The Dolphins have finished the past three seasons 7-9, 8-8 and 8-8 respectively. They missed the playoffs the past two seasons after faltering down the stretch. The blame can be placed on a variety of different areas throughout the organization. Some falls on coaching, personnel and management. However, this off-season, there is a different air surrounding this team and this organization. The Dolphins finally are looking and acting like they want to be playing football in late January, and there is definitely a “win now” attitude permeating throughout both the locker room and the front office.
While the 2015-2016 season is a make or break year for this Miami Dolphins team as a whole, it could also be a determining year for certain Dolphins players and coaches. Here are my top five Dolphins most likely to be sent packing if they do not have successful seasons, starting with number five.
5. Earl Mitchell, Defensive Tackle
The Dolphins made Ndamukong Suh the richest defensive player in the NFL this off-season. They also drafted nose tackle Jordan Phillips out of Oklahoma in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Basically, they upgraded at the position, and will more than likely have to get rid of a defensive lineman to free up money for Suh’s contract. With A.J. Francis and Anthony Johnson also on the roster, the Dolphins have great depth at the position. Unless Earl Mitchell puts up huge numbers during his time in the rotation, I expect to see Mitchell sent elsewhere this time next year.
4. Lamar Miller, Running Back
A large portion of Miller’s future rests on the shoulders of rookie running back Jay Ajayi and his performance this year. Miller will enter a contract year in 2016, and the Dolphins will have to decide if they want to pay Miller (who will want top 15 money) or go with the cheaper Ajayi as their new bell cow. Ideally, I hope the Dolphins can find a way to keep both, as the tandem should cover every skill set and produce nightmares for opposing defenses. Again, this scenario relies heavily on both Miller’s production this year and if Ajayi can have a substantial impact and stay healthy. I still expect Miller to get paid and stick around next year.
Both Taylor and Davis were drafted in the second and third rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft with the hopes that they would become a starting duo in the secondary. Those hopes have yet to materialize for Miami, as both players have yet to reach their ceilings largely as a result of injuries. Both are competing with free agent Brice McCain to start opposite of Brent Grimes, and unless both drastically improve their production this season (which is possible), I only see one of them at most surviving next year’s off-season. That being said, the opportunity is there this year for both of these players. Miami desperately needs someone to step up and solidify the other corner position, and if one of these guys can do that, they may be safe for years to come. Taylor is the front runner right now, as he saw a large amount of snaps last year while Davis missed the majority of the year with a torn ACL.
2. Dallas Thomas, Offensive Lineman
Personally, I don’t see Thomas lasting the entire season, if even all of training camp. He has not panned out to be what Miami hoped he would be, and failed at both the guard and tackle positions last year. With left tackle Branden Albert returning from last year’s injury, and Ja’Wuan James holding down the right side, Thomas is the odd man out. His best chance to stay on this team would be to play lights out at one of the two guard positions, but that is more than likely not going to happen. Dallas Thomas will be gone by this time next year, barring some miraculous turnaround.
1. Joe Philbin, Head Coach
The Dolphin with the most at stake this upcoming season is not a player, but rather head coach Joe Philbin. In three years coaching this team, Philbin has yet to make the playoffs or even post a winning record. There are absolutely no excuses left for Philbin, as he has arguably the best roster this year since coming to Miami, and has a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill who has steadily developed and improved each year. In my opinion, Philbin has one more year to prove that he has what it takes to be more than a coordinator in this league. If Miami fails to reach the playoffs this year, owner Stephen Ross needs to pull the plug on Philbin and find someone who can win. This team is too talented to spend another January on the couch.