2014 NFL Preview: Miami Dolphins

2014 NFL Preview: Miami Dolphins

Leading up to the 2013 season, the Dolphins were a trendy pick to make the playoffs based on an active offseason that saw them sign several big ticket free agents such as Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe. They started out 3-0 and appeared poised to challenge the Patriots for the division title. Then the wheels fell off. Four straight defeats, allegations of harassment, and an 8-8 finish triggered a house cleaning of sorts. General Manager Jeff Ireland was fired and head coach Joe Philbin was put on notice. The Dolphins last made the playoffs in 2008 and last won a playoff game in 2000. The prospects for the 2014 season are similar to last year. If they can put it together and get quarterback play, they could make a run at the AFC East crown. Here’s a preview.

Outlook: The hiring of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is expected to energize a conservative attack. Lazor spent last season as Chip Kelly’s QB coach in Philadelphia and plans to utilize an up-tempo scheme that will take full advantage of Wallace, Brian Hartline, Lamar Miller, and rookie Jarvis Landry. Center Mike Pouncey will miss three months with a torn labrum and free agent signee Knowshon Moreno just underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.

New arrivals: The aforementioned Moreno was supposed to stabilize an underachieving backfield. He’s coming a 1500-yard, 13-touchdown season with Denver, but the lack of interest in free agency is telling. Nagging injuries and frequent disappearing acts have followed him since he entered the league in 2009. Brandon Albert is a premier left tackle when healthy and should help solidify a line that yielded 58 sacks in 2013. Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan were brought aboard to bolster a questionable secondary, but neither is considered a major upgrade.

Wave goodbye: Defensive backs Chris Clemons, Nolan Carroll, and Dimitri Patterson all have new addresses, and run-stopping tackle Paul Soliai is now a Falcon. None of those losses is critical, although depth in the secondary has been depleted. GM Jeff Ireland was much-maligned and the fanbase was happy to see him kicked to the curb. Same can be said for Mike Sherman, whose archaic offensive system was partly blamed for the poor seasons posted by Wallace and Miller.

Over/Under wins – 8:  Ryan Tannehill hasn’t looked like a franchise signal-caller in his first two seasons. He hasn’t been awful, but he’s far from proven. Perhaps Lazor’s high-octane attack will do for Tannehill what it did for Nick Foles in Philly. Wallace is confident he will rebound in 2014, but those are just words. A lot will have to go right for this team to contend for the playoffs. They have the talent, but a difficult schedule will prevent them from making a significant leap.

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