In anticipation of the upcoming NFL season, Head & Heart Sports will feature one division each week until the season begins and preview each team’s 2016 outlook. This week we take a look at the AFC East, continuing with the Miami Dolphins today.
Recap of 2015: Heading into the 2015 season the Miami Dolphins were projected by many to finally give the New England Patriots a run in the division. Most Vegas odds makers had Miami’s over/under win totals around 8 or 9 wins. Four games into the 2015 season, the Dolphins were already 1-3 and decided to fire head coach Joe Philbin. So much for making a run at the division. Miami finished the season 6-10 and went 1-5 in division games where they were outscored by a total of 93 points in those six games. The one division win was a Week 17 game against New England where they Patriots may or may not have been actually trying. Tack on losses to five non playoff teams (Indy, Jacksonville, Dallas, San Diego and the Giants) and it was back to the drawing board again this offseason in South Beach.
Significant Additions: DE Mario Williams, OT Jermon Bushrod, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, RB Arian Foster, CB Chris Culliver
Significant Subtractions: DE Olivier Vernon, CB Brent Grimes (and his wife’s twitter account), RB Lamar Miller, WR Rishard Matthews
Potential Impact Rookies: OT Laremy Tunsil (and his social media goodness), CB Xavien Howard, RB Kenyan Drake, WR Leonte Carroo
Team Strengths: On paper this should be a really solid offensive line as first round tackle Tunsil and former pro bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod are both attempting to move inside to the left and right guard positions. With pro bowlers Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey already in place, this unit has a good chance at being the strength of the team. Miami was 13th in rushing DVOA in 2015 and with the offensive line potentially in better shape than last season, you can see a direct path where they finish as a top 10 rushing team even with the loss of running back Lamar Miller.
Team Weaknesses: As good as the offensive line has a chance at being, the secondary has a chance to be equally as bad. Reshad Jones is a good player at safety, but that’s about it with this group. The Eagles learned last year that Byron Maxwell is never the answer to any question and currently rookie Xavien Howard is projected to start opposite Maxwell. Veteran corner Chris Culliver was recently brought in to compete for playing time, but as bad as he was with Washington last season, I am not so sure that is a good thing. Tom Brady and company cannot wait to get a crack at this group.
Fantasy Players to Watch: Jarvis Landry is as consistent of a wide receiver as you’ll find ,especially if you play in a point per reception league where Landry averaged 16.7 points per game in 2015. Second year wideout DeVante Parker should see significant playing time this season and showed flashes last season. Fantasy players have learned over the last two seasons that you cannot count on Ryan Tannehill as your starter on a week to week basis, but he should still be drafted in most formats and is solid option in a two quarterback league. What will this team do at running back? Jay Ajayi has all the physical tools you could ask for in a back, but can he put it all together or even stay healthy long enough to do so? Miami recently signed Arian Foster who is coming off an Achilles injury,but if healthy I think he is the guy who would get the first shot at the starting job, but as always with Foster that is a big if. I think your best bet is to either draft both backs or stay away entirely. This has the potential to be a maddening week to week situation for fantasy owners, but with what should be a good run blocking offensive line in place there is potential for late round fantasy value if one of these guys can take the job. Tight end Jordan Cameron is worth a flier in deeper leagues as he as the talent to be top at the position, but outside of his breakout 2013 in Cleveland, he has never really been able to stay healthy.
2016 Outlook: The Dolphins did not have a lot to hang their hat on last season and I do not see where they have really done much to improve. They let Olivier Vernon and Brent Grimes go so they could bring in Mario Williams and Byron Maxwell, not sure where that makes a lot of sense. I know that Vernon’s contract with the Giants will more than likely end up being a massive overpay, but the money Miami saved they essentially gave to Maxwell while moving down five spots in the draft to acquire him and talented yet constantly injured linebacker Kiko Alonso. I am still on the “Ryan Tannehill can get you to the playoffs” bandwagon, but with every off target deep ball he throws I get closer and closer to jumping off. Even with all the questionable off season moves they did get the steal of the draft in Tunsil and DeVante Parker looks to be a legitimate outside threat. Outside of those two, Landry and new head coach Adam Gase (who I like a lot), there is just not a lot to be excited about with this team. I also have not even mentioned that their best player Ndamukong Suh took a lot of plays off last season when he wasn’t happy. That cannot continue if they hope to be successful.
Record Prediction: Unfortunately for Dolphins fans, another 1-3 start to a season is very plausible with road games against Seattle, New England and Cincinnati inthree of their first four contests in 2016. They do have very winnable home tilts against Cleveland, Tennessee and San Francisco, but outside of that I do not see a lot of wins on this schedule. As I mentioned before, I like Adam Gase’s potential as a head coach and there is still a good quarterback buried somewhere inside Ryan Tannehill that Gase could one day bring to the surface. At the end of the day, there are just too many question marks about this team and the direction they are headed. I have Miami going 6-10 again in 2016.
Photo credit: Sun-Sentinel