The Miami Dolphins have gotten better this off season. Period.
The team did a nice job of drafting the best player available as well as dressing holes on both sides of the ball. The offense automatically improves as key pieces get healthier in 2017, including QB Ryan Tannehill and C Mike Pouncey.
With OTA´s under way and training camp in sight, here are the strongest Miami Dolphins offensive position groups heading into the Summer of 2017.
3. A healthy Dolphins Offensive Line
Obviously, this group is contigent on health. We saw the difference a healthy Mike Pouncey made on the offensive line last season. Jay Ajayi and the rushing game essentially depended on Pouncey. This season, the success of the offensive line relies once again on the health of the Dolphins All-Pro center. If Pouncey is healthy, this offensive line has the potential to be the team´s best unit. The two tackle positions are locked down by Laremy Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James. James has had consistency issues virtually his entire career, but adding a second year in Adam Gase´s system should help him raise his level in 2017. Tunsil´s switch to his natural LT position should be seamless, and I expect him to join Jack Conklin from Tennessee as the best two linemen from their Draft.
Joining the question of Pouncey´s health is what will come of the two guard positions. As Miami Herald columnist Armando Salguero has pointed out, the Dolphins often scheme to where the Guards do not have a man to block in the passing game, and this relief of pressure could help aging veterans Jermon Bushrod and Ted Larsen, or rookie Isaac Asiata. I ultimately think Asiata will get the nod at one of the Guard spots, whether it is Week 1 or later in the season. If this offensive line can stay healthy, not only can it be the top offensive position group this year, but the entire offense can reach new highs.
2. Running Backs
This could be the Dolphins´ most underrated position group. Everyone saw and reacted to the success of Jay Ajayi, who rose from the dead after being benched Week 1 last season. I love this position group so much because of its diversity. In Ajayi the Dolphins have the in between the tackles, bruising back that can take the bulk of the carries and be featured in goal line packages. Kenyan Drake is the home run hitter that is deadly in space, and can spell Ajayi from time to time to give the running game a burst. And perhaps the RB most under the radar in 2017 is Damien Williams, who finally signed his tender and will look to build on a 6 TD performance in 2016. Williams is a beast in the passing game, and can step in on third downs and either block for RT17, or break out from the backfield and make plays in open space with the ball in his hands.
While the Dolphins will likely only keep 3 RB´s on the 53 man roster, a name to watch in camp and preseason is Michigan Wolverines RB De'Veon Smith, who is currently an UDFA with the team. Smith can also run in between the tackles, and is more elusive than he appears on tape. Smith would make a great practice squad addition, and could eventually work to be the 3rd RB if Williams heads elsewhere in the future.
1. Wide Receivers
This is the deepest position group for the Miami Dolphins on the entire team. To me, in my biased opinion, this is the best group of WRs in the entire AFC, simply because of its depth. The Dolphins have a three headed monster in DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry. Landry, the team´s heart and soul, was rated the best slot receiver by PFF last season. Stills is the home run hitter Miami hoped would be Mike Wallace seasons ago and DeVante Parker is the true number one wide receiver the Dolphins have missed since Brandon Marshall lived in South Beach. Parker has been turning heads so far this off season, and is doing the little things to ensure he is ready for a breakout season.
The true competition in this position group comes at the 4th and 5th WR positions, where the Dolphins are loaded with young talent. Jakeem Grant will likely take up a roster spot simply for his return abilities, but as he gets more comfortable learning the offense, he may end up being the most explosive option the team has. Rashawn Scott, Leonte Carroo and Isaiah Ford will all battle for the 4th and 5th spots, and I really think Carroo and Ford can push each other to get better. Carroo has a lot of pressure on him, especially after the Dolphins traded up for him last year. Ford has the heart and fights for the ball similar to Landry, and if he doesn´t make the 53 man roster, there is little doubt that he will find a place on another team in the NFL.