Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (right) celebrates after throwing a touchdown to teammate wide receiver Brian Hartline (left) during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins: Can They Make The Playoffs?

Over the last decade, the Miami Dolphins have been a fairly average franchise that has been without a formidable team since they last made the playoffs in 2008.  While almost every team has gone through their moments of mediocrity, the Miami Dolphins were once a dynasty that considered anything less than a Super Bowl appearance an utter disappointment.  Not only that, the Dolphins were once the most dominant team in football when they became the first and only team to successfully complete an undefeated season in 1972.  From that moment forward the Dolphins were forever immortalized as a household franchise that was ripe with monumental moments of success and nostalgia.  Although those memorable achievements now seem like an unattainable prospect considering the Dolphins recent underwhelming performances, the Dolphins of this year are looking to change that perception to eventually become the most inspirational franchise in football once again.

When the Dolphins drafted rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the 2012 NFL Draft it was an emphatic sign that the Dolphins were looking to start over with a young passer who had ample amounts of potential and skill.  While Tannehill never had the illustrious career at Texas A&M that current quarterback Johnny Manziel has acquired, in the limited starts he was given he proved to be a dynamic passer that had both a strong, accurate arm along with a scrappy quickness that proved to be effective when utilized in the right moments.  However, Tannehill’s first year as a professional quarterback was decisively average as he completed only 58.3% of his passes and threw for only twelve touchdowns.  Yet, despite Tannehill’s unimpressive stats, he proved that his athletic talents and leadership intangibles were exactly what the Dolphins were looking for all along.

Thus far, Tannehill has already proven to be much improved over his rookie season as he as competed over 66% of his passes (58.3 CMP% in 2012) and has already thrown for 827 yards in his first three games of the season.  Even with these much improved individual accolades on Tannehill’s part, the Dolphins as a whole are a more well balanced team that has both a well rounded receiving corps and a competent defense that can keep this team competitive in tight games.

The Dolphins new and improved defensive front can be credited with their acquisition of linebacker Dannell Ellerbe from the Baltimore Ravens.  In his first three games Ellerbe has already become the Dolphins leading tackler with 30 tackles on the season.  Although Ellerbe hasn’t garnered any impressive sacks just yet, the fact that Ellerbe can bring immense pressure in every play he participates in makes him an invaluable athlete that can lead by example.

The only blemish on the Dolphins improved resume is an anemic running game that has become a red zone tool rather than a fine tuned offensive weapon.  This is largely due in part to the fact that the Dolphins lost their star running back Reggie Bush to the Detroit Lions in free agency.  However, this is not to say that the Dolphins running corps is worthless or completely incompetent.  To be fair, the Dolphins inconsistencies with the running the football can be easily attributed to the youthfulness of their running backs.  The combined experience of their running corps is under a decade (seven years total), which is easily one of the youngest in the NFL.  With that being said, a couple of the Dolphins running backs have stepped up in critical situations to help their team score key touchdowns when they are needed.  Daniel Thomas no longer has to play second fiddle to Reggie Bush and is slowly finding his groove within the Dolphins offense while second string back Lamar Miller is likewise making a name for himself as a runner that can be equally tenacious when the situation calls for it.

While it’s still too soon to say for certain if the Dolphins can valiantly make the post season, all the pieces are in place for this team to eventually become the perennial division champions they once were.  Between Tannehill’s exponential improvements as a dynamic passer along with the Dolphins having an aggressively successful free agency, this team has the potential to not only make the playoffs this year but to once again become the beloved and successful franchise they once were when they won back to back Super Bowl’s over four decades ago.

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