PFT preseason power rankings No. 11: Miami Dolphins

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Five weeks into the 2016 season, it looked like the change to Adam Gase at head coach wouldn’t do anything to change the franchise’s fortunes.

They were 1-4 and a competent kicking performance from the Browns in Week Three would have had the Dolphins looking up at the rest of the league with an 0-5 record. The offense was floundering, the defense wasn’t stout enough and there was little joy in South Florida.

The next 11 weeks went a lot better. Jay Ajayi, who was left at home in Week One in a coach’s decision, ran for 204 yards and the defense stifled the Steelers in a 30-15 win that touched off a 9-1 run that lifted the Dolphins into the postseason for the first time since 2008. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury helped ensure the Dolphins’ stay in the playoffs was a short one, but the final result of the year was unquestionably positive.

Tannehill is healthy again, the other key offensive pieces remain in place and there’s reason to believe the defense will be better, all of which adds up to optimism about the direction the Dolphins are headed.

Biggest positive change: The Dolphins were outscored by 17 points overall last season, which didn’t stop coordinator Vance Joseph from landing a head coaching job but made it little surprise that defense was a primary focus this offseason.

They used five of their seven picks on defenders and picked up linebacker Lawrence Timmons, defensive end William Hayes, safety Nate Allen and safety T.J. McDonald as veteran additions. They also get safety Reshad Jones back after last year’s season-ending rotator cuff injury, so there’s reason to hope the results will be better under new coordinator Matt Burke.

Biggest negative change: There’s no one transaction or development to point to as the Dolphins held onto Jones and wide receiver Kenny Stills while left tackle Branden Albert was traded to make room for Laremy Tunsil. That leaves us with the biggest potential negative change and it could be the turn of the calendar.

The Dolphins went 8-2 in one-score games last season and the wins that followed the Week Six win over the Steelers came against many of the weaker teams that the league had to offer in 2016. Teams like the Raiders, Falcons and Chiefs are on this year’s schedule after the Rams and 49ers appeared on last year’s slate, which may set the stage for a regression even if the execution isn’t markedly different.

Coaching thermometer: As cool as a seat can get in the Miami summer. Not only did Gase take the team from 6-10 to 10-6 and into the playoffs, he also saw several moves pay off in a major way. Benching Ajayi at the start of the season looked smart while he was running for 1,272 yards in the next 15 games and his strong show of faith in Tannehill was rewarded with the quarterback’s best season.

Even missteps like shuffling Cameron Wake to a situational role wound up with a positive as Gase was able to admit he was wrong and change directions. That flexibility is important and one of many signs that the Dolphins found the right guy in Gase.

We’d like to crack a beer with … Jarvis Landry. Landry made the boldest statement of the Dolphins offseason when he said they’ll beat the Patriots twice in 2017. We’d like to follow up on that and hear about his desire for a new contract after catching 288 passes in his first three seasons.

How they can prove us wrong: Landry is probably going to have to be right about the results of those games with the Patriots for this ranking to be ridiculously low come the end of the year.

It could look too high if Center Mike Pouncey’s ongoing hip issues lead to more missed time and more shuffling on an offensive line that hasn’t been good enough, Ajayi can’t find the heights of his three games of more than 200 rushing yards and the defensive changes don’t lead to better results with cornerback looming as a potential trouble spot again this year.

45 responses to “PFT preseason power rankings No. 11: Miami Dolphins

  1. Almost can’t believe Adam Gase managed to get this team to the playoffs without it’s starting QB (Ryan Tannehill), starting Center (Mike Pouncey), starting TE (Jordan Cameron), 2 starting LBs (Jelani Jenkins & Koa Misi), 2 starting Safeties (Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus) and a starting CB (Byron Maxwell). 5 starters on your defense is literally just about half of it.

    Miami finally has a coach that can create an effective game plan and adjust to line-up changes due to injury.

  2. irkjames says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:15 PM
    Almost can’t believe Adam Gase managed to get this team to the playoffs without it’s starting QB (Ryan Tannehill), starting Center (Mike Pouncey), starting TE (Jordan Cameron), 2 starting LBs (Jelani Jenkins & Koa Misi), 2 starting Safeties (Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus) and a starting CB (Byron Maxwell). 5 starters on your defense is literally just about half of it.

    Miami finally has a coach that can create an effective game plan and adjust to line-up changes due to injury.

    ————–
    Every team deals with injuries by the end of the year. Yes Miami made it to the playoffs…..and they got drubbed. No way this team should be ranked ahead of Denver.

  3. Lots of talent on both sides of the ball. The front office could effect a massive leap forward if they were able to land someone like Kirk Cousins in free agency.

  4. “They were 1-4 and a competent kicking performance from the Browns in Week Three would have had the Dolphins looking up at the rest of the league with an 0-5 record.”
    ——————————————-

    The season could have gotten off to a much better start if not for an incompetent dropped TD against Seattle in week 1.

    Any other team in the league outside of maybe a few would be labeled as a team that knows how to win by going 8-2 in one score games. But because Miami did they are just lucky, despite doing that with most of their starters out. Jones, Abdul Qaddus, Pouncey, Albert, Tunsil, Ajayi, Tannehill, Maxwell, Misi, Howard all missed time for one reason or another and they still won 10 games and made the playoffs.

  5. I have zero faith in Tannehill. However, that defense scares me. This it Miami! Prove it! You know you aren’t keeping Suh in 2018 so can you make a deep playoff push?

  6. mgoliva12gmailcom says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:31 PM
    You Broncos homers are killing me. No matter what you think of Tannehill….he is far better than any QB on Denver’s roster. And it isn’t even close

    ________________________________________

    When were the fish actually relevant? The 70’s? Oh right. You have ZERO room to talk.

  7. What a joke! Miami won several games against the worst teams in football. Bills twice, Browns in OT, 49ers, Jets twice and the Rams. All of their victories were close and their average loss was 17 points.

    Their only quality victory came against the Steelers in Miami… the same team that beat them mercilessly in the playoffs.

    If QB play counts; Tannehill finished his 5th season as a starter and basically had a career year. His QBR was about 56… just good enough to be a top 25 QB in the league.

    Can’t count on a dominant running game either; Ajayi has had a total of four 100+ games in his career. Ajayi also averaged 3.7 ypc through the last 8-9 games of 2016… 2 of his 4 above average games came against one of the worst run D’s in the league… the Bills (ranked 29th).

    Ajayi is also 1 dimensional catching about 20 passes in his NFL career.

  8. mgoliva12gmailcom says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:31 PM
    You Broncos homers are killing me. No matter what you think of Tannehill….he is far better than any QB on Denver’s roster. And it isn’t even close
    ___________________________________

    And your fish couldn’t even beat my Broncos when Tim Tebow was QB. Again, ZERO ROOM.

  9. mgoliva12gmailcom says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:31 PM
    You Broncos homers are killing me. No matter what you think of Tannehill….he is far better than any QB on Denver’s roster. And it isn’t even close
    ————————————————-
    Simien was ranked ahead of Tannehill in total QBR last year… closer than would like to admit.

  10. The Dolphins will be lucky to go 7-9 this season for the following reasons….

    The defense is possibly the worst in the NFL.
    The offensive line is always incomplete.
    The quarterback cannot win meaningful games in the 4th quarter.
    The schedule is much harder in 2017.

  11. Here, look, I can do it too.

    The Broncos didn’t beat anybody last season. All their win’s came against non playoff teams except for beating the Texans with Brock Osweiler and the Raiders with Matt McGloin. They will miss the playoffs because their schedule is stronger blah blah blah. See, it’s easy.

  12. Gase did a great job in 2016 and should have been coach of the year however the personal decisions before he arrived will hurt the Dolphins for years to come, Miami fans can thank Jeffie for most of it.
    Draft classes from a couple years ago are all gone.
    Sad but true.

  13. RandyinRoxbury says:
    Jul 20, 2017 4:01 PM
    The Dolphins will be lucky to go 7-9 this season for the following reasons….

    The defense is possibly the worst in the NFL.
    The offensive line is always incomplete.
    The quarterback cannot win meaningful games in the 4th quarter.
    The schedule is much harder in 2017.
    ———————————————————————–
    Four assertions. Three are wrong.
    1. Defense worst in the NFL. Last year they were 18th in points allowed. They had 5 starters out and one playing hurt. Their 1st two draft picks were on defense. They got FA. They will be a top 15 defense this year.
    2. OL incomplete. Check. No depth (like most of the NFL). But valid point.
    3. QB can’t win meaningful games in the 4th QTR. Wrong.
    Last year he won 3 (Buffalo 1st, San Diego and Rams). Over his career he has 12 4th Qtr comebacks- two more than Aaron Rodgers.
    4. Schedule is much harder in 2017. Bunk. In 2016 they played against 6 games against teams that made the playoffs in 15. Had two games against the Jets who were a 10 win team. In 17 they only have five games against teams that made the playoffs last year.

  14. The Broncos over Dolphins comments came from one Patriots fan.

    You know, the team that has absolutely owned your garbage division for the better part of two decades.

    OJ Simspon was still beloved by America the last time the Dolphins were remotely relevant. Wrap your sun-addled minds around that.

  15. If you think about it there is not much of difference between teams in the 10-20 range. The 11th best team in the league is usually a wild a card team which isn’t always that much better than an 8-8 team. Usually the difference is 1 or 2 games.

    With a much harder schedule, the Fins will have to take a step forward to make the playoffs again, but being ranked above Denver is not as farfetched as these pony fans are making it out to be. The Broncos play in perhaps the toughest division in football whereas we get the Jets twice this year. While the Bills have some talent they would probably be the worst team in the AFC West. Also, even though the Broncos may have more overall talent than the Fins, Denver has big question marks at the two most important positions in the NFL: head coach and QB. How Joseph and Lynch/Siemian turn out will likely determine how far the Broncos go. Also, lets not pretend their defense last year was as good as it was the super bowl year and now it’s another year older. I wouldn’t have had an issue if Denver was ranked above us, but lets not pretend the Broncos are an elite team. Only way that changes is if one of their young QBs takes a huge leap.

  16. randyschwimmer7 says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:46 PM
    mgoliva12gmailcom says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:31 PM
    You Broncos homers are killing me. No matter what you think of Tannehill….he is far better than any QB on Denver’s roster. And it isn’t even close
    ________________________________________
    When were the fish actually relevant? The 70’s? Oh right. You have ZERO room to talk.
    ==================================
    Speaking of lacking relevance, the Broncos finished 3rd in their division and didn’t even make the playoffs last year. Hopefully Broncos fans enjoyed 2011-2015 and their Super Bowl victory in that time, because the run is over.

  17. billswillnevermove says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:54 PM
    More like 20, not 11. What a joke.

    ———————

    12 teams make the playoffs. Miami made the playoffs last year.

    Assume Patriots, Oakland, Pittsburg and Houston win the divisions in the AFC.

    Miami is competing with who for WC spot? KC, Denver, Indy, Tenn, Cinci, Balt.

    I think Miami and KC and Cinci are the most likely two on that list at the moment. Cinci has an easy schedule. KC are good.

    Miami schedule is pretty tough. I would give them 3rd best shot. So that probably puts them at 13 in my ranking. Definitely not as low as 20.

  18. ancient-mariner says:
    Jul 20, 2017 4:43 PM
    I’m a huge Miami fan but this seems high to me. A lot needs to go right for this to be justified.

    ———–

    If you are ranking Miami much lower then that you are saying they can’t make the playoffs.

  19. Miami Schedule Analysis

    vs Tampa Bay – W
    @ Los Angeles – W
    @ New York – W
    vs New Orleans – W
    vs Tennessee – W
    @ Atlanta – L
    vs New York – W
    @ Baltimore – W
    vs Oakland – L
    @ Carolina – W
    @ New England – L
    vs Denver – W
    vs New England – L
    @ Buffalo – W
    @ Kansas City – L
    vs Buffalo – W

    That has them at 11-5. Lets say they lose @ Carolina or @ Balt. That has them at 10-6. They can definitely make the playoffs if they take care of business in winnable games.

    Maybe not the best of luck to catch a Florida team in the first game when you have the heat advantage, but at least it’s at home.

  20. bullcharger says:
    Jul 20, 2017 6:49 PM
    Miami Schedule Analysis

    vs Tampa Bay – W
    @ Los Angeles – W
    @ New York – W
    vs New Orleans – W
    vs Tennessee – W
    @ Atlanta – L
    vs New York – W
    @ Baltimore – W
    vs Oakland – L
    @ Carolina – W
    @ New England – L
    vs Denver – W
    vs New England – L
    @ Buffalo – W
    @ Kansas City – L
    vs Buffalo – W

    That has them at 11-5. Lets say they lose @ Carolina or @ Balt. That has them at 10-6. They can definitely make the playoffs if they take care of business in winnable games.

    Maybe not the best of luck to catch a Florida team in the first game when you have the heat advantage, but at least it’s at home.

    ———–
    They could also easily lose to NO, Baltimore, Tenn, Carolina and Tampa Bay.

  21. I think miami is high. Broncos spot is legit.
    Broncos lost wade phillips, Thats why the broncos dropped. Fin fans you should be spot 20.

  22. Tannehill finished his 5th season as a starter and basically had a career year. His QBR was about 56… just good enough to be a top 25 QB in the league.
    ——————————————-
    Nice try….. Tannehill’s QBR was 93.5 for 2016!

  23. Last 8 seasons. Never less than 6 wins. Never more than 10 wins. They’re the perennial not terrible but a not contender team.

  24. The Dolphins were one of 12 playoff teams, so being ranked 11th isn’t far from where they finished last year.
    They didn’t lose talent in the offseason as they have in previous years, and in fact they improve their TE situation, added some depth and natural position players on the OL. They focused on improving the LB positions, and overall defense.
    Ajayi was a 2nd string RB until Foster retired.
    Fasano and Larsen are much better blockers than we had last year.
    Cameron and Sims were often injured and were viable in the red zone.

    Such isn’t going anywhere, Ross loves him too much and the Fins have seemed to be a comfortable fit for Suh. Timmons will add toughness and leadership and along with Alonso and our rookie should be better than the rotating special teams guys we used last year. We have good safety depth but the LB/CB are unproven and still a weak spot.

    They may not be Patriot killers yet, but under Gase you can see change, in performance, confidence and attitude.

    To all the Bronco posts, when was the last time THESE Broncos were relevant? It was a different coach/staff/QB and more that won the SuperBowl.

    Right now, we’re all 0-0 until Week 1.

  25. nhpats says:
    Jul 20, 2017 9:13 PM
    bullcharger says:
    Jul 20, 2017 6:49 PM
    Miami Schedule Analysis

    vs Tampa Bay – W
    @ Los Angeles – W
    @ New York – W
    vs New Orleans – W
    vs Tennessee – W
    @ Atlanta – L
    vs New York – W
    @ Baltimore – W
    vs Oakland – L
    @ Carolina – W
    @ New England – L
    vs Denver – W
    vs New England – L
    @ Buffalo – W
    @ Kansas City – L
    vs Buffalo – W

    That has them at 11-5. Lets say they lose @ Carolina or @ Balt. That has them at 10-6. They can definitely make the playoffs if they take care of business in winnable games.

    Maybe not the best of luck to catch a Florida team in the first game when you have the heat advantage, but at least it’s at home.

    ———–
    They could also easily lose to NO, Baltimore, Tenn, Carolina and Tampa Bay.

    ———

    I agree. Just saying those games are winnable. 3 of them are at home and Baltimore isn’t a world beater at the moment.

    It’s probably true that those 4 games are maybe the most important on the schedule starting with game 1.

  26. And those 2 L’s to N.E. are turned into W’s the Fins take the division.

  27. gllmiaspr says:
    Jul 20, 2017 5:24 PM

    3. QB can’t win meaningful games in the 4th QTR. Wrong.
    Last year he won 3 (Buffalo 1st, San Diego and Rams). Over his career he has 12 4th Qtr comebacks- two more than Aaron Rodgers.
    4. Schedule is much harder in 2017. Bunk. In 2016 they played against 6 games against teams that made the playoffs in 15. Had two games against the Jets who were a 10 win team. In 17 they only have five games against teams that made the playoffs last year.
    ————————

    All games are meaningful, there are only 16 of them but 4th qtr comebacks against those 3 teams is hardly the stuff of legend. Bunk?? The schedule is much harder this year. The Jets were a 10 win team in ’15 not 16, they were pathetic last year. The Phins played the 2 worst divisions in football last year and get 2 of the strongest this year.
    As a long time Phinatic I am very pleased they are headed in the right direction but we need to be realistic. There may be a step back this season before there is a leap forward and that’s fine as long as the team continues building toward something sustainable. Being unable to appreciate the difficulty of that schedule and lying to yourself about the ease of last year’s just leads to setting ridiculous expectations and then trolling when they aren’t met.

  28. randyschwimmer7 says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:46 PM
    mgoliva12gmailcom says:
    Jul 20, 2017 3:31 PM
    You Broncos homers are killing me. No matter what you think of Tannehill….he is far better than any QB on Denver’s roster. And it isn’t even close
    _________________________________

    When were the fish actually relevant? The 70’s? Oh right. You have ZERO room to talk.

    _________________________________

    Perhaps I don’t understand these ranks, but it was my impression that they are for the upcoming season and not prior ones. FYI, is Living in the Past your favorite song?

  29. The AFC is a lot more fun when the Raiders, Dolphins, and Steelers are contenders.

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