After just missing out on the NFL Playoffs the past two seasons, the Miami Dolphins, led by fourth-year head coach Joe Philbin, will look to make the leap from a contender to a playoff team in 2015. Much like last year’s offseason, the Dolphins have been busy leading up to this summer’s training camps and OTA’s, adding All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from Detroit, acquiring key deep-ball threat Kenny Stills, and providing fourth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill with a safety blanket in tight end Jordan Cameron.
In order to add key pieces through free agency and the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dolphins weeded out veteran players that were either costing too much or not meeting expectations. General manager Dennis Hickey let wide receivers Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Mike Wallace (no surprise there) find new homes. They also cut feisty cornerback Cortland Finnegan and veteran defensive tackle Randy Starks, while using linebacker Danell Ellerbe in the trade package that brought Stills to South Beach. Perhaps Miami’s biggest loss this offseason was hybrid tight end and halfback Charles Clay. Clay was one of Miami’s top offensive assets, totaling 161 receptions for 1,809 yards and 14 TD’s in his four years with the ‘Phins. The Dolphins, who designated Charles Clay as their transition player, were unable to match Buffalo’s offer, and lost Clay to the Bills.
In this year’s NFL Draft, the Dolphins were guided by newly appointed Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Dennis Hickey. They filled almost all of their needs (offensive linemen, receiver, running back, cornerback, safety, and linebacker) while getting a couple of “steal” in the process. With their first round selection, the Dolphins picked 6'2", 200-pound wide receiver DeVante Parker out of Louisville, after the pass catcher fell to 14th overall. Parker, who has an enormous catch radius and high points the ball extremely well, gives Ryan Tannehill his first true number one wide receiver in four years. In the second round, Miami selected Jordan Phillips, nose tackle out of Oklahoma, a natural run-stuffer who should start opposite of Ndamukong Suh. The Dolphins felt like they got a first-round talent in Phillips, who was very high on many analysts’ big boards before the draft, including the draft board of NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, who had Phillips at 31st overall.
In the later rounds, the Dolphins filled a need at guard by adding Jamil Douglas, the versatile lineman out of Arizona State, in the fourth round. Day three of the 2015 NFL Draft closed with the Dolphins drafting cornerback Bobby McCain, running back Jay Ajayi, safety Cedric Thompson, and wide receiver/cornerback Tony Lippett. Ajayi was also considered a “steal” as a second-round prospect that fell to Miami in the fifth round as a result of a knee injury he suffered back in 2011. Last year with Boise State, Ajayi became the first player in FBS history with 1,500 yards rushing and 800 yards receiving in a season. Ajayi can do it all, including run between the tackles, catching the ball out of the backfield, and protecting the quarterback. He should see valuable playing time as a rookie backing up current starter Lamar Miller.
Dennis Hickey and the Miami scouting staff have made valuable moves this offseason, and remain in good standing financially even after shelling out large contracts to both Ndamukong Suh and center Mike Pouncey. Despite losing Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay, the Dolphins have actually strengthened their receiving corps, and should see another big year from second-year receiver Jarvis Landry, who quietly had an outstanding rookie season in the shadows of Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin. Ryan Tannehill finally has a big-bodied receiver in rookie DeVante Parker, and will have consistency and reliability in newly-acquired tight end Jordan Cameron and veteran wide receiver Greg Jennings, who the Dolphins signed from the Minnesota Vikings. Dennis Hickey and Mike Tannenbaum have provided this team with solutions to the missing pieces of seasons past.
Now, it is up to Joe Philbin and the Dolphins’ coaching staff to see what they can do with it.
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