The Miami Dolphins finished 7-9 in 2012, comfortably out of the playoff picture yet again while riding an offense that scored just 288 points all season. But for the first time since Dan Marino was wearing teal, it did look like the team had a quarterback of the future. Ryan Tannehill showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie season in Florida.
Pair him up with a couple new wide receivers and the Dolphins might have an offense that can complement a solid defense, says Brian Miller, the editor of Phin Phanatic, adding that this team might not be more than a season from being pretty darn good.
Zoneblitz: What did you think of Joe Philbin’s first year as coach?
Miller: I liked what I saw out of Coach Philbin last season. I expected far more rookie head coaching mistakes and honestly I can only count one that made no sense from all 16 games. Fans got a chance to see him up close via HBO’s Hard Knocks and many came away with the notion that this is a no-nonsense coach and that is what this team needs.
Zoneblitz: How is Jeff Ireland doing as general manager?
Miller: Ireland is one of those guys that fans either hate or like. I am a supporter of Ireland but I do recognize that he needs to improve the talent on this team this year or it’s likely time for Stephen Ross to move on. I only base my impression on Ireland over the last two seasons since Bill Parcells walked away completely. I know some of the moves were Ireland’s fault but which ones no one really knows. In my opinion he has done a good job of getting talent on this team. He needs to find playmakers though and that is something he hasn’t done.
Zoneblitz: Ryan Tannehill certainly looked promising from a distance. What are your thoughts on him as the quarterback of the future?
Miller: Tannehill has the tools to be a really good quarterback but he hasn’t shown that consistently yet. Lack of supporting cast has a lot to do with it as well. I look for him to make a big leap this year with a full off-season and new talent around him.
Zoneblitz: It looks like Reggie Bush is leaving. Daniel Thomas has been uninspiring and Lamar Miller is unproven. How do the Dolphins replace Bush?
Miller: How do you replace a running back that dances behind the line of scrimmage instead of hitting the holes in front of him? Good question. Bush is an electric player who can give you one or two really great runs a game that end in scores. The problem is that between those runs he tends to, as I said, dance behind the line. Bush is a guy who is always looking to break the big run or score the big touchdown instead of sometimes just hitting the hole and gaining yards. Last year we saw that Lamar Miller is a player who hits the holes and does so with force and declaration. He doesn’t wait for an opportunity but instead takes what is given and hits it hard. Miller is still unknown but enough of him was seen last year to believe that he has the tools to be a featured back. As for Daniel Thomas, the jury is still out but when he is on his game, he is a hard charging back that is tough to bring down.
Zoneblitz: There have been rumors of interest in Mike Wallace? Is he a good fit for Miami and how important is the wide receiver position this offseason?
Miller: Mike Wallace is an unknown. I honestly don’t know how he will play when money is no longer a motivation for him. He has the ability and athleticism to be great but does his mental makeup reach the same level? Wallace can be a huge game changer though and the Dolphins sorely lack that type of player. Wallace alone can force teams to play the Dolphins differently and thus open up the Phins offensive strategy. It’s because of that reason that I think Wallace will be a solid pick-up for the team.
Zoneblitz: What is the status of Jake Long’s future and how does the offensive line look going forward?
Miller: I like Jake Long but Long is too inconsistent and is injured far too often to spend 11 to 12 million on. The Dolphins offensive line is becoming more versatile and more mobile. They run more zone blocking than man up and Long struggled last season with the transition. He has made it clear from day one that his remaining in Miami will be up to the Dolphins directly referring to his desire to be paid as one of the top left tackles in the league. Something he hasn’t been for two seasons now. Rookie Jonathan Martin looked good in comparison filling in for Long.
Zoneblitz: Only two defenses in the AFC gave up fewer points than Miami’s did in 2012. Is that unit in good shape or are there changes that must be made there as well?
Miller: The Dolphins have a very solid front defensive line. Their issue is going to be the cornerback position where they will not have Sean Smith who will leave VIA free agency and a question mark in returning veteran Richard Marshall who missed last year due to injury. The team needs a pass rushing linebacker to complement Cameron Wake on the outside. Early indications are that the Dolphins defense could actually be better than it was last season.
Zoneblitz: What would you like to see the Dolphins do in the draft and free agency?
Miller: Add game changing players. The last five years or more the Dolphins have spent money on second and third tier free agents who complemented the team instead of made impacts. The Dolphins have the cap space to make an impact. They need to do that both to make the team better and to bring excitement back to the fans who have long ago lost faith in the team.
Zoneblitz: Are there any players on the roster you see having potential breakout seasons in 2013?
Miller: Lamar Miller stands to make the biggest impact on the roster as he will see a huge increase in playing time. I think outside of Miller, the biggest impacts will come from players who are not yet on the roster and the development of Ryan Tannehill.
Zoneblitz: How far is this team from being a playoff contender?
Miller: Another season. The Dolphins still don’t have enough power players and whomever they add this off-season will need time to adjust to the Dolphins schemes and timing of their offense. That being said, the Dolphins were in contention last year up until week 16 of the season and while their opponents this year are better on paper than their opponents last year, the Dolphins should be better as well.
Zoneblitz: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Miller: The Dolphins must make an impact this off-season with both the draft where they have 5 picks in the first three rounds and in free agency. Jeff Ireland can ill afford to not improve the team with playmakers. The fans will not buy into a team that doesn’t show they are serious about improving the team.