The last time the Miami Dolphins won their division was in 2008. Since then the Dolphins have remained under the radar as an average to mediocre franchise that can only muster six to seven wins in any given season. While this team hasn’t been a complete and utter embarrassment, their recent underwhelming performances have been a cause for concern.
Nevertheless, the Dolphins have proven to be a team that can bounce back from this type of adversity once they are given enough time to regroup and reload with next generational batch of superstar studded personnel. Although the 21st century has been less than ideal for this franchise given the fact that they’ve only made the divisional round once since 2000, the Dolphins look to once again become a perennial playoff juggernaut.
In this day and age, any team that wishes to eventually compete for a Super Bowl victory must have a decisive and talented quarterback who can lead his team to the Promised Land. Although Ryan Tannehill only started in 20 games at Texas A&M, he was quickly able to make a name for himself through his immense throwing power and his ability to swiftly move out of the pocket whenever he was on the verge of being sacked. His uncanny ability to be innately dynamic and poised in these high-pressure situations not only made Tannehill a solid quarterback, but also garnered him immense respect as a leader who wasn’t intimidated by the moment.
Some analysts who believed Tannehill was an exceptional passer when it came to out routes but lacked the controlled discipline when it came to throwing in routes questioned his eventual transition to the NFL. While Tannehill did poorly in his first game of the regular season against the Houston Texans, when he threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns, he slowly but surely transformed from an under-appreciated rookie into a capable passer who was able to learn from his conceded mistakes.
Although the Dolphins finished with another 7-9 regular season, Tannehill fully emerged as a talented quarterback by setting multiple rookie franchise records including most passing yards (3294), attempts (484) and completions (282).
Despite these impressive accolades, Tannehill finished the season with fairly average stats by completing only 58.3% of his passes and throwing only twelve touchdowns and thirteen interceptions to finish the season. However, while Tannehill’s miscues were mostly to be expected from a rookie quarterback, some of his mistakes could be at least partially attributed to a lack of a solid receiving corps. The Dolphins addressed this blatant blemish immediately by signing Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his final year with the Steelers, Wallace acquired eight touchdown passes and 836 yards. Although it wasn’t his best year, Wallace’s tenacity and reliable hands make him an ideal playmaker for a confident Ryan Tannehill who will look to Wallace as a go to clutch receiver. Even with the acquisition of Wallace, the Dolphins still needed a second receiver who could spread out an imposing secondary. While Brandon Gibson could hardly be considered a superstar receiver in his own right, his vast improvements in the last year make him a potentially gifted athlete who is just in the process of hitting his prime. In his final year with the St. Louis Rams, Gibson caught five touchdown passes (which is more than he caught in his first three years with the franchise combined) and averaged 13.5 yards per catch (his highest average with the team).
Yet, even with these young up and coming receivers that should give the Dolphins all the offensive help they need, Miami’s weak secondary was in dire need of some quick witted pass defenders after they finished 27th in the league at defending the pass. Although Miami went with a highly touted pass rusher in Dion Jordan in the first round, their second round selection of cornerback Jamar Taylor from Boise State could prove to be much more vital to the Dolphins success. Taylor is a versatile corner who is quick, yet supremely aggressive, particularly as an avid tackler who can play both man or zone coverage. In the 3rd round of the draft, the Dolphins once again went with another cornerback with immense raw talent to beef up their injury ridden secondary. Despite the fact that Will Davis had to start in junior college before eventually transferring to Utah State, he his built similarly to Taylor and shares the same aggressive and instinctual qualities that made Taylor a standout corner. Although Davis may have to work on some his defensive techniques before he can be considered a fully versatile corner, his willingness to improve and his initial talents provide him with a solid framework for him to build upon.
When all is said and done, the Dolphins have all the components in place to become a competitive and intriguing franchise once again. While the Dolphins still have to contend with the dominant New England Patriots, they have a much better chance at success due to the Patriots lack of a super star receiving core. If the Dolphins can capitalize on the Patriots depleted offense and can fully utilize the young talent they have vivaciously gone out of their way to acquire, this team has a chance to prove that they are more than just another stagnant football franchise.