2015 Miami Dolphins Team Preview

Lamar Miller may increase his production further still considering he's just 24 years of age.
Lamar Miller may increase his production further still considering he’s just 24 years of age.

Miami Dolphins
Head Coach: Joe Philbin
2014 Record: 8-8
Postseason: N/A

Odds to win Division: +335
Odds to win Conference: +1000
Odds to win Super Bowl: +2700
Season Wins: Over 8 (-145); Under 8 (+125)

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New England’s blunder is the Miami Dolphins gain, as the team eyes a division title while Tom Brady pays the price for being a cheater.

Credit Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for keeping this team competitive. He has been unafraid of controversy, signing Ndamukong Suh and bringing back Joe Philbin, and the Dolphins are hoping for its first winning season since 2008.

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The Dolphins have not won a playoff game since 2000, and it is still receiving negative publicity over the nonsense that was Richie Incognito’s “bullying.” Putting that mess behind it has not been easy, but Miami may be poised for its best season in a while. Or it may be mediocre again. Let us try to determine which, now.

Ryan Tannehill is a very good NFL QB, and he is on the verge of becoming Miami’s first elite QB since the legendary Dan Marino. The Dolphins have every chance to be a playoff team this season, and just having a renovated stadium is a way of ingratiating itself back to its fanbase.

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Tannehill led the Dolphins to a respectable No. 11 ranking in total offense, averaging 24.2 points per game last season. This came after ranking near the bottom in 2013 (No. 26, 19.8 points per game), and the team could be better still this season. Tannehill finished the season with over 4,000 yards, 27 TDs and a 92.8 passer rating, while throwing just 12 INTs.

But he can be better still.

The offensive line was weak all season and Tannehill was still sacked 46 times, though that was actually an improvement from his 58 in 2013. Matt Moore backs up Tannehill and Josh Freeman is also on the roster, a talent that cannot be ruled out as the No. 2 backup should he start to cash in on some of the potential he once was believed to have.

Lamar Miller had a great 2014 season at RB and rushed for 1,099 yards and eight TDs, even with a weak OL doing his blocking. Miller and Tannehill are hoping for better protection, and Miller is also a threat as a pass catcher (38 passes, 275 yards). He averaged 5.1 yards per carry, which ranked No. 2 in the NFL, and he is just 24 years old. He’s quick and smart, which is always a good combo for a back.

There is little depth behind Miller, but provided he stays healthy that is fine. He’s a workhorse and true No. 1 back, and though the Dolphins were unable to land Frank Gore in free agency, it should have enough firepower in the backfield even if Miller’s backups (Damien Williams and Jay Ajayi) are less than outstanding.

Tannehill will have a new corp of receivers with four of Miami’s top five receivers from last season departed. Greg Jennings is the No. 1 receiver and he signed a two-year deal with Miami after having already played for Philbin in Green Bay. He caught 59 passes for 742 yards last year in Minnesota while also scoring six TDs.

DeVante Parker, taken No. 14 overall from Louisville, will be an immediate fixture within the offense and is capable of busting the big plays. The Dolphins are hoping to have him available for Week 1 (foot injury).

There is solid depth behind Jennings and Parker, and Jordan Cameron should be good at TE after having made the Pro Bowl in 2013. He is likely an upgrade over Charles Clay. The receiving corp is definitely good enough to make the most of Tannehill’s arm.

The OL was bad last year, but it was mostly due to injury issues. The recovery of Branden Albert (MCL and ACL) is vital to the line. If the entire unit stays healthy, it is good and above average. If Albert is up to form and Ja’Wuan James builds on a strong rookie season, this unit should be good enough to protect Tannehill and create holes for Miller.

The Dolphins run a 4-3 on defense, but it ranked No. 20 in the league last year in points allowed (23.3 per game). It defended the pass far better than the rush, ranking No. 6 in pass yardage allowed (222 yards per game).

The DL is going to be good with Suh, but it is difficult to assess the talent around him. LE Cameron Wake is getting up in years at 33, but he has not showed signs of slowing down (on the contrary, he was a Pro Bowler last year). Wake had 11.5 sack and has had 63 in six seasons as a Dolphin. RE Olivier Vernon is in a contract season, so presumably he will return his production to what it was prior to last season’s disappointment.

The LB group is average at best, and it was largely to blame for some of the struggles Miami had defensively a year ago. The Dolphins mostly lack depth at LB and are relying on a lot of unheralded options like Chris McCain. Jelani Jenkins had a good year last season, though, with 108 tackles and 3.5 sacks. The secondary is riddled with questions, though Brent Grimes is a bright spot. Brice McCain may start opposite him at the other corner, while Reshad Jones had a nice year at safety with three INTs.

The Dolphins special teams have become far better, even despite Caleb Sturgis struggling as placekicker last season (29 of 37 FG). Punter Brandon Fields made the Pro Bowl. Jarvis Landry was good on returns, but the Dolphins would like to dial that back so he can focus more heavily on being a lead receiver. John Denney is a solid and experienced long snapper.

The Dolphins are keying in on this as a special season, and there is good reason for the team to do so. New England’s issues with Brady’s suspension gives Miami a four week window to take a lead in the division and hope it can maintain it, however slight it might be.

Miami started last season 6-4 and has confidence it can be that good for a full season, and with Tannehill really starting to blossom there is little reason to believe that might not be just the case.

Philbin is eager to see his team make a real dent, and we believe it exceeds expectations, if ever so slightly.  We will go with the ‘over’ here.

Prediction: 9 wins

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