How many Dolphins fans would be happy with simply having a winning season; in other words a 9-7 record? Not division winners, wildcard qualifiers or playoff participants, just a 9-7 record.
As hungry as Miami Dolphins fans are for a playoff game, I believe 9-7 would be a good start for Adam Gase and this team. The term ‘baby steps,’ definitely applies here and Dolphins fans will be asked once again, to be patient.
It always helps to get off to a good start to the season but lately the Dolphins have had trouble in that department. Last year we all know what happened when the team started off 1-3 and Coach Joe Philbin lost his job. But slow starts go even further back. In 2014 the Dolphins started off 2-2 heading into their bye week. They came out after that and lost their next game, falling to 2-3. This makes things extra difficult when you consider you need to have at least an 11-5 record to threaten the Patriots for the division. The one year the Dolphins did get off to a good start was 2013. They won their first 3 games; but followed that up with 4 straight losses. Going back to 2009, the year after they last made the playoffs, the Dolphins lost their first 3 games of that season. In 2010 they started off at 4-4 but in 2011 they began 0-7, before finally getting a win.
This year the Dolphins start off with a really difficult road game at Seattle, and then head off to Foxboro, to play the Patriots. A tough 0-2 start is not out of the question, and that is with or without the currently suspended Tom Brady.
What needs to be done to ensure a more successful start to the season? Firstly, and it’s no secret the offense runs through Ryan Tannehill. If he steps up and becomes a top 10 quarterback, it will go a long way towards Dolphin wins. Secondly, which actually goes along with first point, is the offensive line needs to come together. We know we have top players in Branden Albert, Mike Pouncey and Ja'Wuan James. But can this year’s 1st round pick Laremy Tunsil, a tackle in college, master a new position, at guard? And who will the other guard be? If this sounds familiar, it is because we had the same questions about both guard spots last year.
Next, the defense must shut down the run so Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Mario Williams and company, can tee off on quarterbacks in passing situations. The Dolphins young secondary must be protected with a strong pass run, until it matures. Further, the linebacker unit must remain healthy, especially former Bill & Eagle, Kiko Alonso. He had perennial pro bowler written all over him before he was injured and missed the entire 2014 season, while with the Bills.
Last but not least is how first time head coach Adam Gase handles himself and the team, through the ups & downs of a football season. Can he be the “young Don Shula” owner Steven Ross once said he was looking for?
It is unknown whether the experts will be right again about those 7 wins. The Dolphins start the season playing 3 of their first 4 games against playoff teams. They finish the season playing three straight division opponents. It will be interesting to see just where this Dolphins team is going into those last three games. A strong start will almost certainly make those games quite meaningful.