Oct 31, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) celebrates with defensive tackle Randy Starks (94) defensive tackle Jared Odrick (98) and safety Jimmy Wilson (27) after Wake

Miami Dolphins: Can They Still Be Division Contenders?

At the start of the season, the Miami Dolphins appeared to have the talent and determination to topple the dominant New England Patriots.  The Dolphins offense was firing on all cylinders and their suspect defense did just enough to allow their team to garner one well-earned victory after another.  While the Dolphins 3-0 start was an impressive feat, their tragic demise became a more glaring point of intrigue.  As quickly as the Dolphins looked like the team to beat in the AFC East, they succumbed to injuries and locker room strife, which resulted in a shocking 4 game losing streak.  However, despite these overwhelming adversities, the Dolphins proved they still had some fight left in them when they defeated the surging Cincinnati Bengals in overtime at home.  Although the Dolphins still have some work to do if they hope to be in the optimistic limelight again, their newfound determination is both inspiring and encouraging.

The key to the Dolphins future success is the well-being and confidence of their second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.  From game to game, Tannehill’s accuracy seemingly dictates whether the Dolphins win in triumphant fashion or lose in dramatic devastation. Whenever Tannehill completes more than 63% of his passes, this Dolphins team always finds a way to win even if Tannehill only manages to throw one touchdown pass per game.  However, if Tannehill happens to have a poor day in terms of his accuracy, a loss, whether at home or on the road, appears to be inevitable.  While it’s unsurprising that Tannehill’s wavering consistency contributes to this teams offensive frustrations, the defense also appears to be in sync with their quarterbacks on the field ebb and flow.  Without a doubt, Tannehill is the rock that inspires and motivates this team to reach their potential even when the odds appear to be insurmountable.  If Tannehill can establish a level of consistency on the field, this team is more than capable of defeating even the most ferocious of opponents.

With that being said, the Dolphins defense needs to overcome their own inconsistencies if they hope to become a well-balanced and successful franchise.  While the Dolphin’s did a much better job in last night’s victory over the Bengals when they picked off Andy Dalton three times (one for a pick six), this level of tenacity needs to remain in this defenses repertoire if they hope to win close games going forward.  Thus far, the Dolphins have allowed 252.3 passing yards per game and 116.5 rushing yards per game (22nd and 23rd in the league respectively).  The only way the Dolphins can continue to win on a regular basis is if they have a stout defense that can force three and outs more frequently to allow their dynamic offense to methodically move the ball down the field.

Luckily, the Dolphins have until next Monday night to work out the kinks so they can become the rejuvenated and beloved franchise they were expected to be this season.  While their Monday night debut is expected to be relatively forgiving as they face the woeful Tampa Buccaneers, their next two matchups will pit them against two solid quarterbacks who have looked markedly improved from last season.  Between Phillip Rivers having one of the most productive and prolific seasons of his career and Cam Newtown’s newfound on the field maturity and poise, the Dolphins defense will have to show up from the opening kickoff to the closing minutes in each of these competitive affairs.  If this defense can emulate their impressive performance from last night, they’ll have a chance to bounce back to contend for the division once again.

In the end, the Dolphins are team that has been built around a young quarterback that has held this team together with his innate leadership intangibles and his unwavering confidence on the field.  Although this Dolphins defense still has some work to do to allow this team to reach its full potential, the fact that they were able to lead their team to an unexpected victory over a high octane offense is nothing short of miraculous.  As long as this team continues to improve the aspects of their game that are still ineffective, they’ll undoubtedly have one of the best comeback stories of the year.  

Tags: Miami Dolphins NFL

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