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Week 6: Dolphins at da Bears
It seems that if you want to really know what the projection of your team is then you need to skip the "opinions" of the NFL media and check out something that deals with your wallet. A recent article over at Football Betting Center has the Dolphins right in the middle of the pack with these stats: Dolphins | 7.5 (-over -125) | 8. With the way the Dolphins faded out in 2013 it has left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. With the building talent on this team, I expect a break-out season on both sides of the ball.
The first good thing for a surprise season is that betting money is against us. The general consensus of those who deal with money is that the Dolphins have not done anything to really improve over our record of 8 wins from last year. In fact, money says that they will fall back a half game. This is very understandable since the Dolphins suffered last year mostly due to a very ineffective offensive line play. They also whimped out with two heartlessly-played losses against in-division foes.
Last season the Dolphins added some big name free agents only to gain just 1 more win than the previous year. Did any of us even that that possible? Well, looking back on that it does make sense as Mike Sherman did a poor job of utilizing WR Mike Wallace, the prize of last year's free agent frenzy. Also, getting rid of aging LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett for young 1 year wonders LBs Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler proved to be disasterous for our defense. Sliding Ellerbe to OLB and moving high 2010 2nd round pick Koa Misi should plug up any daylight in the middle. He is a former DT/DE at the college level and played well against the run at OLB for the Dolphins. And what about last year's draft? Ireland drafted players that were injured entering the draft and they never made any kind of a difference for us. But, keep in mind that those injured players are very healthy right now, have added bulk, and know the defensive playbook better than last year. I see the defense primed for a step forward.
Offensively, Miami's new GM Dennis Hickey went out and signed the best pass blocking left tackle on the market in ex-Chiefs LT Brandon Albert. Albert made the Pro Bowl last year while only playing 12 games. Talk about making an impression. Hickey drafted the best true RT in Ju'wuan James in the middle of the first round. He then added a mean offensive guard in Billy Turner who is all ready turning heads in camp. Let's also keep in mind that C Mike Pouncey is on the Pro Bowl bubble himself. I would not be surprised to see 2 offensive linemen make the Pro Bowl this year. I really like what Miami has done this year in their job of protecting Ryan Tannehill. Another move that I am excited about is dumping OL Coach Jim Turner for John Benton. Benton coached several good offensive lines under Gary Kukbiak at Houston.
Who would have thought that the Philadelphia Eagles would have gone from 4-12 in 2012 to 10-6 in 2013? They fired a great coach in Andy Reid and hired a successful college coach in Chip Kelly. Kelly took the talent on his roster and turned them into the NFC West champs overnight and did it with Nick Foles as his quarterback. I think Ryan Tannehill is a better quarterback than Foles. While the deep pass is his weakness which contributed several interceptions, Tannhill has a gunslinger approach to the game and has very good accuracy on the short to medium passes. He is surrounded by several good receivers and is now getting the proper practice time on the deep passes. If the OL protects him better he should have an outstanding year in 2014. I expect a lot of work on his pocket presence to cut down on some of those sacks. I have to say that Tannehill is one of the toughest minded quarterbacks in the NFL and does not fear contact back in the pocket.
The Dolphins liked Eagles offense so much that they dumped OC Mike Sherman for Kelly's QB Coach Bill Lazor. All ready there is a lot of excitement from every Dolphins player. Even our defense is raving about the difference. What I really like about Lazor are the head coaches that he has coached under:
Three Hall of Fame coaches and the current offensive guru. All ready Lazor has incorporated a lot of what he learned from Chip Kelly. An example of that is his use of Mike Wallace. He is moving him all around on the offense as he did with Jeremy Maklin. While Lamar Miller is not LeShawn McCoy, Lazor has been impressed with Miller's instincts, quickness, and dedication.
Chip Kelly's comments on Dolphins OC Bill Lazor from ESPN:
“I think everybody’s product of what you see on the field and, obviously, Nick deserves credit because Nick’s the one who’s playing. But Billy was the guy that got him prepared to play, so I think Billy did a great job with him. I think he’s got great experience in terms of being a coordinator at the college level but has also coached with the Seahawks and the Falcons and the Redskins. … I thought it was a great opportunity for him and I think he’s going to do a really good job down there.”
Let's hope so, because it has to. While the Dolphins lost DT Paul Soliai to ridiculous money from the Falcons, they should stout against the run this year. There is a lot of depth along the defensive line and the Dolphins added DT Anthony Johnson who fell in the draft due to failing his drug test ... at the NFL Combine. One player that I am excited about is former 2nd round pick CB Jamar Taylor. He struggled last year due to kidney problems and injuries, but the kid is loaded with talent. He will be our starting corner at some point, but he'll have to beat out a rejuvinated CB Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan is now in a system that should take advantage of the skillset that he had when he was a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Titans a few years back.
S Louis Delmas was a 2nd round pick for the Lions back in 2009, but injury issues made them part them part with him this year. He is an outstanding player and hits so hard that he oftens takes himself out, too. I'm excited about what he can bring to the defense team if he can stay healthy. The Dolphins were forced to move S Rashad Jones up to help shore up our run defense last year, but with the moving Misi to MLB and bringin in Delmas as the 2nd safety, I look to see Rashad Jones return to form as he plays his game.
I do like Miami's coaching staff as I see two potential future Head Coaches in OC Bill Lazor and DC Kevin Coyle. Hopefully they should overcome what little faith I have in Head Coach Joe Philben. Philben seems to stay out of things just enough to let his coaches have control.
Last year the Dolphins saw CB Brent Grimes excel as our Comeback Player of the Year and TE Charles Clay as our Break-Out Player of the year. Yesterday, Mark Grimm wrote about players he expects to see step up this year. I would like to find fault with a couple of these players, but I just cannot. I expect to see a major stepping up of talent this year.
WR Mike Wallace
TE Michael Egnew and/or Dion Sims
RB Lamar Miller
OLB Dannell Ellerbe
S Louis Delmas
QB Ryan Tannehill
OG Dallas Thomas
OG Billy Turner
RT Ja’Wuan James
WR Jarvis Landry
WR Brian Hartline
DE Dion Jordan
CB Jamar Taylor
MLB Koa Misi
Go to Football Betting Center and drop a Benjamin (or more) on the Dolphins. There is a list of their top 5 betting sites. Heck, I am going to do that myself and invest that money back into Phinfever. I would love to run this site and not have to not rely on my members to keep it running as server costs are expensive.
I know there is a lot of "rah-rah" in this blog, but believe me this is going to be an exciting year for us. Look for the Dolphins to finish strong in 2014 and not whimper out as they did last year.
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My last blog article discussed some players who could be on the outs with the Dolphins come August. Now I want to look at some candidates who could breakout or bounce back in 2014. Similar to what Charles Clay and Olivier Vernon did in 2013.
All indicators are pointing toward a big bounce back season for Oceans 11.
It appears Bill Lazor is going out of his way to tailor the offense to Wallace’ skill set and to make sure Steven Ross gets the return that he paid for on Wallace. I’ve already made the bold prediction for Wallace on the Phinfever boards.
I’m projecting something like 80 catches for 1300 yards and 9 TDs.
Michael Egnew and/or Dion Sims
I keep reading about how involved Lazor likes to keep tight ends in his wide open offense so one or both of these guys has an opportunity to carve out a niche opposite Charles Clay.
These are 2 huge targets that we need to excel in the red zone especially.
Egnew also showed up on my roster bubble blog so he is a polarizing player for sure. There is talk of us now keeping 5 tight ends.
Miller has really taken a liking to Lazors’ new system and has taken the starting tailback job and run with it so far. He has the open field speed required to play RB in Lazors’ offense. "He's had a very good camp," said coach Joe Philbin. "This is the time as a third-year player that you're ready to make a big contribution." Miller could find success in this offense that LeSean McCoy galloped for 1600 yards in.
After signing a huge contract with Miami last year and then disappointing at MLB, this guy desperately needs a bounce back year at OLB.
The Dolphins are admitting to Jeff Ireland's $34.75 million mistake on Ellerbe by moving him to his new position. They can't save salary cap room by cutting Ellerbe until next offseason.
Miami’s new free agent safety, Delmas actually had a pretty good year in Detroit but they decided to let him walk due to being injury prone so far
as a pro. But Delmas says this is the best he’s ever felt in his 4 years in the NFL. Last season was his only full season as a pro. Delmas was a big time safety prospect when he entered the 2009 draft. Here’s hoping that we get to see that full potential and a career year for him in a Dolphin uniform.
So far Tannehill has been a solid yet unspectacular quarterback in his first 2 years in the NFL. But that was while playing in the limited, predictable offense of overmatched Mike Sherman. Tannehill also played behind the worst offensive line in franchise history last season that set a team record for sacks allowed so it’s actually commendable that Tannehill has played pretty well so far when he has basically been setup for failure.
New general manager Dennis Hickey made a point this offseason to make huge upgrades to the offensive line in hopes of better protecting his young signal caller. But the biggest hope for Tannehill having a breakout career year rests with with new coordinater Bill Lazor who will run an innovative spread offense. More rollouts, pistol plays and overall creativity should setup Tannehill for success in his 3rd year. Tannehill has the athletic gifts to make Lazors’ spread offense work, and this same system did wonders for Nick Foles last year.
After being largely ineffective for his rookie year, Thomas has so far impressed new line coach John Benton this offseason and he has let Thomas man the left guard spot. Philbin and Benton want to give last years 3rd round pick every chance to start at guard before turning to this years 3rd round pick Billy Turner.
"This is my opportunity," said Thomas, a 2013 third-round pick who played two snaps on offense last season. "It happened to me in camp last offseason. They gave me opportunity and I failed. I failed at it and I'm learning from it. I know I have to make it count."
Speaking of Turner, who is a small school prospect just learning the NFL ropes. I get the feeling the team would rather move him along slowly this year while he gets acclimated to pro level football. But if Thomas or Smith were to struggle like last years guards did, Turner could be tossed into action and could become that breakout guard in his rookie season
Our top pick will have the most pressure on him to perform as a rookie and I think he can live up to the lofty expectations that come with being the 19th overall pick. He was drafted to be an instant starter and upgrade at right tackle for a line that was historically bad. He was a rock on the right side for the Volunteers. I like his potential alot.
Landry is one of the more pro-ready receivers you’ll ever see enter the NFL, so it will not surprise me if he wins the starting slot receiver job in camp and runs with it. He must have impressed our staff and GM for them to pick him 15 to 20 spots ahead of his draft projection. He brings that tough “play-in-traffic” attitude and run after catch ability that is missing from this offense so I’m rooting for him to start.
I think there’s going to be plenty of receptions to go around this year in Miami so Hartline should also benefit from the new high-volume offense.
He will remain Tannehill’s 2nd option and go-to 3rd down machine. He has steadily improved over his career and I expect he will do so again.
82 grabs for 1100 yards and 7 scores is very achievable for him.
Talk around OTAs is that the game has slowed down for him in his 2nd year and he is fully healthy this time around.Jordan has packed on 15 pounds of muscle to help take on opposing linemen. Jason Taylor has taken him under his wing in sort of a master-apprentice relationship.
JT on Dion Jordan: ""Dion's bigger than me, more athletic than I am, and he's going to be stronger...He's so willing to learn."
Jordan has the talent to make a big sophomore leap.
The other injured rookie from last season, Taylor struggled all year with hernia and groin injuries as a rookie and played just 45 snaps. Much like the way JT has taken Jordan under his command, so has Cortland Finnegan with Jamar.
At Boise State Taylor was a big, physical, playmaker at corner with tremendous ball skills. The sky is the limit for this young man.
A big story this offseason has been Misi’s move to middle linebacker to replace the ineffective Ellerbe. Early reports are positive and
Misi seems to be a fit in the middle as he is a quality run defender. Misi is staying on the field in sub-packages during OTAs, and has a
chance to become the every-down Mike 'backer.