Friday, August 23, 2013

5 Reasons to be Cheerful About the 2013 Dolphins

The Dolphins start the 2013 season with Head Coach Joe Philbin embarking on his second season at the helm. Miami will kickoff the year after General Manager Jeff Ireland executed aggressive offseason moves in hopes to improve the roster and preserve his job. 

The Dolphins have reasons to be confident though, believing that they can outshine last season’s 7-9 record; NFL betting pundits suggest that they have five definite reasons to be cheerful this year.

1. The Defensive Frontline

Miami's defensive front seven has impressed this preseason, highlighted by defensive end Cameron Wake. Wake is playing like a guy who is younger than his 31 years would suggest. And there it doesn't look like his recent dominance from the DE position will diminish anytime soon.

In fact, the new 4-3 defense scheme has benefitted Wake as he transitioned from outside linebacker to defensive end. Add to that Dion Jordan, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler plus a few others, and you have to like Miami's re-tooled defensive front. Opposing quarterbacks and O-Linemen will definitely be studying extra game tape before facing Miami.  

2. The Quarterback Position

Having had 16 starting QBs in the last 12 years (since the retirement of Dan Marino), it looks like QB Ryan Tannehill has brought stability to the position. Some other notable rookie QBs may have overshadowed Tannehill but he managed well with less talent and demonstrated sound poise; particularly for someone who only started 18 games at the college level.

Given some more targets this year, we should expect continued growth in 2013. Deep threat Mike Wallace will be the most helpful weapon in Tannehill's arsenal, which should in turn open up receivers like Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. 

3. Running Back Options

Tannehill could benefit from having a solid running game and Miami has the potential to do just that. The team went to a zone-blocking scheme last year and, although it saw mixed results, there are expectations that the Fins will execute it better with a year of experience under their belt.

It should also suit second-year running back Lamar Miller, who faired well on a limited number of carries last season. And if Miami can get him going, that will also help to take the pressure off Tannehill and keep the chains moving. If not, Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee have an opportunity to take control of the position, both of which are capable backs.

4. Dynamic Tight Ends

Although the season-ending injury to tight end Dustin Keller diminished Miami's talent at the position, their remaining TE unit has great potential. Rookie prospect Dion Sims is tall, big-bodied and could really contribute in red zone situations. Charles Clay is also back in the fold after proving to have good hands and some playmaking ability last season.

And dont count out Michael Egnew just yet. He still has a shot at contributing to this team if he continues improving like some of his coaches and teammates have suggested he has. We can expect Miami throw out multiple TE sets early on this season to see if it brings offensive production.

5. Underrated Secondary Unit 

Although the secondary still has some question marks, Miami has made worthy additions to the unit. The acquisition of cornerback Brent Grimes alone could be one of the biggest steals of the offseason, barring any injury setbacks. Throw in Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons at the safety positions and the Dolphins have some decent pieces in place.

The recent release of CB Richard Marshall came as a surprise to some, but it only says that the Dolphins are confident with their secondary unit as a whole. The real question lies in rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis and whether they can live up to their billing or not.

Final Note: 

So after many years of mediocrity, the Dolphins look to legitimately change course and return to their winning ways. With the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills serving as only minor threats, it's a two-way race in the AFC East.

Beyond that, the New England Patriots are not the bonafide team they've been in recent years. Let's just say that contending for a division title is no longer an unthinkable concept. You can now welcome Miami back into the conversation for division dibs.

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