Preseason Power Rankings No. 27: Miami Dolphins

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The Dolphins are hoping that breaking one long tradition leads to the end of a shorter, more immediately meaningful one.

By drafting Ryan Tannehill in the first round, the team ended a nearly 30-year run of avoiding the position at the top of the draft. Whether Tannehill turns out to be another Dan Marino (the last first-round Dolphins quarterback) or not, the Dolphins hope that he and new coach Joe Philbin can get the team back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Tannehill will have to win the starting job to do that, of course, and his ability to do that is just one of the many questions that the team will have to answer to close the door on their playoff drought.


Cameron Wake has 28 sacks in three seasons since leaving the CFL, good enough to land him a new contract in the offseason. Now that he’s been paid, Wake will have to figure out how to make the same kind of pass rushing impact from an end spot in the 4-3 base look that the Dolphins are moving to this season. Unless the money goes to his head, that shouldn’t be a problem.

No one would have predicted Reggie Bush for a late bloomer when he left USC, but that might just be the case. Bush averaged five yards a carry last year and topped 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, finally showing that he could be successful as a feature back. There’s been a lot of talk about using him as a receiver this season, which says much about the state of the receiving corps, and Bush is going to get a lot of work all over the place as the team covers for deficiencies elsewhere.

Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland took a lot of heat this offseason, but he can point to the signing of Karlos Dansby as something he got right. Dansby anchored a defense that performed admirably last season without getting much help from the offense. If Randy Starks and Paul Soliai do their jobs up front, Dansby should rack up tackles by the dozen this season.

Teams with three-way battles for the starting quarterback job do not have a long history of success in the National Football League.

Any attempt to write off the acquisition of Chad Ochocinco as simply being about adding a star to the Hard Knocks cast is easily refuted by a look at the depth chart at wide receiver. Ochocinco isn’t the player he was with the Bengals, but he might be just as close to being a number one receiver as anyone else currently in town.

Yeremiah Bell left and Tyrell Johnson arrived, but the Dolphins safeties don’t look any better than they did last season. Considering how many yards opposing offenses threw for last season, that’s not a particularly good thing. Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons and Tyrone Culver are back and perhaps the Dolphins will stumble into a useful duo, but the odds are the rest of the defense will have to carry this weak link.


We’ve already hit the rookie coach, rookie quarterback, the moves at safety and the walking reality show at wide receiver, so let’s move on to the trade of last year’s leading wide receiver. Brandon Marshall’s 81 catches and 1,214 receiving yards were pretty much the entire passing offense last season, so the decision to trade him to Chicago explains why wide receiver features so prominently in their weaknesses. Starting fresh with Philbin may have necessitated trading the volatile Marshall, but it probably won’t help them on the field.

We mentioned Tannehill, who will be playing for his college coach in new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. The Dolphins are moving toward the West Coast offense after Tony Sparano’s more grinding approach, something that will take some time especially without ideal players at key positions like quarterback and wide receiver.

Second-round pick Jonathan Martin replaces Marc Colombo at right tackle, which gives him a strong chance of being seen as an upgrade when the year comes to an end. The Dolphins are solid at center and on the left side, so getting something from Martin would really help the offense.

Jason Taylor retired and Kendall Langford left as a free agent, which means Jared Odrick will have to step up to a more prominent role at defensive end. He had six sacks last season, but wasn’t good enough against the run.

Camp Battles.

Tannehill will resume his battle with David Garrard and Matt Moore when camp opens, although he’s positioned as the longshot at this point. Garrard is reportedly in the lead despite missing last year with a back injury and never playing in the offense before, which might leave Moore in position to take over midseason when a starter falters for the third time in his career. Or Moore could win the job and try to better his brief stint as the Panthers starting quarterback. Either way, it will prove to be the best drama on HBO since John From Cincinnati.

If Philbin’s Green Bay tenure is any guide, there will be playing time for all the tight ends on the roster but it will be interesting to see how the order shakes out. Although Anthony Fasano has been a capable starter, Charles Clay and rookie Michael Egnew could wind up being better fits for the offense as the season plays out. Clay could become a Swiss Army knife type player based on what he flashed in 2011.

The Dolphins signed Richard Marshall from the Cardinals and say that they will use him in the slot with Vontae Davis and Sean Smith outside. Smith struggled last season, though, and if he picks up where he left off the Dolphins might revisit their initial thoughts on the matter.


In some cases, winning six of your last nine games would be cause for optimism about the year to come. That’s not really the case in Miami where so much has changed from that team.

Better days may yet be ahead, but the shift in schemes and philosophies and the drafting of Tannehill make this look like a year to use as a bridge to those better days. The defense should be okay and they always played hard last year, but an okay defense and effort isn’t going to cover for the flaws on the offensive side of the ball too often.

The problem could come if they do it often enough to have the team in contention for a playoff spot at 6-6 entering Week 14, which isn’t unthinkable when you look at their schedule. Figuring out if Tannehill’s the leader for your offense would be a fine development for the Dolphins, but it will be hard to do if he isn’t the quarterback at that point.

It’s a nice problem to have, of course, but if the Dolphins are gonna need Tannehill to work out for them if they want to wait another 30 years before picking a quarterback in the first round.

44 responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 27: Miami Dolphins

  1. I think Garrard is going to suprise a lot of people next season. I predict that Garrard will be the Comeback Player Of The Year. He played at a pretty high level in Jacksonville for years with absolutely nobody to throw to. Granted, he doesn’t have a whole lot more in Miami but the overall is better.

    Dolphins should be up somewhere around the high 20s, low teens.

  2. The Dolphins might be one of the most underrated teams in the league. A lot of people are picking them last in the division or in the bottom five of the league. I think people are going to be surprised when this team wins 8-9 games and is in playoff contention late in the season.

  3. Miami’s defense has been, and is, significantly better than “ok”. In regards to Marshall, everyone forgets to mention the half dozen dropped TD passes in the first 7 games, not to mention publicly rolling 2 QB’s under the bus. Chicago can have him. I also highly doubt that Philbins offense will actually score LESS than Sparano’s.

    8-9 wins, minimum.

  4. The safeties will likely be Reshad Jones and Jimmie Wilson. Both these guys can play either safety position and should work well together. That gives the DC a little wiggle room for stunts and changing responsibilities.

    The Dolphins are a huge question mark right now. They could play horribly, then again, they could surprise a bunch of people by playing well together. There aren’t many superstars but I will take average talent with the will to win over elite talent just looking out for his own stats. It all boils down to how quickly both squads gel in the new systems. 6-10 or 10-6 are equally possible.

  5. What a ringing endorsement of #85 HA. He’s seriously decling but still better than what’s there is basically what was written. Reggie Bush is only motivated when Kim K is showcasing her new boyfriend .Oh Dolphins…go ask Jim Carrey if he wants to do a 3rd Ace Ventura movie because that’s the only way people will remember that this franchise exists brother.

  6. Thankfully D coordinator Coyne’s strong suit is the secondary so our safety position should improve.

    Watch for Clay to really fit the system and don’t bet against Garrard. I’ll feel a whole lot better for my team if Tannehill doesn’t see the field this year.

    The new kids from Miami have a real shot to provide immediate help.

    I’ll be real pleased with 8 wins given all of the changes.

  7. Upon closer inspection…Miami finished last season 6-3. They also lost heartbreakers to Denver, Dallas and the Giants.

    They only lost ONE game in their last 11 by more than a field goal. To be fair, that doesn’t sound like the 27th ranked team in the league.

    They did not lose a meaningful FA and added good depth and likely starters in the draft. Martin is a gigantic upgrade over Colombo at RT. The only tangible loss is Marshall but Ochocinco will probably at least catch the ones in his hands that Marshall dropped.

  8. You should ask all the team the dolphin defense smothered last year if they should be ranked 27th

  9. The biggest knock on Tannehill is that he’s having problems with the NFL’s gamespeed.

    If that is the case, he should still turn out to be a wonderful QB after some time under center.

    That’s a coachable/trainable issue. Other than that small questionmark, the kid has a great skillset and a prototypical QB type body.

  10. the phins will surprise a lot of people this year. Their defense is stout. The st is stout and their offense with philbin will be at least as good as last year. They won 6 of their last 9 last year and lost a heart breaker to giants, dallas and denver. Games they should have won.
    I think they’ll be an 8-8 team at a minimum.

  11. I think they take a step back from last year. New coaches, new philosophies. Defense is okay, not great. I think the Bills are better, the Jets may be better, but I don’t think so. i see them going 1-5 in the division, beating only the Jets. Lose 2 to NE and Buffalo. Just to many ifs with this team.

  12. Someone please explain how in the world ANYBODY thinks the bills are better than the Phins???? just because you got Mario Williams does NOT make you a contender. Offense still will suck mediocre qb, Jackson is wrong side of 30 and spiller is a glorified 3rd down back Stevie Johnson is ok but really who do they have on the other side or in the slot? also who is their TE? anyone know?? they still have a crappy unproven all around Oline, Wow so their defense got better big deal they still have no Linebackers, and an injury prone secondary. Not to mention a overhyped specail teams unit Mormon statistaclly has nothing on Fields who consistantly booms punts 50- 60 yards and drops teams within their own 10

  13. if garrard is the starter, fins are in BIG trouble. dude has zero escapeability and a long slow release, moore is decent ,probably should be the guy initially. tannahill will be in there by week 8 or 9, 5-11 for the year, i hope they beat the jets twice !

  14. Mark it down the Bills win one for “Ralphie” season will be a huge let down. Ralph Wilson will never see the playoffs again. Buffalo is a historic bottom feeder team and mostly irrelevant it’s sad when your team is most known for losing your 4 only superbowls straight and it’s the smallest saddest excuse for a NFL city can’t wait for Bills to be sold and moved to LA or Toronto.

  15. The Dolphins have a new head coach, new offensive cordinator, new defenseive cordinator, a new offense to learn a new defense to learn and I expect them to finish in the bottom of their division — maybe 4-12. This coming from a dolfan.

  16. There is a false sense of optimism that comes with a new coach, new scheme, etc., but there simply is not an abundance of talent on this team on offense and zero playmakers in the secondary. The young tight ends could be pleasant surprises and Bush and Miller should be fun to watch in this offense, but until they have a receiver that other teams have to even remotely consider double-covering, it’s more of the same. Moore/Garrard, Garrard/Moore…….what’s the difference?

    Philbin seems like a great guy and a great coach, but you still need players.

  17. “The Dolphins have a new head coach, new offensive cordinator, new defenseive cordinator, a new offense to learn a new defense to learn and I expect them to finish in the bottom of their division — maybe 4-12. This coming from a dolfan”

    Last time phins had a new coach, new qb and new defense they went 11-5.

    Why are people underestimating this defense so bad? And why are you talking about Dansby as if he was just signed as a fa?

  18. dilberry says:Jul 11, 2012 6:07 PM

    The fins aren’t even the worse team in their division.

    This is highly debatable. Buffalo sucks too but im thinking Miami is worse. they really have no one on offense. Garrard and Moore are bad news and Tannehil needs time to develop. Ocho Cinco as your #1 WR says it all. No way Reggie Bush averages 5.0 yards a carry again.

  19. actually there is one dolphins receiver who can handle coverage from any corner in the nfl and win on a constant basis Devone Bess. If you look at the tapes against the jets whenever revis has had to cover Bess, Bess has won. reason being Bess is easily one of the best slot wr’s in the nfl along with being one of the best route runners with great hands. Everyone points out we don’t have a good WR well Bess had 50 plus catches a season before Marshall came to Miami and last time I checked we won the division in 08 with alot less at wr than we have now

  20. Speaking of 2008.. Funny thing all the stuff everyone is trashing Miami for seems exactly like deja vue. Let’s Compare in 08 they had a retread injury prone QB (pennington) … Garrard Anyone? they had no noteable WR’s Ginn, Camarillo, and an undrafted slot guy Bess well top 3 this year Chad Johnson, Hartline and Bess, New Coach (sparano) this year Philbin, New Offense, New Defense well what do you know same this time. Also this time better Defensive personal and a better Oline than in 08. The Schedule… get this is almost exactly the same weird huh? Who was the running backs in 08? Brown and Williams I’d say Bush, Thomas, Miller and Slaton are much better. I’m seeing alot of things the same but this time the team is overall better player wise and is going to be very high tempo which also conditions the players better. All the Miami media says how incredibly fast the offensive tempo is , you gotta think this will condition the defense to be able to keep up with it which will benifit them playing two minute drills and teams like New England

  21. attention all crazy jags fans. blaine gabbert is your quarterback. i repeat: blaine gabbert is your quarterback. and the guy who is supposed to be goober’s go-to guy would rather be pre-gaming with the hard-core alcoholics at 9am on sundays.

  22. brianric says:
    Jul 11, 2012 7:00 PM
    actually there is one dolphins receiver who can handle coverage from any corner in the nfl and win on a constant basis Devone Bess. If you look at the tapes against the jets whenever revis has had to cover Bess, Bess has won. reason being Bess is easily one of the best slot wr’s in the nfl along with being one of the best route runners with great hands. Everyone points out we don’t have a good WR well Bess had 50 plus catches a season before Marshall came to Miami and last time I checked we won the division in 08 with alot less at wr than we have now
    this! this a million times this! plus he rarely drops passes… hes had a few dummy moments but compared to marshal hes got glue on his hands

  23. 27th? c’mon man!!

    I cant wait to see Vernon blow up a QB! And subsequently get fined!

    If only Tanny was the answer…. Wont find out for a few years anyway..

  24. attention all crazy jags fans. blaine gabbert is your quarterback. i repeat: blaine gabbert is your quarterback.


    Lemme know when the fins decide which of their options @QB is the lesser evil. One of the worst group of skill players in FB.

  25. @brianric,
    Nice post but you didn’t mention one thing that this team has. Leadership–on the field, and on the sidelines. Marshall was kicked to the curb for two reasons 1) He was a horrible team leader and a me first guy that routinely threw his QBs under the bus. 2) He dropped a ton of balls and they were all critical 3rd down drive killers or certain TDs. Philbin’s style is muche better suited for this team than Sparano’s–and I liked Tony when he wasn’t talking to the press or botching things in the final 5 minutes of each half.

  26. As a Lions fan, all I can say is it’s glad to finally not have to be involved in these discussions about who’s team is crappier. “You’re the crappiest!” “No YOU’RE the crappiest!”

  27. Someone please explain how in the world ANYBODY thinks the bills are better than the Phins????


    Bills started out 5-2 before injuries and a suspect defense caught up to a team that wasn’t deep. They fixed a lot of their problems with a great offseason(unlike the fins). That’s why they’re the big ‘sleeper team’ this season.

    Kinda funny to read posts from fans of teams arguing about who should be ranked 27th or 30th.

  28. As a Dolphins fan, I can more or less agree with this ranking. I think we’ve got plenty of key pieces that haven’t caught the rest of the league’s eye yet, but bottom line this is a REBUILDING team. That might sting to some people who want to see us contending for Superbowls tomorrow, but it’s gonna take more than one year before this team looks the way Philbin imagines it should. Although I don’t believe we’ll be picking top 10 next year (as much as I’d love to draft a blue chip wideout) I don’t think we’ll break 9 wins. And I’m okay with that for 2012.

    Come 2013 when everyone knows what this team is about, expectations are higher.

    And for these random Jags fans that seem to think they’re better than Miami… Our defense is better and our Backup QB outperformed your “franchise” QB last year. Lesser of two evils indeed.

  29. “Signing Karlos Dansby is something the Dolphins go right.” Are you kidding me??? They made a good linebacker with zero Pro Bowls the highest paid linebacker in the NFL. It was such an absurd signing that the Redskins cancelled their visit after their heard how much the Dolphins offered.

  30. The Dolphins are a Top 10 defense with top 20 offensive unit with many deficiencies but enough to squeak out some wins.

    It’s a 10 win team that lost it’s first 7 because of terrible conditioning and the lock out. The new up-tempo offense will make a huge difference. Lets not forget mostly every year this team hangs in there against the Pats and hasnt been able to close those games.

    Watch out for these Dolphins, they might be a surprise playoff team in 2012

  31. I’ve watched enough football in my day to know that not one person on this site knows how good/bad the fins will be and that’s what makes football that GREAT!!!! Nobody predicted the Giants winning last year or a few years back and barely anybody picked Green-Bay the year before. Point being….the fins have a ton of talent but you need to have the right talent in the right system. Sporano did not have to right type of players nor was he that great of a coach always cheering for FGs. Green Bay doesn’t have amazing receivers but they have an amazing system that those WRs fit in. The year before the saints won the SB they went 6-10. Philbin’s system has to be better than Sporano’s and that alone has me sleeping better at nights. GO FINS!!!!!! reggie bush 2000 all purpose yards, you heard it here first!!!!

  32. The recipe for success in the NFL these days seems to be have a good QB with a great D-Line. Buffalo’s Fitzpatrick is a far better QB than any QB on Miami’s roster. Through the 1st 8 games before Fitz got hurt Buffalo’s offense was one of the best in the league scoring over 30pts per game. On offense the only thing Miami may have on the Bills is O-line but Buffalo’s ain’t far behind, and TEs. Buffalo has better QBs, RBs, and WRs. On defense Miami I would say has better LBs but Buffalo by FAR has a better D-line and secondary.

    Buffalo > Miami

  33. The number one weakness is the O line…. Ending up 30th in the league in protection will kill your team every time.

    The number two weakness was Marshall… If your go to guy drops 5 heartbreaker games in the end zone, he’s not your guy…. Good luck with that bears….

    The funniest thing here is all the Bills fans jumping on this thread trying to substantiate being 3rd in the division…. Lol….

  34. The Dolphins hurt their chances of making the playoffs by not drafting a WR at number eight in the first round. However to place a team # 27 that were beating both Super Bowl teams until the final minute is just not correct. If Matt Moore does not win the job after being the number 12 passer in the NFL with the lack of protection he got from the worst RT in the NFL then the Dolphins will have themselves a very good QB. The Dolphins upgraded by now having tight ends that can contribute to the passing game. The Dolphins defensive personnel are better suited for the 4-3 which they will mostly play and the defense was not the problem last season. One of the problems was dinosaur Tony Sparano who will help the Jets lose this season. Moreover the Dolphins can put Reggie Bush in the slot or the rookie from the Miami Hurricanes Miller, who has exceptional speed. The Dolphins will be a pass to set up the run Westcoast offense this season without a major weapon at WR but with more speed in the slot (Bush & Miller) and at tight end (Clay & Egnew). In addition to better protection on the right side of the line the Dolphins will move the ball on offense and be better than this preseason ranking shows.

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