It’s understandable that Miami Dolphins fans are disappointed in the team’s 30-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round of this year’s playoffs. Frankly, the Dolphins didn’t play very well, turning the ball over three times and failing to get into the end zone until late in the fourth quarter when the game was no longer in doubt.
Before anyone walks away doubting the trajectory of the Dolphins organization, it’s worth remembering this team was a mess by the end of a dismal 2015 season, finishing with a record of 6-10. Going into the off-season, the team was faced with needing to hire a new coach and the loss of it’s starting running back, Lamar Miller, with no heir-apparent in line. They also needed to behonest about the prospects of QB Ryan Tannehill being the right guy to get them back into the playoffs.
As it turns out, Tannehill did have enough to help get the team into a Wild Card spot. Before going down with an injury in week #13, he was on his way to a fine season with 2,995 yards passing with 19 TDs and 12 interceptions. The numbers weren’t spectacular, but they were good enough to lead the team to 7 wins in his last 8 appearances after opening the season 1-4. It’s worth noting that backup QB Matt Moore came in and led the team to two straight wins to secure the playoff spot.
With an overall record of 10-6, Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase did a great job of managing a team that lacks the talent and depth of other top teams within the league. After struggling to establish a running attack in the first four games, he finally made the decision to let RB Jay Ajayi have a crack at the position on a full time basis. All the former Boise State running back did was promptly go out and gain 200+ yards a game over his first two starts. For the season, he ended up as the fourth best back in the league with 1,272 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. With only 31 carries over the team’s first four games, he could have easily eclipsed the 1,600 yard mark for the season.
Indeed, the Dolphins should be very happy with its performance this season. This is clearly a team headed in the right direction. Ajayi will need to come back and legitimize this year’s numbers, but there’s every reasonable expectation he will do just that. This is a young team with some exciting wide receivers and an offensive line that also made improvements. If Tannehill stays steady and the organization can land a couple of solid defensive players through the draft or a trade, it won’t be more than 12 months before this team is back in the playoffs.
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