2015 AFC Preview: Miami Dolphins
2015 AFC PREVIEW: Miami Dolphins
From now until the Patriots begin training camp, Phil Perry looks at the 15 other AFC teams: The biggest question they face heading into the season, their storyline on offense, their storyline on defense, and their "threat level" to the Patriots.
Today's final opponent: The Miami Dolphins
THE BIG STORY
Can Ryan Tannehill lead the Dolphins to an AFC East title?
According to a Harvard study, he can and might in 2015. Granted, the study is called "A Way-Too-Early Prediction of the NFL Season," but it has Miami ranked behind only Seattle and Green Bay, making it the top-ranked team in the conference.
The Dolphins may get a bump if Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is suspended for four games, but that won't be enough to push the Dolphins over the top -- crowning an AFC East winner not named the Patriots for the first time since 2008 -- unless Ryan Tannehill plays like a quarterback who is worth the $45 million guaranteed that he'll make on his new deal.
Tannehill threw for over 4,000 yards and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of better than 2-to-1 last season (27-to-12), and those numbers could see another bump in 2015 given the improved arsenal around him.
OFFENSIVE STORY LINE TO WATCH
Who will emerge as go-to options in Miami?
Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are out. DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings are in. Charles Clay is out. Jordan Cameron is in.
Tannehill will be working with a few new pieces in 2015, but sometimes change can be good, and in the case of Miami's weapons on the outside, it certainly seems as though that will be the case.
Parker may miss a sizable chunk of training camp due to injury, and Jennings is not the player he once was, but Tannehill will have some familiarity this summer in Jarvis Landry -- last year's leading receiver for the Dolphins. Similarly, the team's top running back, Lamar Miller, has also returned after compiling a 1,000-yard season on 5.1 yards per carry last year.
Once all the pieces to Miami's offense are in place, healthy, and on the same page -- something that may not happen until the regular season is a few weeks old -- this should be an offense that features multiple options in the passing game as well as a quarterback who is capable of taking off and running. Under coordinator Bill Lazor, they have the ability to stress defenses at different levels of the field.
DEFENSIVE STORY LINE TO WATCH
How does Ndamukong Suh alter the Dolphins defense?
In terms of personnel, Ndamukong Suh will replace the departed Jared Odrick on Miami's defensive line, but the two are very different players. Suh is bigger, stronger, and more dominant at his peak.
With Suh, who picked up a six-year, $114 million deal this offseason, on the interior, that should leave teammates on the edges plenty of room with which to work. Expect Cameron Wake (11.5 sacks in 2014) and Olivier Vernon to clean up alongside the former Detriot Lion.
In Suh's case, he has the ability to rack up big numbers, but he doesn't have to in order to make an impact.
THREAT LEVEL: SEVERE
The Dolphins may be the most well-balanced group in the AFC East outside of New England. Tannehill's new weapons -- especially in a Lazor offense that has a chance to be relatively quick-hitting -- make him dangerous. On the defensive side of the ball, it appears as though they have more than enough talent to remain competitive. If they can find another corner to play alongside Brent Grimes in the secondary they'll have a shot to make some noise in the playoffs if they get that far. This is a group capable of double-digit wins.