Every year in the NFL, key player's have injuries and derail a team's season. Injuries happen in a game as physical as football, such as Mike Pouncey's hip injury, so who are the five Miami Dolphins whose loss would derail the team's season?
#5- Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill is a bit of an anomaly on this list, because if he doesn't prove he belongs on it this year then he will be replaced.
However, as it stands now, Tannehill's best replacement is Matt Moore. Moore, who I personally am a huge fan of for what he did in 2011, is a great back-up, but he doesn't fit the type of offense that Miami runs.
The Dolphins' offense is predicated on timing, the most important factor, and secondly on accuracy. Both of these things play into the opposite of Moore's strengths, who is a play-making, gunslinger who is best when improvising.
Tannehill, on the other hand, is the best QB on the team at running this type of offense. Tannehill's timing and accuracy have been two of his strengths, and he throws the ball with enough velocity to hit out-breaking routes on the sideline (which is a bit of a bonus).
Tannehill also brings athleticism that new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's system will take advantage of. Lazor, who comes from the fast-paced, multi-dimensional offense of the Philadelphia Eagles, will call a few read-option plays where Tannehill can run with the ball.
We saw Tannehill do this in very limited instances in 2013, but his skill set calls for it and the threat of the QB running opens up more passing lanes.
If Tannehill goes down, the Dolphins season will be in peril and on life-support. Can Moore provide wins for this talented team? Not consistently, as consistency has been Moore's biggest fault throughout his career and the reason he didn't start in 2012 (Tannehill was more consistent than him in training camp).
Tannehill has consistency issues as well, but he is still the Dolphins best option for a making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This is a make-or-break year for Tannehill, but if he goes down with a serious injury then Dolphin fans will be singing the old familiar tune "just wait till next year" yet again.
#4- Charles Clay
Clay makes this list because the tight end position, while deep, is extremely troubling in it's overall talent level. However, if I would have made this list a year ago it's likely that Dustin Keller would have been on it.
We all remember that story. Keller devastatingly tears his knee to shreds in a preseason game, the Dolphins tight end position seems bare, then Clay steps up to become one of the top tight ends in the game and one of Ryan Tannehill's favorite targets.
Is it possible that the same thing could happen this year if an injury (cross your fingers that it doesn't happen) is suffered by Clay, but not likely.
Clay is a versatile player who played fullback in college, and that versatility and skill set is hard to replace. There is much speculation that in 2014, Michael Egnew will finally develop into what he was drafted to be-- a pass-catching tight end who creates mismatches all over the field (like Jimmy Graham).
However, as it stands now, the Dolphins' tight end corps is full of unproven and disappointing players outside of Clay. If Clay goes down, the rag-tag group that'll be left won't be nearly consistent enough to compensate.
Keep in mind, the same thing was said about the Keller-Clay situation last year.... But I am confident in saying that a Clay injury would result in a noticeable drop-off.
#3- Brent Grimes
The nearly 31-year old Grimes is coming off of one of his finest seasons as a professional. The Shippensburg product made his second Pro Bowl and didn't allow a single touchdown to a receiver in the 2013 season.
Grimes enters 2014 with a new contract and lockdown cornerback status. Grimes is the most important piece of the Dolphins secondary, which will feature two new starters. Grimes ability to shutdown the left side of the field is a huge part of the Dolphins' defense and allows defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to get creative, knowing that Grimes will have his man shut down.
If Grimes were to suffer any type of injury the Dolphins' secondary would go from one of the strongest areas of the team to one of the biggest question marks (it is still a questionable unit, but Grimes' presence raises the reputation).
Grimes is a top three cornerback in the NFL. That is tough to replace on any team, but even more so on a squad with a suspicious group of cornerbacks behind Grimes.
#2- Mike Pouncey
Pouncey's injury was absolutely devastating. Pouncey, the anchor of the offensive line, will receive surgery on his hip to repair a torn labrum, an operation which will keep him sidelined at least three months. Pouncey was the leader of the line and was viewed as the key piece that would help a group with four new starters gel.
Now, Pouncey will be out all of training camp, the preseason and the first month of the season. Four out of five of the Dolphins' offensive linemen will be getting acclimated to a new city, new teammates and now a new center making the calls and checks.
As the Dolphins open the season with five new offensive line starters, Pouncey will rehabilitate and watch from a distance as the offensive line he was supposed to lead struggles.
Pouncey is not only a Pro Bowl center, but he was also the one piece of continuity that the Dolphins had on the offensive line. The loss of Pouncey is crippling to this team in an almost endless amount of ways, but good teams overcome the adversity and find ways to win.
#1- Branden Albert
Albert was the most irreplaceable Dolphin as soon as he signed his lucrative five-year, $47 million contract in the offseason. Albert became the second Pro Bowl offensive lineman that the Dolphins had on roster, but after Pouncey's unfortunate and untimely injury, Albert is now the most experienced/ talented lineman on the roster.
Pouncey's absence would lead us to assume that Albert will step up as the leader of the offensive line, but it cannot be forgotten that Albert has only been with this team for four months and he probably isn't comfortable enough with his surroundings to accept that role.
Either way, Albert is the most irreplaceable player on this roster. He's a Pro Bowl caliber player, plays the premium position of left tackle and the depth behind him is very questionable. While I like the prospect of Billy Turner eventually becoming the Dolphins' starting left tackle, he would be a liability this year as would the other back-ups, Jason Fox and Nate Garner.
If Albert goes down for any period of time the Dolphins will be in trouble, especially if it's anytime within the next three months. Pouncey is the anchor of the line but Albert is the keeper of the back door. If Albert goes down, we can expect at least another 58 sacks allowed.
Wallace's ability to stretch the field with his speed creates a ton of space for other receivers and big play opportunities. Wallace's speed would be tough to replace, but it's no secret that Miami has a stable of talented wide outs (and Brian Hartline is an underrated deep threat). Even so, a burner like Wallace who is a threat to beat a defense deep on any play is tough to replace.