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After going 6-10 and finishing in last place in the AFC East division during the 2015 season, the Miami Dolphins seem primed for improvement by the end of the 2016 campaign.

 

Last year, the team’s selling point was its defense, which wasn’t very good overall. Miami ranked 19th in points allowed per game.

 

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill

 

 

Three big free-agency pickups—defensive ends Mario Williams and Jason Jones, along with safety Isa Abdul-Quddus—should help them combat the departures of defensive ends Olivier Vernon (New York Giants) and Derrick Shelby (Atlanta Falcons). And finishing in the middle of defensive integrity isn’t the end of the world—provided you have a good offense, which, this time around, the Dolphins should.


Though they were 27th in points scored per game in 2015, they have started 2016 with a far more intriguing group. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Davante Parker make for a legitimate three-headed receivers corps, and tight end Jordan Cameron is once again on everyone’s “Potential Breakout Candidates” list.

 

phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Mario Williams

 

 

Losing running back Lamar Miller will sting, but the Dolphins did well to scoop up Arian Foster. He has played in all 16 games of a season just twice, and his health has been particularly bad over the last three years. But he’s a touchdown machine at full strength, and the Dolphins have an offensive line that helped them rank ninth in yards per rush attempt last season.

 

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, of course, is the key to everything. He had a so-so season last year. He threw for a career-high 4,208 yards and kept his interception rate right at two percent, but both his completion percentage and touchdown rate dropped a tick. Some of that had to do with the personnel around him; a lot of it was the product of questionable decision-making and an offensive system that placed more trust and stock in its backfield than the man under center.

 

That’s all different this season.

 

Gone is the speculation about Tannehill’s poor leadership skills and entitled demeanor. In comes talk of him carrying himself differently, with more confidence and sensibility.

 

Consider what Cameron, who figures to be among Tannehill’s favorite targets, said of his quarterback to SI.com’s Ben Baskin:

 

“I think it’s subtle, but it’s just the way that he carries himself and the way he talks in the huddle. Even his demeanor on the field, it is just more confident. It’s not like a, “He is doing exactly this, and that is why he is more confident.” It’s hard to even describe what exactly it is. I know everyone uses the word ‘swag’ and I think it’s a terrible word, but he has more of that this year, whatever you want to call that. And that has definitely been noticeable for us as a team. It’s just more of a feeling, more of a vibe, that is different. But you can just feel that energy.”

 

Elite quarterbacks can make a franchise, and Tannehill has shown flashes of broaching that echelon of flamethrower in the past. Take the 2014 season. He was one of only four quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards, post a touchdown percentage of 4.5 or better and notch an interception rate of two or lower, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

 

His company?


Oh, just some dudes by the name of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

 

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill

 

 

That performance cannot just be thrown by the wayside because the Dolphins struggled as a whole on offense. Tannehill was culpable in their demise last season, but he was not the sole reason for their warts. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be very good, if not extremely great, for the duration of the current campaign.

 

None of which is to say the Dolphins are patented Super Bowl contenders. We have to be realistic. Bovada lists their chances at +7500, tightly tethering them to the bottom caste of teams. And that makes sense, if only because the Dolphins play in an incredibly tough division.

 

The New England Patriots will be fine—especially when Tom Brady returns in Week 5. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are wild cards, but they’re more likely to join the nine- or 10-win club because they have discernible identities on both sides of the ball.

 

And that’s the Dolphins’ goal in 2016—not to contend for a Super Bowl title or even a playoff berth, but to figure themselves out offensively and defensively, and then see whether their correct move is to rebuild with a different core or retool around the one they currently have.

 

To that end, more than 75 percent of the NFL’s teamed can be looped into a certain category, one where any of the inclusions could finish somewhere between 6-10 and 10-6. That’s how a league with a small regular-season sample size works.


The Dolphins are under that umbrella, which is better than unequivocally existing within that next tier, the last tier, which is reserved for teams with limited to no upside. And the Dolphins, for all their flaws, certainly have plenty of upside—particularly on offense.

 

 

          We Dolphins Fans are drinking the Kool-aid of a close game against Seattle to help us get through the week. Let's hope Seattle wasn't looking past Miami as an early bye week. In any case, we won’t know the truth on whether Miami is that bad on offense, good on defense, or somewhere in between until about game 4. The defense, if I were to make a guess, is the real deal. They held the #4 offense in the NFL last year to 12 points. The sad reality is they squandered a great opportunity to shock the NFL on Sunday and it really was a game in which they found new, and old, ways to lose.

           As I watched Ryan Tannehill on Sunday I saw the same guy I’ve seen for the last 2 years.; Someone who is afraid to throw the ball to anyone not wide open.  Then I watch young guys like Garoppolo and Wentz come out like gunslingers and just throw with confidence….even when the pocket breaks down and their WR is in tight Coverage. Wentz lobbed 2 TDs on Sunday that I don’t think I’ve ever seen RT throw. They were great touch passes over the top in tight coverage. The two stories are very telling. On the one hand you have a converted WR with a somewhat, telegraphed, slow delivery trying to make it as a QB. His biggest fault:  hanging onto the football too long in the face of obvious pressure. He also lacks pocket awareness which is related to the first part. When pressure starts to come, most QBs “feel “ it and either bail, throw it, or slide in the pocket to buy time. RT just sits there and takes the sack. I guess to summarize it: He is afraid to fail. He plays so cautious and appears over focused on not turning the ball over that Miami lacks any big plays on offense. The fault is always on the WR or OL. Stills had the obvious drop but in the late 4th he got behind Seattles Secondary again…only to be overthrown by 10yds…an RT hallmark.

        Gase: - I wrote about this in the preseason. Although I praised excellent gameplans by Vance Joseph, I was left hoping that the offense was better than the product being displayed. Now that the season has began, it is more obvious the offense is worse than last year’s group. That isn’t easy to do as last year’s group was 26th overall in production. I was completely underwhelmed by the constant force of the run on early downs in the 2nd half. Miami desperately needed first downs and putting RT in consistent 3rd in longs isn’t the way to get them against a defense licking its chops. Gate’s over use of the read option was very Lazor-like in its approach while his constant run up the middle on first down was very  Sparano-like. In a tight game against a playoff team on the road, you take the FG every time early in the game. A lesson I hope he has learned.  

                Special teams is one third of your team. A missed chip shot FG and simple things like knowing to take a knee when you’re out of TOs on the kickoff in the endzone are little things that make a big difference. Although STs weren’t glaringly bad Sunday, they did make a few mistakes at critical junctures.

 Bill Belichick is a master at stopping the early run by bringing up the safeties. He lives in no fear of Miami’s ability to get the ball downfield. RT can throw it, the WRs can catch it, but rarely do they accomplish that feat together … which is why this weekend will be miserable to watch. You will see Garoppolo moving the ball with short passes. You’ll see RT frustrated by having to pick up 3rd and 6 or longer. BB will then use his created blitzes to make the day tough on RT. You have to run the ball on the Patriots, but if you get stuck on stupid with constant first down rushes, 2nd and 3rd down will be 8 yards or more. 

Here’s the other issue with Miami next weekend. 0-2 is a legitimate threat and will be difficult to overcome. The season is a marathon, but shooting out 0-2 would be like twisting your ankle on the first mile of a 26 mile run. 1-1 will make the fanbase and the team, rest a little easier.

          Finally, I had high hopes this season would bring 10 wins. I’m still hopeful they can accomplish this but the offense needs to get a lot better and the self destruction would need to go away. NE will either cement the offense as a dog, or see it wake up and fulfill its potential

Go Tannehill,

GD2

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