The only good thing about last season for Miami Dolphins fans were the free bets from bookies goading people to back their team. However this season will be quite easy to show fans a marked improvement during 2016-2017. Coming off a nice 2014-2015 season that included just over 4,000 passing yards and 27 TDs, QB Ryan Tannehill had given team officials and fans every reason to believe the team was headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, those assumptions were premature.
Looking back, there's enough blame to go around for a team that finished last in the AFC East with a record of 6-10. While Tannehill came back with similar numbers, the offensive line continually failed to protect him in the pocket, which resulted in turnovers and sacks. They also failed to open holes for running backs as the team finished 23rd in the league in rushing with just over 93 YPG.
On defense, the Dolphins ran middle of the pack, allowing 376 YPG and 24.3 PPG. With only 21 turnovers to its credit, the defense simply wasn't able to keep games close enough for the team's pedestrian offense to make a difference.
In the off-season, the Dolphins felt they had three things they needed to address. They needed to improve the offensive line, find a better solution at running back to replace Lamar Miller (872 yards, 8 TDs) who left via free agency and pick up a big defensive lineman that can rush the passer.
In the first round of the draft, the Dolphins addressed its first need. They selected Laremy Tunsil (OT) out of Mississippi as was the prediction among fantasy players internationally. While Branden Albert looks safe at left-tackle, Tunsil's natural position, there are a couple of players that could be moved around to make room for a talent like Tunsil. After selecting CB Xavien Howard out of Baylor in the second round, the Dolphins took a flier and drafted RB Kenyan Drake out of Alabama. Even though he was the backup to Heisman winner Derrick Henry, some experts predict he will be a better pro back than that one. While that fails to immediately address the team's second need, he has too much upside for them to have passed on the chance to get him.
For now, the Dolphins look like they might try to make do with second-year back Jay Ajayi out of Boise State. In limited action last season, he carried the ball 49 times for 187 yards. Headed into the preseason, he will be backed up by former All-Pro Arian Foster, who came over from Houston. The excitement of getting a former All-Pro, who is going to be 30 heading into the new season, is tempered by the fact his career has been a roller-coaster ride of great play and injury. It's worth noting that Ajayi is not without promise and talent, having accounted for over 2,300 total yards and 32 TDs in his senior year.
That leaves addressing the need for a pass rushing defensive lineman. The team went with the pickup of another former All-Pro Mario Williams, who came over from Buffalo. As a 10-year veteran, Williams has accounted for an average of almost 10 sacks a season. Given his limited playing time last year, this might not be the solution the Dolphins were seeking. However, a healthy Cameron Wake on the other side of the field gives the Dolphins two experienced pass rushers coming from either direction, which could be enough to disrupt opposing QBs.
The reality is first-year Head Coach Adam Gase faces the task rebuilding this franchise without the requisite superstar talent to build around. Tannehill is serviceable and Ajayi holds much promise as does Drake, but this just doesn't seem like the year the Dolphins make it back to the playoffs. If they finish with the same 6-10 record as last year, they will have stopped the bleeding and might be poised to start moving upwards, starting next season.null