Miami Dolphins : 2013
2013 looks promising for one of the NFL's premiere franchises. Dolphin fans are excited over the new acquisitions made by the front off this offseason and the team had a very strong draft. Not since the 80s have Phinz fans been so eager to start a season. With exciting young QB Ryan Tannehill ready to blossom into a franchise QB, receiver Mike Wallace ready to blow the top off of NFL defenses, and a defense that has gotten younger and faster the Dolphins are talking playoffs during the preseason for the first time in 5 years. Coach Joe Philbin is apparently happy with the progress of the team in his second year as the head man in South Beach. This being said let us take a closer look at the team the Dolphins will field for this upcoming season.
The Miami offense went into 2012 without much of a passing game with unheralded WRs Brian Hartline and Davonne Bess topping out the depth chart and untested rookie Ryan Tannehill leading the offense. The TE position was filled with Anthony Fasano who was not an explosive player but had solid blocking skills and decent hands. Fasano caught 41 passes for 332 yards and a team high 5 TDs. The running back position was held down by former Heisman winner Reggie Bush (even though it was taken from him he still won it on the field) and he was coming off of his first 1000 yard rushing season of his NFL career. Bush had another solid year for the dolphins but fell 14 yards short of another 1000 yard season. The offensive line was solid but not spectacular with Pro Bowl LT Jake Long, G John Jerry, rookie C Mike Pouncey, aggressive G Richie Incognito, and rookie tackle Jonathan Martin. There were a few surprises in the offense like rookie WR Rishard Matthews who showed signs of becoming a very solid option for playing time. He played in 8 games with one start totaling 11 catches for 157 with an average of 13.7 yards per reception.
Despite playing with a rookie QB and a rookie head coach they were very competitive in 2012 losing just enough games by less than 7 points to miss the playoffs, finishing a mediocre 7-9. this led GM Jeff Ireland to make some aggressive moves during the offseason. Gone from the 2013 Miami Dolphins offense are former number 1 overall pick LT Jake Long (St. Louis), WR Devonne Bess (Cleveland), RB Reggie Bush (Detroit)and TE Anthony Fasano (Kansas City).
The key to success for any offense begins with the offensive line so this is where I will start my analysis of the 2013 Miami dolphins offense.
The new look Dolphins offensive line is a question mark coming into this season. Second year tackle Jonathan Martin moves over to the spot vacated by the departure of Pro Bowl LT Jake Long. Long had endured multiple injuries during the past two seasons and the Dolphins felt that his best years were behind him and are confident that Martin can handle the duty of protecting Ryan Tannehill's blind side. Martin looked a little inconsistent during the 2012 season but we need to remember he was playing out of position as a rookie. Martin did an exceptional job at LT for Stanford where he blocked for 2012 #1 overall pick Andrew Luck.
Richie Incognito and John Jerry are the predicted starters at guard but the Dolphins signed former Chicago Bears starting RG Lance Louis to come in and compete with Jerry for the starting RG spot. Louis was rated as the 47th best guard in the NFL but is coming off of an ACL injury and hopes to be ready by training camp. Mike Pouncey will man the center position and he is one of the best young centers in the game at this point in his career. The right tackle spot is a major hole to fill so the Dolphins brought in veteran tackle Tyson Clabo and he and possibly Nate Garner will compete for that spot. Clabo is a solid veteran RT who started every game for the Atlanta Falcons the past 5 years. Garner is a versatile player who saw time at guard and tackle for the Dolphins the last couple of seasons. Also in the mix is rookie T/G Dallas Thomas from Tennessee. Thomas is an interesting prospect who could end up taking the spot from both Garner and Clabo in training camp. This group, although suspect in the eyes of many experts has a chance to be one of the better offensive lines in the NFL this season.
After the offensive line comes the next biggest piece of the puzzle, the QB. In 2012 the Dolphins took a chance at #8 overall and drafted former Texas A&M WR/QB Ryan Tannehill (3,294 yards passing 12 TDs and 13 ints in 2012). Tannehill had a total of 19 starts at QB coming into the 2012 NFL season and the Dolphins had what was perceived as the worst WR group in the NFL. He did however have an advantage over the other QBs in camp with the dolphins last year because his former coach Mike Sherman was hired by the Dolphins as their new offensive coordinator and brought a familiar playbook with him from Texas A&M. Despite his lack of experience and WRs, Tannehill still managed to break Dan Marino's franchise rookie record for passing yards with 3,294 yards. He appears poised for a breakout season with the Dolphins and their new offensive weapons.
With the departure of RB Reggie Bush (986 yards 6 TDs, 35 catches 292 yards 2 TDs) the Dolphins are left with a young but capable stable of RBs. Second year RB Lamar Miller (51 carries 250 yards 1 TD, 6 catches 45 yards) appears to be the front runner to get a bulk of the carries in 2013. Miller is an explosive player much like Bush and he played very well while backing up Bush last year and showed he has the vision and the burst to play RB at the NFL level averaging 4.9 yards per carry in 2012. At 5'11" 212lbs Miller has decent size for an NFL RB and his 4.38 speed in the 40 shows he is one of the fastest players at his position in the league. he is tough and durable and shows great awareness when handling the football keeping it tight to his body and fluidity when changing hands. he has decent hands and can be used in the passing game as well.
Daniel Thomas (91 carries 325 yards 4 TDs, 2 catches19 yards) is expected to back up Miller this season. Thomas is a bruising physical back who has been plagued with injuries the past 2 seasons. When healthy Thomas has proven that he is capable of competing at the NFL level. At 6' tall 230 lbs Thomas is a load to bring down and he has decent speed posting a 4.62 in the 40 yard dash. If he can stay healthy the combination of Thomas and Miller could be very productive for the Dolphins in 2013.
The number 3 spot in the depth chart appears to belong to rookie RB Mike Gillislee out of Florida. Gillislee was a solid player for the Gators rushing for over 1000 yards against SEC competition in 2012.
Last season saw the Dolphins in dire straights at the WR position. Brian Hartline responded with a breakout season (74 receptions 1,083 yards and 1 TD) and seems eager to prove it was not a fluke. The addition of playmakers on the other side and in the slot should help Hartline build on his 2012 season. At 6'2" 195 lbs and the son of a college WR coach Hartline possesses the size and knowledge to play the receiver position. His 4.52 speed in the 40 gives him the speed to beat defenders deep and he has the quickness to get open on the underneath routes. Hartline has excellent hands and footwork and can make the tough catch in traffic or on the sideline.
With Devonne Bess (61 receptions 778 yards and 1 TD) gone the Dolphins needed to find a slot receiver. Bess had been one of the most consistent receivers the Dolphins had over the past few seasons, but his penchant for not finding the end zone was a detriment to the offense. In 3 seasons he totaled only 12 Tds while starting a majority of the games. GM Jeff Ireland dove into the FA market and signed former Ram Brandon Gibson. Gibson is a very capable WR who can play in the slot or on the outside. Gibson started 16 games with the Rams last season catching 51 passes for 691 yards and 5 TDs. The former Crimson Tide WR is 6' 205 pounds and has good speed and quickness and has shown a knack for getting open and making the difficult catch.
The biggest splash in FA for the Dolphins has to be the addition of former Steeler WR Mike Wallace. Wallace played 4 seasons with the Steelers starting all but 1 game. He has been labeled by many "experts" as a 1 trick pony. They say that his only asset is his speed. All one has to do is look at game film to know that this is not true. Wallace has developed into a well rounded WR who can run crisp routes and knows how to get behind the defense with his blazing speed. The reason for this designation is that his speed is so great that it stands out from the rest of his game. He is a game changer and knows how to find the end zone, totaling 32 TDs the past 4 seasons. If Tannehill and Wallace can get on the same page and find some chemistry defensive coordinators will be very nervous the night before a game against Miami.
There are a few other playmakers in this Dolphins WR corps backing up the big 3. Rishard Matthews is a promising 2nd year player, and rookie Jeff Fuller out of Texas A&M is familiar with Tannehill and knows Mike Sherman's playbook. At 6' 4" 223 lbs he could become a nice red zone target in the future.
The tight end position has been manned by a consistent Anthony Fasano for the past few seasons but he has bolted for Kansas City. The Dolphins opted to replace him with former Jet Dustin Keller. Keller is regarded as one of the best receiving TEs in the NFL but he is coming off of an injury that saw him limited to playing in only 8 games for the Jets last season. If he is healthy he will be a huge upgrade in the passing game. The knock on Keller is his blocking skill, but the Dolphins have other options for a blocking TE.
2nd year tight end Michael Egnew is a huge target at 6' 5" 255 lbs and he has soft hands, but needs to improve his blocking as well.
Rookie TE Dion Sims apparently is the best blocking TE on the roster at the moment. He is still very raw in the offense and may be limited to just a few snaps this season barring injuries to one of the other 2 TEs.
On paper the Dolphins are a scary offensive team that no one will look forward to facing in the 2013 season. Only problem with this is that games are played on the field not on paper. The Dolphins should be much improved on offense and contend for a playoff spot this season.
In 2012 the Miami Dolphins had one of the worst turnover ratios in the NFL. NFL defenses are expected to create turnovers and opportunities for the offense and this has just not been the case in Miami the past few seasons. The defense managed a meager 16 take aways last season for a devastating -10 in turnover ratio. This forced GM Jeff Ireland to release veteran LBs Karlos Dansby and Keven Burnett and not resign CB Sean Smith in an effort to become younger and faster on defense and create more turnovers.
The LB position will look very different this season with the FA addition of Dannell Ellerbe from the World Champion Baltimore Ravens. Ellerbe had a breakout season for the Ravens totaling 92 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2012 while starting a mere 7 games. He will take over for Dansby at MLB.
Phillip Wheeler is another young FA LB brought in to make the defense younger and faster. Wheeler was an important part of the Oakland Raiders defense and he will bring a presence to the Dolphin defense. Wheeler totaled 109 tackles last season while showing he could do it all at the OLB spot. He defended the pass very well and is a force in the run game.
Manning the other OLB spot will be veteran Koa Misi. Misi is a solid OLB who will start at weakside. He has shown a natural ability to find the ball carrier in the run game and can cover TEs and RBs in the pass game. He totaled 65 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 14 starts last season.
The perceived strength of this defense is the defensive line. With the retention of DT Randy Starks and the addition of rookie DE Dion Jordan this again appears to be the strength of the Miami defense.
Randy Starks is a pro bowl caliber defensive tackle who totaled 27 tackles 4.5 sacks and 1 int in 2012. He has been one of constants in a defense that annually ranks near the top in run defense. He is very athletic and instinctive in the pass game as well totaling 4 pass breakups from his tackle position.
Paul Solai is a big nasty DT who has found his place on the football field for the Dolphins. Playing NT for the Dolphins in the 3-4 scheme they have used that past few seasons he has become the immovable object at the center of the defensive line. This season he will shift over to the tackle position beside Starks to provide a formidable front that will be tough to run against. Solai had 29 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year while playing nose tackle.
Lurking on the outside at the DE position is pro bowl DE Cameron Wake. Wake is a former CFL defensive player of the year and since joining the Dolphins in 2009 has averaged 10 sacks per season. He is an explosive edge rusher with an uncanny knack of getting to the QB and I fully expect similar numbers this season.
The other DE spot seems to belong to rookie DE out of Oregon, Dion Jordan. At 6' 7" his tall and lanky frame brings to mind a former pro bowl DE in Miami and future Hall of Famer, Jason Taylor. He has a lot to prove before I compare his abilities to those of Taylor but his build and skill set seem to mirror that of one of the most productive and popular players to ever step on the field in Miami. He is explosive off the edge and has the awareness and ability to drop into coverage. If he lives up to his potential he will be a force on the edge for many years to come.
The secondary still remains a question mark for 2013 especially with the departure of starting CB Sean Smith. Smith was a solid player but he consistently dropped interceptions that could have made a difference in winning and losing games that could have put Miami in the playoffs. He lacks the big play capability coveted by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
In the offseason Miami signed talented but injured CB Brent Grimes. Grimes was limited to 1 game in 2012 due to an Achilles injury but appears to be 100% during the early team OTAs and he is expected to start at CB this season. He has shown the ability to pick off opposing QBs and shut down opposing teams #1 WR.
Richard Marshall will man the other CB spot opposite of Grimes. He only started 4 games for the Dolphins last year with 1 interception. After spending the season sharing the nickel back duties with DB Nolan Caroll he apparently is ready to start. He is a very consistent defender who the Dolphins feel will flourish with more playing time.
4th year safety Reshad Jones has developed into a very good starter. In 2012 he totaled 94 tackles and intercepted 4 passes while starting all 16 games. He is a very good tackler and plays the ball while it is in the air. I expect similar results from Jones this season.
The other safety spot will be manned by former Clemson DB Chris Clemons. The 5th year player had 98 tackles from his SS position with 2 interceptions in 2012.
The defense is apparently poised to once again be the strength of the Miami Dolphins in 2013. They will once again be one of the toughest defenses in the league to run against. The hopes of 2nd year coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are pinned on the ability of these players to create turnovers and give the ball back to an offense that could be the best it has been since the departure of Dan Marino.
Last year the dolphins lost 3 or 4 games that can be directly linked to the special teams failure to convert important FG opportunities, and cover kicks and punts. K Dan Carpenter who despite making 22 of 27 attempts missed several kicks that would have won crucial games.
The Dolphins drafted rookie K Caleb Sturgis out of Florida to come in and compete for the kicking job. Hopefully one of these kickers will prove to be clutch for the Dolphins and help them win a few more games in 2013.
Punter Brandon Fields is a weapon. In 2012 he averaged 50.2 yards per kick placing 29 punts inside the opponents 20 yard line.
In the return game RB Marcus Thigpen is a dangerous returner with the speed and elusiveness to take any kick the distance.
The special teams are as solid as any other team in the NFL and should be a strength this season.
The Dolphins have brought in loads of talent this offseason and spent a ton of money adding to a team that in spite of its 7-9 record was a very competitive football team and on the cusp of finding a way to win the close game in 2012. The offense should be more explosive with the addition of speedster Mike Wallace, TE Dustin Keller. Ryan Tannehill should be much improved in his second season and he has been working hard this offseason to improve his game and get his timing down with Wallace. The defense will be younger, faster and looking to generate more pressure on the QB and force turnovers. All the signs point to a team almost ready to challenge New England in the East.
Prediction : 10-6, 2nd place AFC East, #6 seed in playoffs