With major upheaval over the offseason for both the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, the AFC East should be interesting to watch this season. Here's my five reasons why the Dolphins will come out on top!
1. Tom Brady will be without his top four targets from last year.
Wes Welker left to join Peyton Manning's revolution at the Denver Broncos, while the Patriots released Brandon Lloyd in March. Brady's top target Rob Gronkowski also underwent yet another surgery last month, this tim on his back, and will likely start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. But perhaps slightly more worrying for the team, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who faces multiple charges including first-degree murder, is no longer in the team's long-term plans after he was released following his arrest on June 26th. All four of these players accounted for a whopping three-quarters of Brady's completions last year. While Brady does have the knack of turning average players into productive weapons, this season will surely be one step too far for him.
2. Ryan Tannehill to have the breakout season that this team craves.
Why is there so much hype for a guy that only threw twelve touchdowns last year, thirteen interceptions and a completion rate of only 58.3 percent? Well, Tannehill also threw for a Dolphins rookie record 3,294 yards despite having a mediocre offense to work with. But this isn't the only reason. Very simply, Ryan has the talent, confidence and leadership abilities to take the next step this season. One of the biggest plus-points for our young quarterback last season was his ability to move in the pocket to avoid pressure when the pocket collapsed countless times. That in itself shows the maturity and intelligence more akin to a season pro than a rookie trying to make a name for himself in the NFL. One area that Tannehill could stand to improve on this season is his third down performance. Seven of his thirteen interceptions came on third down. However, the new additions on offense should help him, including Wallace, Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller. Providing Keller can stay healthy, he may finally provide the team with the sort of field-stretching tight end that we desperately need.
3. Defense, defense, defense!
Miami have a top-tier defense that ranked 7th in the NFL last season for points allowed per game, despite the presence of a wildly inconsistent offense. However the additions of Dion Jordan, Phillip Wheeler, Dannelle Ellerbe, Brent Grimes and Jamar Taylor should help push this defense to become better. Last season the team struggled in pass defense, as reflected by the Dolphins giving up sixty pass plays of twenty or more yards (tied with the New York Giants for 28th in the NFL), but that should change this year with the playmakers that have been added at linebacker and corner. In addition, one player who hasn't been receiving too much attention this offseason is Dion Jordan. While he may take time to adjust to the nuances of the NFL, don't discount him from becoming a sack specialist at some point during the season.
4. Joe Philbin rules the roost.
Dare I say it? Finally we have a head coach that can lead the team to success. ESPN's Herm Edwards ranked Joe Philbin as one of the top-up-and-coming had coaches in the game, and it's easy to see why. Philbin's detailed approach, calm demeanor and great sense of humour works well in the NFL. Not only has Philbin got the locker room well and truly behind him, but he also the owner's and fanbase's seal of approval too. Joe Philbin, Kevin Coyle and Mike Sherman hold the keys to the team's future success. Lets hope they deliver.
5. Mike Wallace to take it to the house!
Mike Wallace is ready to help Ryan Tannehill have the breakout season that this team desperately needs. Wallace has a career average of 17.2 yards per receptions that ranks 4th among active receivers. Since entering the league four years ago, Wallace leads the NFL with 27 receptions of 40-plus yards. No player can take it to the house like Wallace, the guy is just fast! On the flipside many have criticised Wallace for being a one-trick pony. For those that hold that view, do so at your own peril. The Steelers have frequently used him on screens and slants in the past few years, enabling him to make defenders miss tackles in order to create insane yards after the catch. Label Wallace a one-trick pony if you like, but that may come back to bite you come the end of the season!
The New England Patriots won the AFC East last season with a 12-4 record, followed by the Dolphins (7-9), the Jets and the Bills (both 6-10). However the new additions that the Dolphins made over the offseason, and the upheaval that the Patriots have experienced over the past few months, should make for an interesting season ahead. The question is, are you ready for it? Go Dolphins!