With the offseason in full swing, now is a better time as any to put forward seven reasons why Miami will make the playoffs in 2013.
7. The Coaches
Last year's Hard Knocks gave us a great introduction to our coaching staff, and we haven't looked back since. It starts with Joe Philbin. He has the makings of a great head coach from the moment you listen to his press conferences. He's very meticulous and confident in his own blueprint for success. It's not the Green Bay way, it's the Joe Philbin way. Beyond Philbin, Kevin Coyle and Mike Sherman are both excellent deputies. Criticise Mike Sherman all you want for his conservative play-calling, but he knows Ryan Tannehill better than anyone. After that, Kacy Rodgers is one of the best defensive line coaches in the game, and Jim Turner will continue to improve our offensive line with military precision. The list goes on - Kevin O'Keefe, Dan Campbell, Zac Taylor, Jeff Nixon, George Edwards, Lou Anarumo, and Darren Rizzi. I'm sure I've missed a few names, but I have far more confidence in this coaching staff than Tony Sparano's crew.
6. Competition Breeds Success
To become a better team, you need competition across the board. Players need to fight for their positions. Veterans need to look over their shoulders knowing that there are younger guys hungry to gatecrash the roster. This team has far more competition than last year. That's great news moving forward.
5. Our 2013 Draft Class
Has Jeff Ireland slam-dunked this year's draft? Time will tell. But I can't help but get excited about the young players this team has brought in. Dion Jordan will become a cornerstone of our defense for many years to come. Jamar Taylor should have been a first round pick, barring his kidney problems that scared teams away. Then we have a promising guard/tackle prospect in Dallas Thomas, along with another corner in Will Davis. The list goes on. Dion Sims will replace Anthony Fasano as the blocking tight end. Jelani Jenkins should become a key special teams contributor in his first season. Caleb Sturgis may just beat out Dan Carpenter as the team's kicker. Mike Gillislee will fight to become Miami's second choice running back. And lastly, but certainly not least, Don Jones will fight for a spot on the roster as the team's nickel corner. This draft class certainly has plenty of talent, and promise.
4. Younger, Faster, Stronger
Across the board the team has become younger, faster, and stronger. At linebacker, both Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett were replaced by Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. Both signings were a coup and will go a long way in trying to defend against those big, athletic tight ends that ripped through Miami's defense last year. On the other side of the ball, our wide receivers should continue to help Tannehill blossom into the quarterback that we know he can be. Mike Wallace is the main playmaker on offense. He has the kind of speed that terrifies cornerbacks. Sometimes you just can't defend against it.
3. Jeff Ireland
Jeff Ireland is one of the most polarizing General Managers in the game. But whether you love him or loathe him, everyone deep down has to admit that he's made great moves this offseason. Firstly, he set the team up to have a great free agency and draft by accumulating eleven draft picks before the draft even started and creating a whole boatload of free cap space. Then he went on to smash free agency and the draft. Well done Jeff Ireland. Now it's up to the team to deliver.
2. A Better Pass Rush Means an Improved Secondary
Last year, the pass rush was one of the team's strengths. Going in to 2013, our pass rush is even stronger. We have one of the best sack artists in the game with our very own Cameron Wake. Beyond that, second-year player Olivier Vernon will continue to improve, and Jared Odrick will chip in with his handful of sacks. However in the 2013 draft, Miami selected a young pass rusher in the name of Dion Jordan. Remember that name, because you'll be hearing it plenty over the next few years. While I don't necessarily expect him to have a huge impact instantly, he will be helped by playing opposite Wake. That's a perfect situation for him as he won't be the main man, and it will give him a chance to learn his trade. The guy is supremely athletic and has a whole repetoire of pass rushing moves. Put those two things together, and you have a player on your hands. He'll be fun to watch this season. The flipside to that coin is that our secondary should improve with a better pass rush. Providing Brent Grimes stays healthy, we have a player on our hands. He should also help nuture the talent of Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. When you add Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson to the list, the cornerback position suddenly becomes crowded. And did I forget to mention Reshad Jones? He'll continue to improve and, along with Chris Clemons, will provide Miami with one of the better safety tandems in the league.
1. Our Future Franchise Quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
I say future franchise quarterback because Ryan Tannehill isn't quite there yet. In fact he probably won't reach the level of an upper echelon quarterback for a few years. There will be continued growing pains, and Ryan will need to be patient in his development before becoming a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Having said that, I am a firm believer that we will see great improvements by our young quarterback. On paper last year, Tannehill's stats weren't impressive. Sure, he threw the ball for over 3,000 yards in the air, but his twelve touchdowns and thirteen interceptions don't scream future franchise quarterback. That will change this year because of two reasons. The first being that we were almost completely devoid of any talent at the wide receiver position last year. This year will be a completely different ball game. The second, and perhaps most important reason, is that Tannehill will be a better player for having a whole season under his belt. He will start the 2013 regular season wiser, stronger, and better. He's smart, has the mental toughness, knows the offense, and is supremely talented. When you put all those traits together, you have your future franchise quarterback. When your quarterback plays well, the team plays well. When the team plays well, you win games. When you win games, you make the playoffs. Simple.
Do you agree that the Miami Dolphins will make the playoffs this season? Let's hear your thoughts.