It must be tough to be in the AFC East and not be the Patriots. On top of that the Dolphins have had four straight losing seasons, that is never good. General manager Jeff Ireland made some moves in the offseason this year, he better hope they pay off or he is going to be out of a job.
The good news is the Dolphins are favorites to secure 2nd place in the division. They have a promising quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and they have put more weapons around him with Wallace, Gibson and Keller. The Jets are garbage and the Bills are nothing to worry about, all that is good news for the Dolphins.
The team should make improvements going into their second year under head coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. They like to use a zone blocking scheme and mix in the outside stretch play on the ground. Tannehill showed a lot of promise last season. He didn't have the gaudy numbers or media attention of fellow rookies Luck and RG3, but he still threw for over 3,200 yards. And when you figure that he didn't have a lot of good skill players around him, you feel a little better. Tannehill has a lot of athleticism and a huge arm. One thing that many people don't realize is he didn't start that many games in college. He came into the NFL as a highly touted prospect, a guy with a huge amount of potential. But then he won the starting job, and didn't look like a bum. That speaks volumes about his desire to learn and his ability to be coached. The future is bright for the current starting QB.
Receiver was a big weakness for the team last year. They knew they needed to make some big changes in that department and they were aggressive in the offseason. They picked up former Steelers wide out Wallace and Gibson from the Rams. Wallace will be able to provide the deep threat that the unit has lacked as of late. Gibson is a solid possession receiver who hauled in 51 catches for 691 yards last season.
This is also the second year under defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. The defensive line was the strength of the unit and will likely improve this year. They have 2-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake and two solid tackles in Starks and Stoliai. Starks was given the franchise tag after he acquired 4.5 sacks last season. Stoliai is a force to be reckoned with in the middle against the run. He consistently demands double teams and makes life easier for everyone else. Wake, and the other defensive ends, are going to be the heart of the pass rush. If the Dolphins are going to want to see improvements in the defense they are going to have to get to the quarterback.
The team got production from their linebackers last year but there is always room for improvement, it's the biggest room in the house. Dansby and Burnett were solid, but they are gone now and Wheeler and Ellerbe take their place. Wheeler had a team leading 109 tackles for Oakland last season and he brings a physical presence to the weakside. He will also bring blitzing abilities that his predecessor didn't have.
The team needs to step it up. They have had four straight losing seasons and in the extremely competitive NFL that puts Ireland on the thinnest of ice. He responded by hiring a bunch of big name free agents and signing guys to one year contracts. Usually that is not a good decision for a team. It doesn't take too much of that before a new GM comes in and we're all talking about how the Dolphins are in a rebuilding year. Tannehill should continue to improve though, it'd be a shame if he didn't make big gains in his sophomore outing.