2014 MIAMI DOLPHINS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
August 17, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
2014 MIAMI DOLPHINS FOOTBALL PREVIEW
HEAD COACH: JOE PHILBIN, 15-17 @ MIAMI
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: BILL LAZOR
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: KEVIN COYLE
OFFENSE PPG: 19.8
TOTAL OFFENSE: 312.9
DEFENSE PPG: 20.9
TOTAL OFFENSE: 359.4
TURNOVER MARGIN: -2
Needless to say 2013 was an eventful year for the Miami Dolphins. The worst came with the bullying scandal that rocked the team and the NFL. Losing two OL starters put Miami in the position of not qualifying for the playoffs after managing only one TD in their final two games (both losses) against Buffalo and the NY Jets.
Changes were made in the off-season with the Dolphins firing GM Jeff Ireland, OC Mike Sherman and OL coach Jim Turner. Former Tampa Bay executive Dennis Hickey was hired as the new GM and will attempt to help fans forget 2013.
In order for Miami to make a playoff run, QB Ryan Tannehill will need to make a step higher in his ability to run an NFL offense. Tannehill will have a new OC in Bill Lazor who helped Eagles QB Nick Foles become an excellent signal caller as the QB’s coach. Lazor will try to help Tannehill play faster, become more accurate and cut down on turnovers. Tannehill was sacked 58 times in 2013 so Lazor will use a “zone” blocking scheme using new free-agent offensive linemen OT Branden Albert (Kansas City) and OG Shelley Smith (St. Louis). Center Mike Pouncey returns to anchor the middle with Dallas Thomas moving in at RG and Tennessee rookie Ja’Wuan James taking over at RT. James was considered a strong run blocker at Tennessee.
The offensive line will help upgrade a very poor running game which ranked 26th overall in the NFL. Miami signed former Denver RB Knowshon Moreno in hopes of making the offense more balanced. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards and 10 TD’s in the Peyton Manning controlled offense in Denver. Moreno won’t be the total answer for the Dolphins but he will be a vast improvement. Lamar Miller showed flashes in 2013 but remains inconsistent. Others looking to get time behind Moreno and Miller will be Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Marcus Thigpen and Cameron Marshall.
If Tannehill can stay on his feet in 2014, he will have some weapons to throw to including WR Mike Wallace. Wallace was signed as a free-agent in 2013 and his first season was a disappointment. Wallace finished with only 73 receptions for 930 yards and five scores. Miami expected more and with Tannehill and Wallace working together for a second season, production should be better. Joining Wallace will be Brian Hartline who led the team in receptions in 2013, TE Charles Clay, WR Rishard Matthews, WR Brandon Gibson and LSU rookie Jarvis Landry.
Miami’s defense wasn’t as productive in 2013 as it was in 2012, but it still wasn’t too bad, especially in the points allowed per game (20.9 8th in NFL) and sacks (42.0 T11th). Miami will try to get better by staying consistent and keeping key personnel. Signing DB Brent Grimes to a long term deal was the first piece of the puzzle. Grimes is considered the most athletic player on the team and Miami couldn’t afford to lose him.
Joining Grimes will be SS Reshad Jones, who at times showed he can play in the NFL, but must get better and take better angles. Jimmy Wilson will battle with newcomer Louis Delmas (Detroit) for the starting FS spot while free-agent CB Cortland Finnegan (St. Louis) will look to start over Will Davis. Jamar Taylor and Don Jones will provide depth.
Linebacker will be a position of emphasis in 2013 with Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler as the starters. They will be pushed by Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik and Jonathan Freeny for their starting jobs.
The Dolphins defensive line lost veteran Paul Soliai to free agency (Atlanta) but were able to keep DE Cameron Wake, DT Randy Starks and DT Jared Odrick. Olivier Vernon will man the other DE spot. Back-ups include DE Derrick Shelby, DT Earl Mitchell, DT AJ Francis and DE Dion Jordon.
A playoff run will depend mostly on Tannehill and his ability to stay upright. That means the OL must do a better job of protecting Tannehill and he needs to be more accurate (17 INT’s). The running game must be better to keep the defense from pinning their ears back and going after Tannehill. It’s time for Tannehill and the Dolphins to produce.
2014 DOLPHINS DRAFT
Round 1, #19- Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
James' selection was the most important one of this draft, as it opened up the possibilities for trades throughout the rest of the draft (which is ironic because people criticized the pick because Hickey didn't trade down from #19). Hickey may have reached for James in some people's eyes, but it was warranted as James adds another leg in Hickey's required offensive line rebuild which has been taking place this offseason.
Also, there is no guarantee the Arizona Cardinals wouldn't have taken him at #20 instead of trading down.
All that matters now, though, is that the sack total in 2014 will likely be a third of what it was in 2013 thanks to having both tackle spots manned by excellent pass protectors.
Landry was a bit of a surprise pick from the Dolphins' new regime. After trading back twice from their original spot (#50) and witnessing a run on wide receivers, the Dolphins sat at #61, the second to last pick in the second round, with Landry still waiting for his name to be called. Hickey made that happen and added a receiver who will likely become one of Tannehill's best friend's on the field in years to come.
Landry is a beast who will catch anything, anywhere, at any time on a football field no matter how much coverage is draped on him. Landry is lethal in the redzone, on third downs, and he will go over the middle with no fear. He will go up to catch the ball at it's highest point.
Sounds like I just described a 6'5" monster of a receiver, right? Nope, Landry is only 5'11".
Landry is, however, the toughest receiver in this draft and many say he is better than his college teammate, Odell Beckham Jr., who was drafted 12th overall. Landry slipped in large part due to his 4.77 40-yard dash, but he will make many teams slap their forehead's for passing him up.
Turner was another surprise. Not because he is an offensive lineman, because we all know the Dolphins need and would target them, but because he is a tackle. Turner was also considered to be a right tackle candidate for the Dolphins' second day selection if Miami didn't target the position in the first round.
However, Hickey still elected to choose Turner, and even traded up to do so. Turner is a complete mauler as an offensive lineman who destroyed defensive lineman at NDSU, but his pure size allowed him to dominate lower level competition. Turner will need to get used to playing NFL defensive lineman while getting acclimated with a new position (Turner will likely be moved to guard).
Turner has the quickness to play guard, quickness he says he developed through the years of playing sports like basketball with his family, who are all football players and athletes.
Turner, like James, has potential to eventually become the Dolphins' starting left tackle and the selections of Turner and James give the Dolphins a double-continuity plan at the LT position.
Aikens was the second of five small school players selected in this draft. Aikens, who is 6'1" with long arms, was drafted to add a bit of size as well as depth to a cornerback group which currently features little of either. The Dolphins current cornerback corps, outside of Brent Grimes, is filled with question marks.
Aikens was once on the Illinois football team but was dismissed following an arrest for theft. Aikens wound up at Liberty and never lost the confidence that he belonged with the best in division 1 football. Aikens was discovered by the Dolphins at the Senior Bowl, where Aikens played well with the competition and didn't look like a small school cornerback.
Hickey said he envisions Aikens as a special teams contributor, but Aikens could develop into a starter and will certainly have a chance to earn a starting spot this August if he can impress the coaches and adjust to the speed of the NFL.
Round 5, #155- Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
Lynch is the third and final SEC player taken by the Dolphins in this draft. Lynch is a big bodied tight end who will likely challenge incumbents Dion Sims and Michael Egnew for a spot on the final 53-man roster.
Lynch is 6'5" and weighs 258 pounds. Lynch is a willingly blocker who never lacks effort and has experience in a pro-style attack at Georgia. Lynch has the frame to be an eventual tight end but his ability to create separation has come into question and will be tested in the NFL.
Round 5, #171 (from Broncos through 49ers)- Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
"Preparation and opportunity coming together is when you have success." This is what Jordan Tripp said in an interview shortly after he was drafted by the Dolphins. Tripp now has his opportunity, and his preparation is what he expects to make him into one of the steals of this draft. Tripp was a small school standout who is a big hitter, plays with a high motor and has great passion for the game.
Tripp can play inside or outside linebacker for the Dolphins, and if he can properly adjust to the speed of the game and the ability of the players around him, something small school players often struggle with, then Tripp has a chance to become a starter for this Dolphins team which needs more impact plays from the LB positions.
Tripp has ten fumble recoveries in his career at Montana and he says that his college defensive coordinator preached on how important taking the ball away, so he should fit nicely into this Dolphins defense which preaches similar gospel.
Round 6, #190- Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
Hazel was definitely a surprise pick after Landry was selected in the second round. At this point it was clear that Dennis Hickey put all trust in his scouting department and decided to gamble on productive small school guys rather than big school guys who were unimpressive.
Hazel is a 6'1" WR who can catch the ball with his hands away from his frame. Hazel broke many of Jerome Simpson's records at CCU, but level of competition is a huge question.
Hazel has a nice sized frame with room to get bigger, but he needs to get stronger to stick around in the NFL as he will struggle to get off press coverage and make contested catches until he bulks up. Hazel can offer run-after-catch yards as well as this was a big part of his game at CCU despite having a quarterback who didn't always put the ball in the best spots.
Hazel will likely struggle to make this Dolphins roster which is currently packed with talent at the WR spot.
Round 7, #234- Terrence Fede, DE, Marist
Fede is from Marist (I haven't heard of it either). Fede has 30.5 career sacks and is proof of how hard Dennis Hickey's scouts worked this offseason. Fede is the first player ever drafted from Marist and he said he plans on putting Marist on the map. These are bold aspirations, but Fede should focus on first making the team as the Dolphins are stacked with talent at the defensive end position.
Fede, who has NFL size at 6'3", 270 pounds, needs to prove he is worthy of being kept as a developmental prospect this training camp. Fede finished sixth in voting for the Buck Buchanon Award, annually given to the top defender in the FCS. Fede is a versatile prospect who has played multiple positions along the defensive line and linebacker. Fede said he was put in multiple positions to attack the QB in many different ways.
Obviously the verdict is still out as we haven't seen any of these players in the NFL, but as it stands this seems like a good first draft by Dennis Hickey. There was an overload of small school players drafted, which could either come back to bite Hickey or make him look like a genius. The bottom line is that the early round picks, the most impactful picks, seem to all be solid players who will contribute immediately.
Hickey's rookies need to contribute in a big way if the team wants to have success in 2014. This is an important first draft class for Hickey. It represented the finishing touches on the offensive line rebuild. It featured the addition role players who could eventually develop into full time starters. And it featured a good amount of risk as five small school players were drafted.
The back half of this draft is what Hickey will be judged on, but the front half might be good enough to bail Hickey out even if every one of the later round guys flop out of the league.
Miami, FL – For only the second time since 2008, the Miami Dolphins will open the NFL regular season at home when they host their AFC East Divisional rival New England Patriots on September 7 at Sun Life Stadium. The opener against the Patriots is the eighth time the two divisional rivals will meet to start the season and the fourth time the teams will play in South Florida. Week Two sees Miami travel to Buffalo for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Bills on September 14 at 1:00 pm. Miami will play division opponents in consecutive games to start the season for the first time since 1998 (24-15 victory at Indianapolis in Week One followed by a 13-7 victory vs. Buffalo in Week Two).
Sept. 14 at Buffalo Bills 1:00 p.m.
Sept. 21 vs. Kansas City Chiefs 4:25 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Oakland Raiders * 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 5 BYE WEEK
Oct. 12 vs. Green Bay Packers 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Chicago Bears 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 2 vs. San Diego Chargers 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Detroit Lions 1:00 p.m.
Nov. 13 vs. Buffalo Bills 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Denver Broncos 4:25 p.m.
Dec. 1 at New York Jets 8:25 p.m.
Dec. 7 vs. Baltimore Ravens 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 14 at New England Patriots 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 21 vs. Minnesota Vikings 1:00 p.m.
Dec. 28 vs. New York Jets 1:00 p.m.
* At London's Wembley Stadium
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