The Miami Dolphins struggled in the trenches last season. Their offensive line struggled to protect QB Ryan Tannehill and as a result, the team failed to produce on offense and get the defense off the field.
This led to a lot of points by opposing teams against an exhausted defense, and poor tackling and coverage didn't help. While Tannehill was face down in the ground for the majority of the game on offense, on defense the team's pass rush weakened down the stretch, especially after losing Cameron Wake for the season.
Now, entering, 2016-2017, the Dolphins have a new HC in Adam Gase and a new DC with an attacking style in Vance Joseph. To compliment this attack first mindset, the following position groups will need to make enormous turnarounds from last year. Here are my top 3 position groups to focus on.
1. The defensive backs
What a nightmare this group was last year. Aside from the spotty play of Brent Grimes (he played great at times and looked just plain old and slow at times), the unit had almost no consistency. It's brightest spot was safety Reshad Jones, whose stellar play landed him a spot in the Pro Bowl as well as a spot in the NFL's Top 100. With Jones still holding out from minicamps, the Dolphins are going to need younger guys to step up. Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard are currently competing for the 2nd starting job opposite of veteran Byron Maxwell. In addition, at safety, someone will have to play alongside Jones, whether it be Isa Abdul-Quddus or Michael Thomas. This defense can't get much better without better play from these defensive backs.
2. The linebackers
If you watched even one game last year, even a game the Miami Dolphins won, you know how bad the linebackers were the majority of the time. The Dolphins (sort of) addressed their issues by bringing in Kiko Alonso, a guy who has yet to reach his rookie year form after injuries plagued him in Philadelphia. He will be the guy this unit turns to, as well as Jelani Jenkins, the one linebacker last year who was not completely nauseating on every play. With these two as the anchors and almost definite starters, that leaves one opening for guys like Koa Misi and Neville Hewitt. A sleeper at the position for this team? Dion Jordan. That is, if he is ever reinstated and goes through the million obstacles to find the field in the fall.
3. The offensive line
Despite Adam Gase's promises of an upbeat, attacking offense, this will be impossible unless the offensive line gets its act together as a unit. With 4 former first rounders projected to start, and with Laremy Tunsil making progress after switching to guard, this offensive line is on paper the best the team has had in a decade. That being said, it doesn't guarantee they mesh well together, especially with what looks like a projected veteran stepping in at the right guard position. The Dolphins have to have good blocking up front if Ryan Tannehill is going to be able to finally lead this offense. NO offensive line, no offensive production. Unless Adam Gase truly is a wizard, which he may end up being.