If we are to believe national media perception of the 2018 Miami Dolphins, then a top five draft pick in 2019 is a near certainty. Losing several ‘star’ players and doubts at the Quarterback position have been the main contributory factors leading to this perception. But is this opinion about as accurate as a John Beck pass or more akin to a tight Dan Marino spiral?
Adam Gase, of course, is not part of the media and would disagree with the narrative that has been written about his team all off-season. And that right there is the key - it is now ‘his’ team. Now in his third year as Head Coach, he has targeted and recruited players with good characters with the belief they can refresh the culture of the locker room.
Gase genuinely believes the team are heading in the right direction and are poised for a successful season. So what are the key points to the Dolphins improving on last seasons 6-10 record?
When the season begins, Tannehill will have not taken a snap under centre in a regular season game for nearly two years. In 2016, he was having a pretty good season before injuring his knee and needs to be showing the same kind of form, and early, to silence his critics. An on form and fit Tannehill is crucial if the team want to make a play off push. Another significant amount of time on the side lines with another injury, or poor form in general, will surely not only mean the end of the season for the Dolphins, but the end of Tannehill’s tenure as the starting Quarterback.
Can Landry, Suh and Pouncey be replaced?:
On the face of it, any team would suffer if it lost this many quality players. But looking a bit closer it doesn’t seem as bad. Landry is a hot-head who can’t stop talking about the Dolphins even since being traded to Cleveland and rumour has it he was not a good locker room guy. Suh is an exceptional businessman where it’s all about the money and not the team, and it is arguably only a matter of time before Pouncey, who served the Dolphins well, succumbs to further injury or retirement with his suspect hips. If Amendola and Wilson can catch 50 balls apiece, they have covered Landry’s production. Jordan Phillips is in a contract year and has a lot to prove. Daniel Kilgore is a more than adequate Centre, and is younger and less injury prone than Pouncey.
Stopping the run:
With the aforementioned Suh now in LA, are the Dolphins Defensive Tackles good enough to plug the gap and stop the run? In a recent pre-season friendly against in Carolina, the Dolphins gave up an early long run to Christian McCaffrey, prompting Suh to make an ‘observation’ on Instagram. Teams will inevitably see that as a weakness they will look to exploit.
In 2017, the Dolphins ranked 31st in the NFL in both number of penalties and penalty yards per game. In particular, they have been a major factor in killing offensive drives which have consistently put the Offense in long yardage situations on 2nd and 3rd down. That is on the coaching staff to correct. A significant improvement in this area will see longer drives, more consistent play and further opportunities to convert possession into scores.
A major breakout season is on the cards for Kenyan, if he continues where he left off at the back end of 2017. That will be great news for fantasy owners but the reality is that rarely do the dreams of fantasy and reality collide. With the ageless Frank Gore on the roster, Gase may look to take advantage and use him to Gor(g)e into Drake’s carries like an offensive lineman does to steak.
But given the chance, if Kenyan runs for 350 yards and a few scores over the first three weeks of the season, then Gase must surely run with the hot hand.
A hot start is key to the season with winnable games over the first three weeks. If not, subsequent games in New England and Cincinnati could see the Dolphins with a losing record over arguably one of the easiest parts of their schedule. However, ever the optimists at Dol-Fan UK, we believe that a 6-3 record is achievable before heading to Green Bay in week 10. At that point, four more wins could be enough to sneak into the playoffs. Win the three remaining games at home, one additional away victory could be enough to save Tannenbaum, Grier and Tannehill their jobs.