2016 was a banner year for the Miami Dolphins. A ten and six record and a playoff appearance. Their first since 2008. We saw breakout stars on both sides of the ball. Hell, even special teams was a huge factor in our success this past season. There are going to be many people doubting that the Dolphins can continue their success this upcoming season. Mainly due to the fact that we share the same division with that team from New England. Well, hopefully, they take a gander at this article so I can explain a few of the reasons why last season was no fluke. But a building block to taking over this division.
So let’s start with the most important piece of any NFL team. The kicker. Ok, so I'm obviously kidding. It’s the Quarterback of course. Ryan Tannehill has, let’s face it, been “blah” the first five seasons of his career. Showing flashes of what his potential could be just wasn’t cutting it any longer. So what the Dolphins brass did was go out and get the best quarterback coach to captain the ship. Ryan showed he had control of the offense throughout his 13 games before the hit to his knee would end his season. Ryan had career highs in completion percentage (67.1) and yards per pass play (7.7). Add in his best QB rating of his career (93.5) and Ryan was on his way to the best season of his career. Maybe the best number from last year are his three game-winning drives. None more apparent than in that nauseating offensive output for three and a half quarters in Los Angeles. Putting back to back 70 plus yard drives together for touchdowns to win the game really showed the control over the offense and growth we all yearned for. Look for Tannehill to continue his growth this season en route to hopefully another playoff appearance.
Let’s take a look at probably the most improved piece to the Dolphins offense this past season, Jay Ajayi. Let’s begin with the first five games of the season last year. Game one versus Seattle he did not make the trip. Game two versus New England he had five carries for 14 yards. Game three versus Cleveland he had seven carries for 28 yards. Game 4 versus six carries for 33 yards. Last but not least game five versus Tennesee he had 13 carries for 42 yards. So let’s do the math. That’s 31 carries for 117 yards. He did add 2 touchdowns but overall a pretty brutal stat line. All he did the rest of the way was run for 1,155 yards and 6 more touchdowns. Included in that 1,155 yards was three games where Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards. For the season Ajayi averaged 4.9 yards per attempt, which puts him tied for seventh with LeVeon Bell. If we add in the fact that Ajayi will play a full slate of games in 2017, Ajayi has all the tools to lead the NFL in rushing this season.
Next up, wide receivers. One of the biggest complaints from fans of this team has been weapons for Tannehill to throw to. Miami has finally surrounded Ryan with young wideouts that can continue to grow together. Re-signing Kenny Stills was huge for this offense this offseason. Kenny added that deep threat every time he was on the field. Which needless to say opens the entire field up for the other weapons on the offense. Kenny recorded his second highest yards per catch total (17.3) and by far his highest touchdown total with 9 in his second season with Miami. He was exactly what this offense needed him to be. Now to my personal favorite, Jarvis Landry. The picture of toughness and consistency. 94 receptions this past season and a whopping 110 in 2015, Landry is the go-to guy on the Miami offense. The question with Landry has always been his touchdown output. Four the past two seasons and five the year before. Look for Landry to increase that total sooner rather than later with more volume as Ryan settles into his own in Gase’s system. Last but certainly not least, DeVante Parker. The man with all the talent in the world and looks like AJ Green in a Dolphins uniform. The jump from year one to year two was a significant one. In 2016 he had more targets (37) than in year one. Also caught more passes (30). Receiving yards per game was also up (49.6) along with catch percentage (64.4). All of these numbers bode well for a big breakout year three for the former 14th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
I won’t spend too much time on the offensive line. Mainly due to the fact that it’s the most steady and productive part of the team. Having a player like Laremy Tunsil fall to the last season was a blessing for this team. That pick alone gave the Dolphins the power to trade away the often injured Brandon Albert. Albert has never played a full 16 games while with the Dolphins. If there is one concern for this Dolphins offensive line it’s the health of their pro bowl center Mike Pouncey. Pouncey hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2012. Which is not good for the best center in the NFL today. The timing of these injuries could become an issue as Miami has an opt-out clause for the 2018 season. Pouncey, who signed a 5 year 44 million dollar contract extension with Miami in 2015, is slated to make about eight million dollars this season. A pretty big number for a guy who can't stay healthy. Having a young and healthy offensive line is a big part of the success of any team. But for what Miami wants to do on offense, it’s crucial.
Here we go. Last but not least. The man behind all of this madness. I believe we all feel like we found our next head coach. The one that will lead us to the promise land. I personally believe he needs at least one more season before we can judge him fairly. With the 2017 NFL draft quickly approaching, this is the time of year we found out which direction we go. I believe the offense will be fine, it’s the defense where we have the most issues. We are about to go on a journey with Adam Gase to see if he can really put this whole thing together to give us a consistent winner ever season. There is a lot to look forward to with this team in 2017. For me, the offense is the most exciting aspect of this upcoming season. In Gase we trust!