In 2016, the Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. However, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a torn ACL before the postseason began, and Miami got trounced by Pittsburgh 30-12 in the Wild Card round. Tannehill’s injury held him out of the entire 2017 campaign, so the Dolphins grabbed former Bear Jay Cutler. The 34-year-old had a poor outing and the Dolphins didn’t get close to the playoffs.
After the season, Cutler retired, and the Dolphins replaced their offensive coordinator with Dowell Loggains, who was hired since he and Miami head coach Adam Gase both worked together as offensive coaches in Chicago. The most impactful addition for Miami for this season will be getting Tannehill back, however, their biggest loss this offseason was trading away his best target, Jarvis Landry. The three-time Pro-Bowler was let go for a fourth and seventh round pick. The Dolphins and Landry were unable to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, so he was franchise tagged and traded.
Ryan Tannehill returns as he left off, a slightly above-average starting quarterback who, with the right pieces, can get Miami back to a winning record as he did in 2016.
Behind Tannehill, halfback Kenyan Drake learns from Miami’s newly acquired backup running back, the 13-year veteran and potential Hall of Famer Frank Gore. Drake proves that trading away former halfback Jay Ajayi was the right choice last season. Drake did average more yards per-carry in 2017 (4.8 to Ajayi’s 4.2), and with Gore’s guidance he improves to be one of the top-10 running backs in the league in his third year.
At receiver, the additions of veterans Albert Wilson from Kansas City and Danny Amendola from New England give Miami new found depth at the receiver position. Fourth-year wide out and former first round pick DeVante Parker steps out of Landry’s shadow and becomes a capable top target for Tannehill.
To protect their quarterback, Miami added center Daniel Kilgore and guard Josh Sitton, who help protect Tannehill from big hits he took in the past. Over his last four years, Tannehill led the league in the dubious category of sacks once and led in sack yards lost twice. This year he gets the protection he needs to make higher quality throws and give his receivers time to get open.
On the other side of the ball, Miami gave up the fourth-most points in the NFL last season. But, 2018 11thoverall pick Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama makes a big difference in the secondary. He intercepted three passes and was second on the National Champion Crimson Tide in tackles last year. Adding lineman Robert Quinn proves to be an upgrade over Ndamukong Suh, who left for Los Angeles. For the Los Angeles Rams, Quinn did have four more sacks than Suh in 2017.
Miami takes advantage of their tame non-division schedule, playing just three playoff teams from 2017. They earn a winning record in their division rivals and finish above .500, which puts them in contention for the playoffs after a disappointing 6-10 2017 season.
The offense fails to get over the loss of their most dynamic playmaker, Landry. Danny Amendola’s numbers in 2014 and 2016 dipped considerably, and after a solid 2017, his even year blues return. None of Miami’s young targets emerge as a go-to number one, and Tannehill struggles without having a player who can make big plays like Landry.
New offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains fails to get this offense to play up to their talent level. He has three seasons of prior experience as an OC, and his teams are a terrible 15-33. Last season, his passing offense threw for the fewest yards in the league. His hiring will result in a more run-heavy offense, which in turn makes them one dimensional and opposing teams will load the box and stop Drake in his tracks.
Despite the struggling offense, defensively is where they will struggle the most. They gave up the third-most plays over 20 yards last year. The secondary doesn’t improve even with Fitzpatrick. They implode and give up more big plays down the field.
The division gives them trouble, especially since the Bills and Jets drafted quarterbacks early this year who have potential to be game changers. The schedule becomes more difficult than anticipated as Green Bay, Oakland and Houston all have bounce-back seasons. The Dolphins finish worse than 2017 with a 4-12 record.
Final prediction: 5-11