To say a lot is riding on this season would be an understatement. Stephen Ross is renovating his stadium and by years end could be renovating his team. Joe Philbin should be on the hot seat and his head coaching career could be on the bubble if the Dolphins fail to make a significant improvement over the last two seasons. Fans are no longer accepting 8-8 and Ross can ill afford to see his team lose like they did to finish last season.
If Joe Philbin is on the hot seat then Ryan Tannehill’s job security is as well. Consider the fact that a new head coach may want his own quarterback to run his offense. It’s the domino effect and from Joe Philbin to Ryan Tannehill and Dennis Hickey, the Miami Dolphins future may very well ride on the next 17 weekends of football.
The Dolphins will sport five new starters on the offensive line this season following last years in-house implosion. Joe Philbin wanted former Kansas City Chief left tackle Branden Albert and Dennis Hickey got him. The team drafted their future right tackle in round one, Ja’Wuan James, and were forced to bring in a center to hold the position down until Mike Pouncey returns. They brought in a former Dolphin, Samson Satele. Dallas Thomas and free agent Daryn College will man the guard positions.
This year the majority of offensive attention will be on new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Lazor, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been working to install a fast paced up tempo offense that marries the West Coast style the Dolphins have been using for the last two seasons and the spread offense run by Chip Kelly in Philadelphia.
Lazor was masterful last season as the Eagles quarterback coach and made Nick Foles into a top NFL signal caller. The Dolphins are expecting him to do the same with Ryan Tannehill who will have his first new coach and new system dating back to his playing days in College where he played under former Dolphins OC Mike Sherman.
On the defensive side of the ball changes to the linebackers will be scrutinized early. Koa Misi has moved to the inside and Danelle Ellerbe has bounced to the outside. The Dolphins are hoping that the change will make their linebacking group faster to the ball while giving each player more favorable blitz opportunities.
Tackling was a problem in 2013 and this years pre-season games haven’t been a definition of change. The team is still struggling to consistently defend the run and any hopes the Dolphins have for the season will be shouldered on this unit.
The Dolphins still boast one of the best defensive line fronts in the NFL but last season the front line struggled getting pressure to the quarterback consistently. This year a lot is expected of Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake off the edges. Second year man Dion Jordan will be sidelined for the first four weeks due to his suspension for a failed drug test.
In the deep secondary, starting safety Reshad Jones will also serve a four game suspension as well.
It will be interesting to see what the Dolphins look like in week five as both Jordan and Jones will return defensively and Mike Pouncey is expected back on offense at center. It could be a nice month two boost to the team.
Key off-season gains:
Knowshon Moreno, the entire front of the offensive line, Cortland Finnegan, Louis Delmas, Jarvis Landry, and Bill Lazor
Key off-seaon losses:
Mike Sherman, Paul Soliai, Daniel Thomas, Marcus Thigpen, and, and, and….well that is about it and only Paul Solia’s loss could hurt the team.
The Dolphins schedule is favorable compared to the 2013 season when they faced three road games in a row and three of four on the road to start the season. The team will open with New England and finish with the Jets at home. They will travel to Buffalo early in the season but have three road games in cold weather cities late in the year. In late November they travel to Denver and will face the Jets the following weekend on December 1st and then the Patriots in Foxboro on the 14th. Will be a cold December.
The Dolphins have two back to back road games, the Denver/New York double and a mid-october trip that will take the team from Chicago to Jacksonville. They have only one back to back home weekends that come in the final two week of the season against the Vikings and Jets.
What’s on the line?
Jobs. Joe Philbin and Dennis Hickey need to make this season work after the changes that occurred following last season that also saw Jeff Ireland’s departure. Stephen Ross is running out of time and excuses. Everyone here now are his people so there is no one else to fall back on if it doesn’t work.
The Dolphins should be able to make it to 10 wins this season but a lot of their success will be shouldered on the execution of the new offensive system and of course the play of Ryan Tannehill. It’s time for Tannehill to take the next step in his career and if he can’t, then the Dolphins need to seriously find a challenger for him next season. If the Dolphins can play to the strengths of their personnel and work together as a team then 10-6 is possible but 9-7 is likely more realistic.
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Tags: Miami Dolphins