2012 Record: 7-9
I know it's only Ryan Tannehill's rookie season, but Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson set a rather dangerous precedent.
With their respective talents, those three could be what Elway, Marino, and Kelly were in 1983.
Tannehill's had flashes of brilliance here and there, but for now, he's the Ken O'Brien of the group.
In today's QB-friendly league (thanks to rule changes that stifle defenses in terms of contact), having an elite quarterback is paramount to victory.
Tannehill ranked 20th in passing yards (3294), 22nd in completion percentage (58.3 percent), and 27th in rating (76.1).
Admittedly, the Dolphins' offensive line shares much of the blame. Tannehill was sacked 35 times, and the right side of the line (John Jerry and Jonathan Martin) were very much to blame for Tannehill feeling the heat as a wet-behind-the-ears rookie.
On the whole, the Dolphins' offense was a wash. Despite a defense that held up its end, and allowed only 19.8 PPG (the seventh best average in the league), the offense couldn't balance the scale. They managed just 18.0 PPG, sixth worst in the NFL.
Sacks and picks have already been established, and they were among the bigger drags on Tannehill. Another one to hang on the offense is their inability to score maximum points, even when they get in position to make things happen.
The Dolphins had the sixth lowest total of offensive yards in the NFL, a pitiful 4984. Scoring just 288 points as a team means that they score 1 point for every 17.3 yards gained, which is the seventh highest (i.e. worst) average in the league. Dan Carpenter missing five field goals (all over 40 yards) plays into this.
2013 Projected Wins: 7.5
Top 3 Rookies
-Dion Jordan, DE (1/3): A trade-up was ordered to acquire this flexible, impactful tackler with room to improve upon his raw skills; possible spawn of Jason Taylor.
-Jamar Taylor, CB (2/54): Instinctive, aggressive, speedy corner who's at his best in zone coverage, which the Dolphins generally employ.
-Dallas Thomas, T/G (3/77): Excelled at guard in his senior season at Tennessee, but could play either position, especially if the line continues to falter.
The Dolphins wasted little time surrounding Tannehill with new weapons. The biggest catch was the signing of Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace, who signed a five-year, $60M deal. After a down year by his lofty standards (836 yards), Wallace joins Brian Hartline, who comes off a 1083-yard season, and was thus rewarded with a new five year deal himself.
With Tannehill's 1-2 punch determined, Miami will supplement it with the solid Brandon Gibson, who comes off career highs of 691 yards and five touchdowns. With Anthony Fasano off to Kansas City, Dustin Keller steps in at TE, following an injury-plagued 2012.
The defense also made changes, but necessary ones to fill voids. Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are out at linebacker, and Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler are in. Brent Grimes was also signed from the Dolphins to pitch in at cornerback.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Ryan Tannehill
RB - Lamar Miller
FB - Charles Clay
WR - Mike Wallace
WR - Brian Hartline
TE - Dustin Keller
LT - Jonathan Martin
LG - Richie Incognito
C - Mike Pouncey
RG - John Jerry
RT - Tyson Clabo
DE - Cameron Wake
DT - Randy Starks
DT - Paul Soliai
DE - Dion Jordan
OLB - Koa Misi
MLB - Dannell Ellerbe
OLB - Philip Wheeler
CB - Brent Grimes
CB - Richard Marshall
FS - Chris Clemons
SS - Reshad Jones
K - Dan Carpenter
P - Brandon Fields
LS - John Denney
2013 at a Glance
The Dolphins unveiled a new logo this offseason, one less anthropomorphic, and instead more straight-forward.
If you read this as an omen, perhaps it's saying, "the Dolphins are less of a cartoon, and thus no laughing matter."
If the passing game was the weakest link in 2012, then Joe Philbin is working toward achieving two goals: reaffirming Ryan Tannehill as the franchise quarterback, and adding ample weapons to ensure continued progress of last year's eighth overall pick.
Though the speed of Wallace, the match-ups Gibson will draw, and Hartline's understated excellence all bode well for Tannehill, he has something of a question mark situated behind him.
With Reggie Bush off to Detroit, the likely successor at running back looks to be second-year man Lamar Miller. Miller ran for 250 yards on 51 carries (a stellar 4.9 YPA), but little is known about what he'll do with over four times the workload. Bush had 227 carries last season, and Miller will be expected to prove worthy of his promotion.
Another obstacle toward Miller's success will be that offensive line. On the right side, there are two key additions with questions of their own.
At right guard, former Bear Lance Louis is coming off an ACL tear from last November, courtesy of a Jared Allen clip. At right tackle, veteran Tyson Clabo isn't used to the zone schemes that Mike Sherman and Jim Turner employ.
Replacing former top pick Jake Long at left tackle is sophomore Jonathan Martin, whose pass protection was part of the 2012 downfall. And he's got Tannehill's blindside.
The defense looks like a starfish, the way it's regrown appendages after losing key pieces this spring.
The biggest question at the moment is when the team will get on the same page with defensive tackle Randy Starks. The two-time Pro Bowler signed his franchise tender this offseason, but wants a long-term deal to match his worth. Starks skipped a voluntary workout to show he means business.
Ellerbe is an upward trend as a linebacker, standing out on the Super Bowl champion Ravens, and he replaces Dansby, who is four years older.
Dansby, however, at age 31, made 134 tackles and deflected nine passes last season, over 16 starts. Ellerbe started just seven games last season, but still made 92 tackles in Baltimore. Given that Dansby was the picture of efficiency at any age, and a true defensive leader, Ellerbe has big shoes to fill.
Some attractive new gadgets, combined with suitable defensive replacements, paints a pretty picture in Miami. But the framework still needs to prove worthy, particularly in the offensive trenches. Much of the talent is there, but they need to get on the same page.
The 2012 Eagles and Chargers are living proof: you can have star power galore, but when your offensive line struggles, the wins don't come easy. The Dolphins will live and die by that line in 2013. For Tannehill's sake, I hope he doesn't literally die by it.