The Miami Dolphins are in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, an unexpected result of a season that features a first year head coach and completely new offensive and defensive systems. In a year that was supposed to be about establishing a new culture, the Dolphins took that paradigm shift and turned it into being one of the top 12 teams in the league.
Miami making the postseason means there are several players who are getting their first taste of football beyond the regular season. All across the roster, there are players who have played lengthy careers, but have never made the playoffs before now. On Sunday, those players will be taking the field in the league’s championship tournament, knowing that, despite the odds of first qualifying for the playoffs and now trying to run the table as a six-seed, they have a chance of bringing a Lombardi Trophy to Miami for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
We break apart the Dolphins roster, separating the players by the postseason experience they have already had - most of it coming in jerseys not aqua in color.
- Jake Brendel
- Leonte Carroo
- Kenyan Drake
- Thomas Duarte
- Jakeem Grant
- A.J. Hendy
- Xavien Howard
- Jordan Lucas
- Lafayette Pitts
- Rashawn Scott
- Laremy Tunsil
For obvious reasons, the Dolphins rookies are making their first appearances in the postseason. For these 11 players, being a member of a playoff team is all they have known as they are one-for-one in making it to the playoffs every year they have been in the league.
Veterans who have made the playoffs with other teams
- Branden Albert (KC 2008-2014, MIA 2015-2016) - Playoffs in 2010, 2013
- Donald Butler (SD 2011-2015, MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2013
- Dominique Jones (IND 2012-2013, KC 2013, DEN 2014, MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2012 (Practice squad), 2014 (Inactive)
- Jason Jones (TEN 2008-2011, SEA 2012 (IR), DET 2013-2015, MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2008, 2014
- Earl Mitchell (HOU 2010-2013, MIA 2014-2016) - Playoffs in 2011, 2012
- Kenny Stills (NO 2013-2014, MIA 2015-2016) - Playoffs in 2013
- Ndamukong Suh (DET 2010-2014, MIA 2015-2016) - Playoffs in 2011, 2014
- T.J. Yates (HOU 2011-2013, ATL 2014, HOU 2015 (IR), MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2011, 2012 (DNP)
- Nick Williams (KC 2014-2016, MIA 2016) - Playoffs 2015
The Dolphins do have a nice collection of veterans who have at least made it to the playoffs once. Some of the players may not have actually made an appearance in the playoffs, but they were at least with the team on either the practice squad or on the 53-man roster but did not play. Some of these players with experience are key players like Albert, Suh, Stills, and Mitchell. They should be able to share some of what the other players should expect.
Veterans who have won the Super Bowl with other teams
- Jermon Bushrod (NO 2007-2012, CHI 2013-2015, MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2009, 2010, 2011; Won Super Bowl in 2009
- Byron Maxwell (SEA 2011-2014, PHI 2015, MIA 2016) - Playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2014; Won Super Bowl in 2013
- Spencer Paysinger (NYG 2011-2014, MIA 2015-2016) - Playoffs in 2011; Won Super Bowl in 2011
Miami actually has three players who have Super Bowl rings. All three have been important players at some point this year, with Bushrod starting at right guard all season, Maxwell has been a starting cornerback when healthy, and Paysinger is a key special teams player and reserve linebacker with three starts.
Veterans who have played elsewhere, but no playoff appearances
- Kiko Alonso (BUF 2013, PHI 2015, MIA 2016)
- Andre Branch (JAX 2012-2015, MIA 2016)
- MarQueis Gray (CLE 2013, MIN 2014, BUF 2014-2015, MIA 2016)
- Matt Moore (CAR 2007, 2009-2010, MIA 2011-2016)
- Bacarri Rambo (WAS 2013-2014, BUF 2014-2015, MIA 2016)
- Trevor Reilly (NYJ 2014-2015, MIA 2016)
- Kraig Urbik (BUF 2010-2015, MIA 2016)
- Mario Williams (HOU 2006-2011 (IR in 2011), BUF 2012-2015, MIA 2016)
- Sam Young (DAL 2010, BUF 2011-2013, JAX 2013-2015, MIA 2016)
There are several veteran players who have signed as free agents with Miami or for whom Miami traded that will be making their postseason debut. Some of these players just were never on a team that made the postseason or they were on injured reserve the one chance they had to make the postseason.
Veterans who have played entire career in Miami without playoff appearance
- Cameron Wake (8 years)
- Ryan Tannehill (5 years)
- Jelani Jenkins (4 years)
- Dion Sims (4 years)
- Michael Thomas (4 years)
- Walt Aikens (3 years)
- Terrence Fede (3 years)
- Ja'Wuan James (3 years)
- Jarvis Landry (3 years)
- Damien Williams (3 years)
- Jay Ajayi (2 years)
- Matt Darr (2 years)
- Andrew Franks (2 years)
- Neville Hewitt (2 years)
- Mike Hull (2 years)
- Tony Lippett (2 years)
- Bobby McCain (2 years)
- DeVante Parker (2 years)
- Jordan Phillips (2 years)
- Anthony Steen (1 year)
Obviously, this group is headlined by Wake, who just missed the Dolphins’ last postseason appearance and, despite being a five-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the top pass rushers since joining the league in 2009, he has never had a chance to make the playoffs. This year will change that, as it will for all of the players who have only known the Dolphins organization - not counting practice squad time elsewhere - for their careers. The player to watch on this list is, of course, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whose knee injury could keep him from being available for the playoffs.
But, there seems to be one player missing from all of the above categories...
Veterans who have played in the playoffs with Miami
John Denney (12 years) - Playoffs in 2008
Yep. Denney has actually been with the team long enough to have played in the game the last time Miami was in the postseason. He has played in every one of the 192 regular season games Miami has played since he was signed as an undrafted free agent, and he has the only postseason appearance for the Dolphins in a Dolphins jersey. It was an ugly game back in 2008, so Denney is hoping to not just double his postseason games played total, but maybe bring his personal postseason record to 1-1.