There’s no doubt the Miami Dolphins have been given a facelift, much like their impressive new stadium, but have the same issues that have plagued the team for the past few years been fixed?
In the past 3 seasons Ryan Tannehill has been sacked a mammoth 149 times, and last year was the 3rd most sacked quarterback after Blake Bortles and Aaron Rodgers. But the good news is that on paper and during the preseason, it appears as though the offensive line has finally gotten better. Both Laremy Tunsil, who should switch to left tackle in 2017, and Jermon Bushrod should provide much better protection at the guard positions.
At the wide receiver position, Justin Hunter, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant add solid depth, while Kenny Stills is looking like he could finally enjoy a breakout year with the team.
On defense Mario Williams offers experience and leadership. Everyone will be hoping the move back to a 4-3 defensive end will once again turn him into the frightening player he once was, only 2 seasons ago. At safety Isa Adbul Quddus looks like a solid starter next to standout Reshad Jones.
While the above looks promising, the same issues the Dolphins have experienced for years continue to plague the team. Tight end Jordan Cameron was brought into the team last season to become Tanehill’s safety blanket, but it didn’t quite happen and, more alarmingly, still hasn’t happened this preseason under new head coach Adam Gase, whose offenses in Chicago and Denver relied on capable, productive tight ends. Beyond second-string player, Dion Sims, there’s not a lot of depth, either.
Also troublesome is the linebacker group. Sure, Alonso, Misi and Jenkins are a solid trio when all fit, but who’s behind them? Miami need to find better depth.
However, perhaps most worrying is the cornerback position. I wrote an article in July expressing my concerns here, and nothing has been done to change my mind. The pass-happy NFL demands quality cornerbacks. Even with a supposedly dominant defensive line, good quarterbacks in the NFL will eventually find a way to expose our deficiencies at the back.
Xavien Howard may be a good player this season, but he’s still learning his trade as a rookie and missed a large chunk of preseason. It would have been preferable for him to be a quality backup in year 1, not a starter.
Tony Lippett also showed his length and potential with that great interception against Tennessee last week, but he’s had a far from reassuring preseason. He’ll be ready in 2017, not 2016. Finally, Bobby McCain is a good slot corner, but shouldn’t be relied upon on the boundary. This is not because of his size; he just hadn’t held up well on the outside during practice and on game days.
Yes, the Miami Dolphins have gotten better in 2016. But is it enough?
Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter@AlexParish89.