Byron Dixon| BKD TV
When it was initially reported that Ryan Tannehill signed a contract in May worth $45 million guaranteed, it seemed like a reasonable price for a potential franchise quarterback. Tannehill hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves because the Dolphins have yet to qualify for the playoffs with him at the helm – the last time the team won more than eight games was 2008 – but Tannehill has made tremendous strides in each of his three seasons.
While We Were Away: Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions in 2014. He also picked up 311 rushing yards, all while completing 66.4 percent of his passes. There were a couple of issues, however. The first was that he often failed to connect on deep passes with Mike Wallace. The problem seemed to be Wallace’s however, as the overrated receiver quit on his team on numerous occasions. In the season finale, he just walked off the field and refused to go back in the game. Miami was able to get rid of him and picked up veterans who will be more reliable, like Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. Two of the team’s best blockers, left tackle Branden Albert and center Mike Pouncey, were both hurt last season. Albert played in just nine games with a torn ACL, but appears to be on track to make it back for the season opener. Pouncey, meanwhile, played in 12 games, but was ineffective because of lingering hip and hamstring maladies. He was also out of position; he had to move over to guard to compensate for some injuries. He’ll be back at center in 2015, where he’ll be much better.
Lamar Miller still ran extremely well. He rushed for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns on just 216 carries – good for a 5.1 average. The problem with Miller was that he often wore down as games went along, so perhaps he’ll split the workload with fifth-round rookie Jay Ajayi. The Boise State product was projected to go in the second or third frame, but he fell because of injury concerns. Jarvis Landry played well and should continue to improve and be a solid weapon for Tannehill moving forward as a legit target. The signing of Jordan Cameron will give this offense another receiver that defense have to account for as well.
2015 Season Outlook: The Dolphins began the year with a promising 6-4 record, beating the likes of New England and nearly upsetting Green Bay. However, they ended the season with a 1-5 skid, thanks to some awful performances by the defense, which surrendered 39, 13, 28, 41, 35 and 37 points in the final six contests. Miami had to make a big splash in the off season in order bolster a stop unit that collapsed down the stretch, and it managed to accomplish that, signing Ndamukong Suh to a 6-year deal worth a whopping $114 million. The rest of Miami’s defensive line is stout. Cameron Wake is still one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL despite turning 33 earlier this offseason. A decline is coming soon, but his sack total actually increased last year from 8.5 to 11.5. It helped that the opposition couldn’t completely focus on Wake, given that Olivier Vernon had developed into a skilled pass-rusher. Vernon has collected 18 sacks over the past two seasons. Both he and Wake will have even more success in terms of getting to the quarterback now that opposing teams have to deal with Suh.
Brent Grimes continued to be a terrific cornerback. It’s amazing how well Grimes has played the past two years after tearing his Achilles. Meanwhile, safety Reshad Jones was even better; the former fifth-round pick missed four games because of a PED-related suspension, but was terrific upon making his return. He’ll line up next to Louis Delmas, whose absence at the end of the 2014 campaign was one of the reasons Miami’s defense declined. Delmas will return from his torn ACL – he apparently has recovered quickly – but given his injury history, the Dolphins can’t count on him being in the lineup for all 16 games. The Dolphins, unsurprisingly, don’t have much of a homefield advantage. Since 2007, they’re a pathetic 28-37 as hosts. As a barometer, they’re pretty much the same as visitors (27-35) in that span. Dan Carpenter was deemed too unreliable, so the front office spent a fifth-round pick on kicker Caleb Sturgis in 2013. Sturgis was even worse, going 26-of-34 as a rookie, including 3-of-7 from 50-plus. He wasn’t much better in 2014, connecting on 29-of-37 tries.
2015 Record: 10-6
The Dolphins have a shot at starting 6-0 or 5-1. Their first six games are against the Redskins, Jaguars, Bills (home), Jets, Titans and Texans. After that, however, they have to deal with the Patriots, Bills and Eagles, all on the road. With a strong start the Dolphins could be in prime position to compete for the AFC East crown or at worst a wildcard berth but it will all come down to how they finish the season which has been a consistent problem of this team.