coach these guys up and get them all on the same page, and I believe he will.
11-5 is doable if we can get off to a strong start, but 10-6 could still get us into the post-season. Go Dolphins!