Last year, the Dolphins had a successful season with a record of 10-6 and their first playoff appearance since 2008. Training camp for the 2017 season starts this week and optimism surrounds the organization.
Will the Dolphins improve upon last season and make the Super Bowl for the first time since 1984? If the following five things happen, a Dolphins Super Bowl is in the future.
Mike Pouncey stays healthy
Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center when he stays healthy. A healthy Pouncey and Laremy Tunsil at left tackle puts two elite players on the offensive line. If the rest of the line is average, the unit becomes an above average unit that will give Tannehill time to throw the ball and Ajayi room to run. The Dolphins have enough depth on the offensive line if Pouncey stays healthy. Otherwise, the Dolphins will have depth issues on the offensive line all year. The health of Pouncey may be the most important determinant of how successful the Dolphins’ offense plays this season.
Ryan Tannehill improves
Throughout Tannehill’s career he has shown improvement and many in the Dolphins organization are hoping to see an even bigger jump this season since it will be his second year under Coach Gase. Last year, Tannehill had a career high quarterback rating of 93.5, but he had a quarterback rating in the 4th quarter of 87.9 and on third downs of 87.6.
He needs to improve on 3rd down and in the red zone this season to become an elite quarterback. If he can improve in those two areas, the Dolphins will win more games and playoff success will follow.
Devante Parker and Julius Thomas become red zone threats
Under Coach Gase in Denver, Thomas averaged 12 touchdowns a year and was a significant threat in the red zone. However, in Jacksonville, Thomas had only 9 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Parker at 6’3” had only 4 touchdowns last year and did not establish himself as a red zone threat. However, if both players in 2017 improve their play in the red zone from last year and have, perhaps, a combined 20 touchdowns then greater success for the team will follow.
20 touchdowns is a realistic goal. Thomas could go back to his average under Gase, and Parker can double his touchdowns from 4 to 8. These red zone threats, Landry, Ajayi, Stills, and Williams create an elite offense.
Overall, the Dolphins offense needs a healthy Pouncey, improvement from Tannehill and the red zone threats of Parker and Thomas to emerge, and the result is a Super Bowl offense.
Dolphins defense stops the run
The plan this offseason was to add players to the defense, who can help the Dolphins stop the run. The Dolphins added through free agency DE Hayes and LB Timmons, plus they drafted DE Harris, LB McMillian, DT Godchaux, and DT Taylor.
Nonetheless, the most important aspect of the defense is that Jordan Phillips must improve this season. He must become a consistent run stopping player.
A strong run defense will put the opponents’ offenses in more third down and long situations. When opponents have to pass more often, the playmaking defensive ends and cornerbacks can create more turnovers.
If the Dolphins add a run stopping defense to the 15th ranked passing defense, the defense can improve drastically.
Tom Brady gets injured
The last time the Dolphins won the AFC East division was when Tom Brady got injured for the entire season. The Dolphins can make the Super Bowl without a Brady injury, but it would definitely help their chances.