2013 NFL season preview: Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins made a big splash in free agency and the draft. The Dolphins are looking to sneak into the playoffs as a wild-card, or perhaps even sneakily dethrone Patriots. The Dolphins may finally get over the hump with their many offseason acquisitions.

Quarterbacks:

Of course, this season is really on the shoulders of Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins have given Tannehill many weapons with which to work. He was overshadowed by other great rookie QBs of the 2012 draft class. He put up poor numbers in 2012, but he wasn’t exactly surrounded by much talent.

Tannehill really improved his accuracy from his college days. He’s also shown the ability to move around the pocket and make throws. Tannehill gets the ball out of his hands quickly. His decision making is going to have to become better. Tannehill threw 12 TDs and 13 picks last season. He throws a beautiful deep ball; Mike Wallace ought to be smiling. He stills needs time to develop, and lucky for him, he’ll be getting some playmakers this year.

Matt Moore and Pat Delvin will back-up Tannehill. The depth is pretty nice at the quarterback position.

Grade: C+

Running Backs:

The Dolphins made the right decision in letting Reggie Bush walk. He’s not the right fit for the offense.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are going to split most of the carries. All signs are pointing towards Miller becoming the official starter.

Miller, the fourth round draft pick in 2012 has shown to have great speed and good power. He’s excellent at changing directions in a hurry. Miller isn’t someone that will pick up a ton of yards after contact but he runs very hard. He hits the hole quick and hard; something Reggie Bush does not do. Keep your eye on Miller, he has the ability to put up a 1,000 yard rushing season.

Daniel Thomas will be excellent when needed to relieve the duties of Miller. You also can’t forget the addition of Mike Gillislee by way of the draft. Watch for any news on Gillislee as well, I thought he was a very underrated back in this year’s draft.

Grade: C+

Receivers:

Miami may have overpaid Mike Wallace very much, but he sure is going to make a lot of plays for this team. As I mentioned before, Tannehill has a great deep ball throw. Mike Wallace may have been put in his most ideal situation. It’ll also be interesting to see how this will affect Brian Hartline’s production.

Mike Wallace taking the top off of defenses will open up a new world of opportunities for this Dolphins offense. It will also make Ryan Tannehill a lot better.

Brian Hartline is an underrated receiver in the NFL. He has become a very fluid route runner. He does need to handle press coverage better. With Mike Wallace at his side, Hartline could put up some serious numbers. I may go as far to say he could end up with more receiving yards than Wallace.

The Dolphins also signed former Rams WR Brandon Gibson. He’s coming off the best year of his career. Gibson caught 51 passes for nearly 700 yards last season.

Dustin Keller will also be a significant upgrade on this team. Keller is a much better receiver than their previous starting tight end Anthony Fasano. The Dolphins also drafted Dion Simms in fourth round this year. He’ll battle Michael Egnew and Charles Clay for the No.2 tight end spot.

Grade: B-

Offensive Line:

Center Mike Pouncey is the crown jewel of this offensive line. Pouncey is the best center in the NFL. He is excellent in pass and run blocking situations. He does a very fine job of pointing out blitz before the play. Pouncey is the model center in the league.

LT Jake Long is no longer with this team anymore. Jonathan Martin will be stepping in to take over the job. Martin played on the left side during his college career. He wasn’t great on the right side last season, and wasn’t great on the left side either in the last few games of the season.

The Dolphins signed free agent Tyson Clabo to man down the right tackle position. Clabo is a former Pro-Bowler and top 5 RT. He’s still a great player, and one of the overshadowed good moves of the Dolphins’ offseason. Clabo is good in both passing and rushing situations. He’s going to be a great addition to this line.

The starting right guard position is up for grabs. Lance Louis and John Jerry are both fighting for that spot. Jerry has had weight issues, while Louis has just not looked like a starter. This will certainly be a big weak spot in this line.

Richie Incognito, the starting left guard is one of the strongest players in the NFL. He does well in pass blocking situations, and is decent in run blocking situations. He’s going to get a bit of competition with Dallas Thomas joining the team. Incognito is in the last year of his contract, and he’s been very consistent over his career. It’ll be interesting to see what happens at this position.

Grade: C

Defensive Line:

The defensive line is probably the strength of the Dolphins. Cameron Wake is the obvious star of this unit. Wake had the best year out of all 4-3 DEs in 2012, and is already an elite defensive end. Wake accumulated 17 sacks and 46 QB hurries in 2012. He’s obviously a great pass rusher, but he isn’t a one-dimensional defender. Wake is also very good against the run. He is so quick off the snap. Cameron Wake is going to be a great player in the NFL for years to come.

The two highest paid players on the Dolphins’ team in 2013 are their staring defensive tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai.

Paul Soliai is a force in the running game and takes on many double teams. He is a nice two down player. Soliai is nothing special, but he is pretty consistent.

The Dolphins slapped the franchise tag on Randy Starks. He had a very up-and-down year in 2012. He either looked super good or super bad, it depends on the game you watch. He does well in both passing and running situations, he just needs to be more consistent. If Starks explodes this season, he’ll be earning a nice paycheck starting in 2014.

The other starting defensive end spot is up for grabs. Jared Odrick and first-round pick Dion Jordan are expected to duel. Likely, Odrick will hold down the staring job, while Jordan will come in on third down and passing situations. Jordan is a very versatile player, he could be used standing up as an outside linebacker quite often. The combination of Jordan and Wake could be nightmarish for opposing offenses.

Grade: A

Linebackers:

On the strong side, Koa Misi is also another pass rushing threat. He’s a very dynamic pass rusher, he has many moves in his arsenal. Misi plays well against the run too. He’s an underrated weapon on this defense.

The Dolphins landed another great free agent in WLB Phillip Wheeler. Wheeler totaled 100 tackles last season with the Raiders. He’s not a great run defender by any measure. On the other hand, Wheeler brings great pass rushing ability and great coverage skills to the Dolphins.

Dannell Ellerbe was the Dolphins biggest offseason acquisition on defense. Ellerbe will serve as the team’s middle linebacker. Once again, the Dolphins have another pass rushing threat on their hands with Ellerbe. He can be serviceable while in coverage. He does a good job of jamming receivers and tight ends. Ellerbe of course, brings a high level of intensity during run defense as well.

Grade: B+

Secondary:

The Dolphins secondary was straight up terrible in 2012. It’s also quite a mystery going into the 2013 season. I’ve been hearing Brent Grimes will start at cornerback along with Richard Marshall or Jamar Taylor. Will Davis is also in the mix at cornerback. Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons should start at safety.

Grade: D-

Special Teams:

Dan Carpenter cost the Dolphins a couple of games in 2012. He’s going to have to fight off Caleb Sturgis this summer in order to keep his job. Brandon Fields led the league in punting average last season. Marcus Thigpen finished in the top 5 in both punt and kick return average.

Grade: A-

Final Thoughts:

The Dolphins defense could be catapulted in the top 10 with all their recent additions. They’re going to compete for a playoff spot, but I don’t think they’re ready to be a playoff team just yet. With all the controversy surrounding the Patriots, maybe the Dolphins will steal the AFC East crown. But I’m not buying the Dolphins just yet, I think we need to give Ryan Tannehill one more year.

Overall Grade: C+

Projected Finish in Division: 2nd

Projected Record: 9-7

  • http://gravatar.com/tbone188 tbone188

    I think you are being a little tough on the fins. I think they have up-graded a little more than you have given them credit for.They would have been 9-7 last year but for the kicker I believe we will get 10 wins this year. The team must gel early. I am a big believer in Coach Philbin, he will do it and sooner than most people think.