This offseason, the talk around the national media has been about how bad the Miami Dolphins will be in 2018. In no small part, that assumption is based on the media’s decision that the Dolphins had to add a quarterback this offseason, and once the NFL Draft passed without Miami adding a passer, the narrative became Miami fighting for one of the top draft positions in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Except, the last time the Dolphins were led by Ryan Tannehill for the majority of a season, they were a playoff team. Now, heading into 2018, the Dolphins will again be led by Tannehill. Could another playoff berth follow? According to Pro Football Focus, that is a possibility. In their article “Five teams who could surprise with an NFL Wild Card appearance in 2018,” they look squarely at the Dolphins - and Tannehill - as a team that could make some noise this year.
The key to the Dolphins making a surprise push for the playoffs is getting quarterback Ryan Tannehill healthy, and keeping him that way. Tannehill might not be an elite signal-caller, but he has produced a PFF grade between 80.9 and 85.1 every season of his career so far. That will put you among the top 50 percent of quarterbacks in the NFL every season, and with enough help around him, he gives you a chance to win. The Dolphins have made additions on offense, adding guard Josh Sitton who has allowed just 18 total pressures on 856 pass-blocking snaps over the past two seasons and slot receiver Albert Wilson. Wilson replaces Jarvis Landry who dominated out of the slot, but Wilson was no slouch, producing a PFF grade of 77.1 and he will have the opportunity to flourish in the Dolphins system.
Defensively, Robert Quinn is the big addition upfront, but despite him racking up 10 sacks in 2017, we haven’t seen any real consistency from him as a pass-rusher since his two-year performance between 2013 and 2014, with just 81 total pressures over the past three seasons. The key addition on defense is first-round defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who showcased the ability to play safety and in the slot at Alabama, and should bring that versatility to the Dolphins.
Joining the Dolphins in the list are the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans, and Los Angeles Chargers. The Dolphins could be fighting with the Texans and Chargers for the surprise Wild Card spot if things work out like this.
PFF is fairly accurate in their assessment of how Miami could surprise this year. Tannehill’s return will be a big part of it, but the addition of Sitton should solidify the offensive line, while Wilson should be able to fill in for Landry - along with Danny Amendola and tight end Mike Gesicki. On defense, Quinn will be in a rotation with Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, Charles Harris, and William Hayes; those five should be able to provide enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks to have a solid impact this year. Fitzpatrick will absolutely be a huge part of Miami’s defense this year, both as a free safety deep in the middle of the field and as a coverage option on slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs.
The Dolphins should not be nearly anywhere near as bad as the national media seems to believe this year - assuming Tannehill stays healthy. At least one nation site sees there is potential for Miami to return to the postseason in 2018.