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PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 23: Miami Dolphins

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland didn’t hear no a lot this offseason.

The team had been the bridesmaid many times in the last few years when pursuing players and coaches, but they landed plenty of big game this offseason. Wide receiver Mike Wallace, tight end Dustin Keller, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Brent Grimes are just some of the players who decided to play in South Florida this season and their arrival has led to a lot of playoff talk around the Dolphins.

That may make it a win-or-else scenario for Ireland, which makes it a good thing that he seems to have positioned the team well from a personnel standpoint. Now that personnel needs to gel in order for the team to return to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Strengths.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t have too many people to throw to as a rookie last season, which contributed to some of his struggles, and Ireland made sure that excuse disappeared. In addition to Wallace and Keller, Miami re-signed Brian Hartline and added Brandon Gibson as a free agent to give themselves a far deeper and considerably more talented receiving corps than they had last season. There’s been plenty of optimism about Tannehill’s growth this offseason and this group gives him a chance to show it off in a major way.

The Dolphins haven’t had any complaints about Cameron Wake’s pass rush ability over the years. Wake had 15 sacks last season, a career high, and did it without much help from his friends on the defense. If first-round pick Dion Jordan brings the heat as hoped, Wake will be even more dangerous to stop this time around.

Defensive line continues to be a Miami strength when you kick inside to the tackle spot. Randy Starks isn’t likely to get a long-term deal after being franchised, keeping his motivation high to turn in another productive season. Paul Soliai gives them a huge obstacle to opposing run games and Jared Odrick is a handy extra body to use at end or tackle.

Safety Reshad Jones, who is also looking for a new contract, is coming off a very strong 2012 season. A repeat performance will get him that deal and make him someone Miami can build around in the secondary.

Center Mike Pouncey has a good chance to join his brother Maurkice in the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later. He’ll anchor a line that has questions we’ll discuss below and the upside to be an effective unit.

Weaknesses.

It may not turn out to be a weakness in the long run, but there are certainly plenty of questions to answer about the cornerbacks. Grimes and Richard Marshall are both coming off of injuries that could leave them at less than full strength and one can never predict how much rookies like Jamar Taylor and Will Davis will bring to the table in their first seasons.

We’ll stay in the uncertainty more than weakness column as we turn our eye to the running backs. Reggie Bush went to Detroit, leaving second-year man Lamar Miller as the likeliest choice for the lead back role this year. Miller’s speed is intriguing, but he’ll need to show he can do the more mundane business of moving the chains and picking up pass rushers to help make Miami’s offense balanced and productive this season.

As mentioned above, no one other than Wake rushed the passer well enough. If Jordan doesn’t provide the extra pressure, it’s hard to see who might do it.

Camp will be important for the Dolphins because they have so many new players in the system and chemistry will be a must for units with major changes like the offensive line and linebackers. While you’d expect the players to pick things up fairly well, it’s never as easy as just plugging players into spots and letting them go.

Changes.

There will be a new look on the offensive line for the Dolphins this season. Jake Long was the rare one that got away this offseason, heading to the Rams and leaving left tackle in the hands of Jonathan Martin. Martin played the position at Stanford and moved there after Long was hurt last season, so familiarity with the job shouldn’t be too big an obstacle.

The Dolphins also signed Tyson Clabo to play right tackle, a move some questioned because his style doesn’t seem to mesh with the zone blocking principles the Dolphins introduced last season. He’s a capable player, so the line should be in good shape if he takes to the new system.

Linebacker was another area of major change as the Dolphins shipped out Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett in favor of Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler. They definitely got younger and faster in the process, but both of the discarded vets were solid players and Ellerbe has a short track record of success for a player who got a big deal this offseason.

Wide receiver Davone Bess and tight end Anthony Fasano were each let go as part of the overhaul of the receiving corps.

One notable area without change was Joe Philbin’s coaching staff, which provides the team with continuity in their effort to build on last season’s result.

Camp Battles.

Richie Incognito should hold onto the left guard spot, but right guard will be a spot of contention for John Jerry, rookie Dallas Thomas and, assuming he’s healthy, free agent addition Lance Louis. Jerry didn’t play well last season, which should make the competition that much livelier.

There’s plenty to sort out at corner with Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson joining the players already named in a fight for roles in the secondary. The best-case scenario for the Dolphins is that all the competition helps answer some of their questions at corner before the start of the regular season.

Miller’s the odds-on favorite for the top spot on the depth chart, but Daniel Thomas and Mike Gillislee will be fighting for snaps as well. Thomas has disappointed to this point in his NFL career and Gillislee passing him by wouldn’t bode well for his future in Miami.

The Dolphins drafted kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round, which likely makes him a favorite in the battle with erratic incumbent Dan Carpenter.

Prospects. 

With Aaron Hernandez in prison, Rob Gronkowski’s status uncertain because of surgeries and other questions about their receiving corps, many have opined that the Patriots could be in danger of losing their perch atop the AFC East.

If they do, the Dolphins appear to be the team in the best position to replace them as division champs. They were 7-9 last season before making additions that should be improvements in several places, Philbin and Tannehill have a year of experience under their belts and the Bills and Jets are riddled with more holes. It’s easy to see things coming together in a winning season and a playoff berth, whether or not the Patriots plummet.

That said, the Dolphins still need to do it. Teams with busy offseasons never suffer for a lack of buzz, but they do fail to answer the bell on occasion. The Dolphins have the pieces and we’ll find out soon enough if they know how to use them.

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39 Responses to “PFT Preseason Power Rankings No. 23: Miami Dolphins”
  1. flash1283 says: Jul 13, 2013 3:23 PM

    Sorry the fish are at best a second place team.
    As long as Brady is standing its still NE division.

  2. eaglesnd18 says: Jul 13, 2013 3:27 PM

    I still wonder to myself how the Dolphins have no fan base and the Miami Heat have everyone. I just don’t understand how people have fun being “sports’ fans” when they are bandwagoners. What happened to all the Dolphin fans during Dan Marino’s time?

  3. lanman11 says: Jul 13, 2013 3:27 PM

    I can’t see them passing the Patriots even with the current difficulties in NE. I think that will be clear when you do the Patriots ranking, which I’m sure will be lower than anticipated due to the changes they are going through this off season. It’s not an ideal situation to have so many changes on the offensive side of the ball as in NE, but there exists the possibility that by November, they could be a team that is jelling and possibly better than before, sans Hernandez. The defense, with Adrian Wilson and a healthy Talib could be much improved this year, which they will need to hold down the fort until Brady gets his new weapons trained.

    I can see both teams with double digit wins. I just can’t see the Dolphins over taking NE unless NE faulters badly to start the season AND Miami wins both regular season games. They have similar schedules, but Miami gets to host more of the difficult opponents rather than go on the road, due to their inferior performance last season. That may be of some help.

  4. drumzan says: Jul 13, 2013 3:30 PM

    Great write-up. Except Dallas Thomas is purely left side of the o-line. He’ll be Martin’s backup this year and likely take over for Incognito next year at LG.

  5. fusstr8tedfinfan says: Jul 13, 2013 3:36 PM

    What happened to all the Dolphin fans during Dan Marino’s time?
    ____________________________________
    Um, we’re still here, we’re just in our thirties and forties now and have suffered through a decade of mediocrity that has left us quiet and humble unlike some other fans. What have the eagles ever done again?

  6. sourceformerlyknownasunnamed says: Jul 13, 2013 3:43 PM

    I’m interested to see where the Chiefs end up on this list. I can’t imagine they’re too far ahead but better than Miami? We shall see.

  7. tigerphins says: Jul 13, 2013 3:44 PM

    LOL @ the idea of Miami finishing worse than last year considering the team should be improved just by all the young talent being further developed while not having ANY older players on the demise, and that’s not including the methodical additions made in FA to both sides of the ball, as well as the addition of the draft’s best defender.

  8. wilsonwillbreaku says: Jul 13, 2013 3:52 PM

    Kaepernick saw this ranking and kissed his bicep in disgust.

  9. tigerphins says: Jul 13, 2013 3:55 PM

    Speaking of QB pressure, I think Josh Alper is forgetting that pressure doesn’t just come from DEs. It can come from everywhere, especially if a DC is creative enough to scheme it up, which is why Ireland brought in a pair of PFF’s highest rated 4-3 LBs at creating pressure in Wheeler & Ellerbe. Plus Starks & Odrick rank among the league’s best at creating pressure the past 2 years of all DTs, 3-4 DEs, and 4-3 closed ends.

    So, you have one of the league’s top pass rushers in Wake, one of the top 4-3 LB pressure tandems, one of the top DT pressure tandems, the addition of one of the draft’s best pass rushers, and corners who are more capable of blitzing & creating pressure. I’d say that’s potential for a lot of pressure and with opposing offense not certain where to expect it from.

  10. donth8thehorns says: Jul 13, 2013 3:57 PM

    I am not yet @ all convinced that R. tannehil is going to be great! He looked very pedestrian last year , and having WR’s now will be the true test!
    On D, these guys look good, it’s up to the O, but clearly they have a long way to go to be even put in the same sentence as New England. Losing Hernandez only hurts so much, The pats did just fine when he was injured last year. Gronk will return after a few needed recovery weeks off & all will be well in NE…. Brady is one of the greatest QBs to ever play, he will find his targets early & often, next man up! I only wish my Vikes could mirror the Pats success, you gotta love their template for success

  11. FinFan68 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:02 PM

    The Dolphins are a much better team than last year (and that team was two missed field goals from the playoffs). Fans have several reasons to feel optimistic. I think the ranking is too low right now but that will change soon enough. This team got younger, faster and more aggressive. They improved the offense, defense and probably the special teams as well. The Patriots still have Brady and Belichik so they should get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to falling back towards the rest of the division. The thing is, Dolphins fans see Miami rising up towards the Patriots. Whether the Pats fall back is not of much concern. The rest of the NFL will figure that out sooner rather than later. This team is a playoff team that very few opponents will want to see when it is time to win or go home.

  12. beerndrums says: Jul 13, 2013 4:03 PM

    It seems to me that the Patriots usually get the good tough teams at home and the weaker ones on the road
    Notice i said usually
    The NFL has babied the Patriots since Brady took over and it started with the tuck rule
    It may not happen this year but it’s gonna be fun watching the Patriots fall out of grace and see the Dolphins take over

  13. ryann252013 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:05 PM

    I’m gonna say one thing, this season relies on Tannehill. If he puts up stats similar to last year they won’t be that good, I’m not a Miami fan but if Tannehill barely improves this year then I see them taking Logan Thomas or another project QB next year and giving Ryan another chance to prove himself in 2014-2015. Just my take no hate just constructive criticism

  14. pissedfishfan says: Jul 13, 2013 4:06 PM

    23? LOSE 2 in OT that should have been wins close to 500 last year They are better on paper this year and they are ranked 23rd? Really makes the guy who did these rankings look like he has no clue. I am a homer and think top ten But ANYONE who knows football could not logically rank them lower then 16-17

  15. gottaplan says: Jul 13, 2013 4:10 PM

    Miami at 23??? No reason to read the rest of these. 23?? For me, this list has lost all credibility.

  16. mungman69 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:15 PM

    Just start the season already.

  17. basexc9 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:17 PM

    Too low. Should be in the low teens at least, as they finished 20th best last year and obviously improved in the offseason.

  18. tigerphins says: Jul 13, 2013 4:19 PM

    ryann252013 says:
    Jul 13, 2013 4:05 PM
    I’m gonna say one thing, this season relies on Tannehill. If he puts up stats similar to last year they won’t be that good, I’m not a Miami fan but if Tannehill barely improves this year then I see them taking Logan Thomas or another project QB next year and giving Ryan another chance to prove himself in 2014-2015. Just my take no hate just constructive criticism.
    ————————————————————
    I respect this opinion, but you gotta understand that, in any other year that doesn’t feature Russell Wilson, RG3, and Luck having drastically atypical rookie production, Tannehill would’ve been the talk of the season b/c he had a great rookie year despite just 19 prior starts and having only 2 WRs to throw to all season, a weak pair at that which allowed defenses to play Miami as if they were in the redzone no matter where they were on the field (this coming from an opposing defender’s mouth). The additions of Wallace & Keller change that. Not to mention Tannehill played through a sprained knee that noticeably limited his play.

  19. keylimelight says: Jul 13, 2013 4:23 PM

    I agree with ranking Miami at 23 but, I would add to their Strength list the fact that this is Coach Philbin’s 2nd year as Head Coach.

    Now that he has a full season of Dolphin play under his belt, he no doubt has a better feel for how to use his men to execute his strategy.

    One of the reasons the Pats have been able to stay at the top of the AFC East was that the Dolphins, Bills and Jets have been stinking.

    I expect the Jets to continue to stink, but under new HCs for Dolphins and Bills (Philbin and Marrone) plus their good off season acquisitions thru FA and the draft, they could well be turning the tide now that NE offense has taken a punch.

  20. thegregwitul says: Jul 13, 2013 4:24 PM

    Really, Tampa Bay and Miami lower than Kansas City? C’mon man, that’s ridiculous. Both Tampa and Miami will finish second in their respective divisions, with both teams approaching or surpassing ten wins, while the Chiefs will be lucky to win six games.

    Book it. Seriously, save the link and let’s check back in six months. I get that the Florida fan bases can be seen as fickle or full of bandwagon fans, but both Tampa and Miami have too much talent to be where they are on this list, IMO.

  21. win1soon says: Jul 13, 2013 4:38 PM

    I agree with writer who said it is all on the QB, as a Bills fan I have seen a lot of bad football over the years, and last years game late in Nov between the BIlls and Dolphins was horrible, Tanneyhill could not get the team past mid field, I think they only scored 3 points againse a Defense that gave up 50 on 3 different occasions. No one is touching the Pats, and for you fin fans who say they were a missed FG or two away…please alot of teams can say that even if they got in it would be one and done!

  22. therillest says: Jul 13, 2013 4:41 PM

    Miami was sneaky good last year! With all the talent they have acquired and what looks to be solid coaching, Miami may be a force in the AFC. Dolphins fans should be excited.

  23. miamijd1 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:45 PM

    Not sure who told this guy he knows football but if Miami ends up no better than 23 I am calling for guys to be fired.

  24. tigerphins says: Jul 13, 2013 4:51 PM

    Anyone who thinks Miami should start this season ranked 23rd obviously didn’t watch Miami play last year b/c if they did they would’ve seen 2 blown wins b/c of missed FGs in games where Miami was the better team on the field, which is why a 5th rounder was used on the draft’s top kicker

    …… and you would’ve seen another loss b/c of a rare botched punt snap (wet ball after temporary rain shower) plus a pick six that was called back b/c of a ticky-tack block in the back that occurred nowhere near the play.

    They lost to the playoff Colts on a 4th qtr FG and was a muffed punt inside their own 10 away from being tied 13-13 late in the 4th quarter with the Super Bowl runner up Niners.

    Plus Miami gave an outstanding Seattle team its only loss of the season’s second half when Seattle was beating the snot out of teams (with an 8 game average score of 34-12 ), and it was Tannehill who took over the 4th quarter and looked like the better rookie QB that game.

    Miami could’ve very easily been a 9-7 team and played like it.

  25. vegaskid21 says: Jul 13, 2013 4:53 PM

    WAHOOOOOO!!!! We’re not on the list yet!!!!

    Signed,

    Obvious Chiefs Fan

  26. jrcoop says: Jul 13, 2013 7:46 PM

    Not surprised by the ranking as there seems to be a general lack of knowledge by the national press regarding Dolphins. Of course this is understandable, when covering 32 teams, there’s going to be a tendency to parrot the same inaccurate assumptions as others in the media. IMO, the areas mentioned as weaknesses (CB and RB) will actually prove to be strengths.

    I would by into the “prove it” theory for the rankings were it not for the fact that 4 teams with worse ’12 records will be ranked above the Dolphins (KC 2-14, Det 4-12, TN 6-10 SD 7-9). Though these teams have indeed made major moves in the off season, none have exceded what the Dolphins have done this off season. I would suggest they have more to prove than the Dolphins, and therefor the Dolphins should have been ranked no lower than 19.

    All that said, unlike the NCAA, media rankings mean nothing relative to a teams level of success for the season, unless the players themselves take exception and are motivated to prove otherwise. Philbin is probably happy when the media helps keep expectations in check, because like Ellerbe said, you still have to go do it. Bottom line… it would appear that the Dolphins could surprise a lot of people, but probably not themselves.

  27. ontboltfan says: Jul 13, 2013 7:47 PM

    Really surprised w this ranking. They were one of the busiest teams in FA. They had a decent D last year, and were only held back by a sub par group of receivers and couldn’t open things up.

    They certainly addressed that issue w Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller.

    I had them at 8-8 at least. Better than SD for sure and I am a Chargers fan.

  28. smackingfools says: Jul 13, 2013 8:45 PM

    Surprise team in 2013. They are gonna be pretty good.

  29. flavordave says: Jul 14, 2013 8:57 AM

    The Eagles are clearly a better team. Chip Kelly and his 11 headed monster machine would roll this weak team flat.

  30. miamijd1 says: Jul 14, 2013 9:22 AM

    Every thing rest on qb and injuries last year when the qb hit his open recivers we won when he missed them we lost. If he gets better at that we will win a lot of games

  31. hyperalgesia says: Jul 14, 2013 9:33 AM

    Chiefs have a new coach and a new qb, same Rob and Berry is back. But the biggest reason they are ranked higher than the fins is the twelfth man…that place is LOUD.

  32. chas88 says: Jul 14, 2013 10:28 AM

    As a Patriots fan, this ranking seems too low for the Dolphins. They look to have much improved this offseason.

  33. donth8miami says: Jul 14, 2013 2:01 PM

    9-10 wins is not out of the question. It all comes down to the O-Line and Tannehill. If both have decent years, Miami is (at worst) a wildcard team or (at best) division winners.

  34. Bart DePalma says: Jul 14, 2013 2:47 PM

    If Grimes and Miller are the extent of the Miami “weaknesses,” then this team is making a run at the Super Bowl.

    The primary weakness is at LT. Martin should be OK as a starter, but there is a big drop off at LT if he goes down. Clabo is a RT.

    Otherwise, this team has suddenly become pretty deep.

  35. patsfan13 says: Jul 15, 2013 8:26 AM

    The Fins added a lot of players during the off season, granted, but they haven’t proven they can play together as a team. Let’s see what they do on the field, before anointing them as the heir apparent.

  36. grant444 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:27 AM

    This franchise ALWAYS freezes to death in November – just like Mike Wallace did in Pittsburgh. Tannehill is pedestrian, there is no D, & they have the Colts, Steelers, Saints, Ravens, & Falcons on their schedule (in addition to the 2 gms vs N.England). I see another 7-9 record, at best.

  37. basedrum777 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:28 AM

    The fins will finish the year better than 9+ teams ahead of them on this list. Just playing it out, they were 7-9 last year with two losses coming from missed fieldgoals. Even if they improve one game above last season and make their fieldgoals (hello new kicker in draft), then they’ll be 10 wins. If people in the NFL don’t look at that roster and think they’ll make 1 games improvement over the last year I don’t think they watch games. They’re not an aging team by any stretch either. No major position player is “old” on offense or defense so improvements will come just from maturing. The only thing that makes me think they won’t get to 10 wins is their schedule being brutal. Otherwise I expect that they’ll be playoff contenders. No doubt better than 23.

  38. basedrum777 says: Jul 15, 2013 11:31 AM

    I also think its a bit funny that teams incorporating an entirely new system are ahead of Miami on this list. When’s the last time a team completely overhauled its offensive and defensive scheme and was looked at as an over 500 team as the fins are? (looking at chiefs, Eagles)

  39. cliffclavicle says: Jul 15, 2013 2:41 PM

    Joke rating, Miami is a top 15 team. Keep jocking your Chiefs and Eagles, you’ll see.

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