Ryan Tannehill. Remember that kid? The guy with the high bust rate. The guy that would be a major reach at number eight of the 2012 NFL draft. There's no way he would be ready to play in 2012, his detractors said.
Let's fast-forward one year. Sure, he didn't have great numbers. Last year Tannehill threw 3,294 yards, 14 touchdowns (12 passing touchdowns and 2 rushing touchdowns) and 13 interceptions. But if you focus on the latter end of the season, he had 7 scores for only 2 interceptions in his final 5 games. What's all the more impressive is that these numbers are with a supporting cast that didn't do Tannehill justice, to put it kindly.
The 2013 season offers a completely different proposition altogether for Tannehill and co. Brian Hartline is no longer the number one receiver on this team. In comes Mike Wallace, a turbo-charged athletic freak that can create something out of nothing and outrun any player in the NFL, and Brandon Gibson, the new slot receiver that rarely makes mistakes and has had an impressive offseason thus far.
But that's not all. At tight end Dustin Keller has been brought in to strike fear into the opposition's defense down the middle, while Dion Sims is an accomplished blocker, but can also surprise with his sneaky athleticism in passing situations. As for Reggie Bush, the team didn't make a great deal of effort to ensure he stuck around. Instead, Lamar Miller will be expected to become the feature running back, aided by the frustrating Daniel Thomas and the promising rookie Mike Gillislee. On the offensive line, Jake Long is long gone (excuse the pun), while Jonathan Martin steps up to the plate at left tackle. Mike Pouncey will continue to be his ever-dependable self at centre, while Richie Incognito and a whole slew of players including Lance Louis, Dallas Thomas, Nate Garner and John Jerry will compete for the remaining starting guard positions. Veteran Tyson Clabo completes the set, and should provide some much-needed veteran experience at right tackle.
Now here's the fun part, the defense. The Dolphins pulled off a huge shock in the 2013 NFL draft by trading up from the number 12 pick to the number 3 pick for Oregon pass-rusher Dion Jordan. Jordan may not be tailor-made to be an every-down player straight away, but his intriguing athleticism and pass-rushing skills should translate very well over the coming years in the NFL. But to suggest that Jordan is the main pass-rushing component on this defense would be a disservice to Cameron Wake, one of the most underrated players in the NFL, and Olivier Vernon, who's had a terrific offseason to date.
Defensive tackle is probably the strongest position currently on this Dolphins team. Randy Starks and Paul Soliai should strike fear into any offensive line currently in the NFL, while Jared Odrick is a more than capable deputy. All three players should see their fair share of sacks this season. At linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler arrive as the two linebackers that replace Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. Will they be an improvement? The jury is still out, but Kevin Coyle has been raving about these two throughout camp. I'm certainly expecting an improvement.
One of the most disappointing components of last season's team were the cornerbacks. Sean Smith is now in Kansas City, while Vernon Davis was prudently traded to the Colts for a 2nd round pick. In comes Brent Grimes, a stud cornerback when healthy, and rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. All three will compete for playing time with existing Dolphins cornerbacks Richard Marshall and Dimitri Patterson. As for safeties, Reshad Jones should continue his climb in becoming one of the NFL's superior safeties, while Chris Clemons will seek to prove his worth.
So where does all this leave the Dolphins for the 2013 NFL season? Will we be finishing with a losing season once again? For once I'm actually happy to say that both my heart and head suggests that this season will be a success for Miami. The schedule is tough; there's no getting around that. But with the additions the team has made and the chemistry that the existing players have with the coaches, I believe the Dolphins will post their first winning season since Chad Pennington completed mission impossible. There's too much talent this year. There's too much tactical nous on the part of the coaches. I feel good about this season, and you should too.
It starts on Sunday against the Cowboys. Will the Dolphins make the Super Bowl? Unlikely. Will we make the playoffs? I'll leave that for you to decide.