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2016 Team Report: Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Ryan Tannehill
Backup(s): Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty [R], Zac Dysert

Starting QB: Once again we find ourselves looking at a Ryan Tannehill season as one of the most critical of his career. However, this time is a little different as the regime which drafted him and then signed him to a contract extension is out. New head coach Adam Gase has no loyalty to Tannehill, so if the fifth year quarterback doesn't improve, that could be all she wrote. On the plus side, we have seen Tannehill improve each season and last season saw his "bad decisions" rate (seriously) drop to just 0.7 percent. In other words, according to ESPN's KC Joyner (per the Miami Herald), he made "mental errors leading to a potential turnover" on less than one percent of his throws. While we might be able to dispute that overall, Gase was brought in to fix the offense and Tannehill is already studying the new offense (and also worked with recently retired Peyton Manning, who worked under Gase in Denver) and expects to have more freedom at the line of scrimmage. That could be a very good thing or a horrible thing - but it certainly means that by the end of the year Gase should know if Tannehill is his guy.

Backup QB: Ryan Tannehill is very durable, so the group behind him can't expect to get on the field often. Matt Moore came back on a two-year contract for low money and the 32-year old backup is a limited "break glass in case of emergency option." Rookie Brandon Doughty played well at Western Kentucky, but lacks NFL-arm strength and isn't very athletic. He could become a solid backup but that's his ceiling. Zac Dysert was cut by the Houston Texans back in November for Brandon Weeden which is a pretty firm indication of his ability. He's never played a snap in the NFL but has a decent arm and showed coolness under pressure in college. His accuracy is an issue and could keep him from sticking in Miami.

Running Backs

Starter: Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster
Backup(s): Damien Williams, Kenyan Drake (KR), Isaiah Pead, Daniel Thomas
Fullback(s): MarQueis Gray

Starting RB: The Dolphins let Lamar Miller walk away in free agency, so the starting role at running back is up for grabs. While he barely touched the ball in 2015, Jay Ajayi seems the presumptive leader in the backfield. New head coach Adam Gase raved about him to the Palm Beach Post back in April, saying "Just being able to see him move around, it was very impressive for me to see him in person. The way he cut in some of the run game schemes ... I mean, I'm really excited to see what we can do going forward." Gase later told the Miami Herald that Ajayi was definitely the starter. While the team courted several other backs, they didn't get any, so Ajayi will get first crack. As Footballguy Alessandro Miglio wrote post-draft "not only did the Dolphins forego an early-round running back--Miami's selection of oft-injured change-of-pace back from Running Back Bust U Kenyon Drake notwithstanding--after letting Lamar Miller walk, but the offensive line might actually be halfway decent in South Florida this year." Of course, of concern is Ajayi's knee, which has damaged cartilage due to an ACL tear in 2011. If the knee holds up and he stays healthy, he could provide production on all three downs and his speed, physicality and agility make him dangerous. Foster has had a great preseason and should be in line to trade off series with Ajayi. His running between the tackles has seen better days, but Foster is still one of the best receiving backs in the league and he should be useful in PPR leagues as long as he stays healthy.

Backup RBs: In two seasons, Damien Williams has totaled just 52 carries and 181 yards, despite being the clear number two last season. It seems like he'll be on the bench again this year unless Jay Ajayi either underperforms or gets hurt, though there are rumors that the team could go with the dreaded "hot hand" - and even then, Williams may not get the nod as the Miami Herald reported in May that third-round Kenyon Drake could get any touches Ajayi doesn't. Drake brings tremendous speed to the table and h can do a little bit of everything, though he never carried the full load in college having been behind Eddie Lacy, TJ Yeldon and then Derrick Henry at Alabama. As that's the case, expect him to be more of a third-down guy who contributes on special teams first. He has the skills to become a quality backup though, so he could leapfrog Williams in camp. Isaiah Pead is a camp body who hasn't carried the ball since 2013 and couldn't even get on the field for Pittsburgh when Le'Veon Bell was hurt. Daniel Thomas is also likely just a body for camp and his ball security issues have been what has held him back as much as anything else. He was out of the league in 2015 and we don't see him as a serious threat to Williams or Drake this season.

Fullback: MarQueis Gray is an H-back type who will line up as a blocking back as often as at tight end. He's bounced around the league for three years and has yet to make an impact. He may not stick through the whole of camp and we'll see how much Adam Gase wants to use a fullback or blocking back.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills
Backups: Leonte Carroo [R], Jakeem Grant [R], Rashawn Scott [R], Brandon Shippen[R], Matt Hazel, Griff Whalen, A.J. Cruz, Tyler Murphy

Starting WRs: After a breakout year in 2015, where he topped 1,000 yards and 100 receptions, Jarvis Landry is looking for even more opportunities in Adam Gase's offense. He's expected to line up outside more, rather than in the slot, and could be in line for a ton more big plays. While he may not see as many targets, they will likely be of higher quality. Assuming Ryan Tannehill continues to progress, hopefully we'll see Landry's touchdown total go up from four, which was actually down from five the previous year. Gase's offense should open things up a bit and Landry should have more success in it. DeVante Parker is likely to move into the X (or split end) spot which is a high volume spot in Gase's offense. Another player who Gase has gushed over (per the Miami Herald), Parker's hands, body control and overall physical makeup could help him replicate what Gase has done with Demaryius Thomas is Denver and Alshon Jeffery in Chicago. Parker had a foot issue in 2015, so if he's healthy we could see a big uptick in his production. Gase has said several times that he wanted to trade for Stills when he was with Chicago, and the summer that Stills had showed that he has confidence in his ability to get and stay on the field for the Dolphins. He is looking more prominent in the rotation than DeVante Parker and has been a favorite third down target for Tannehill.

Backup WRs: The Dolphins traded three picks to move up and grab former Rutgers receiver Leonte Carroo in the recent draft, so you can assume he will push Stills for reps. Carroo dropped in part because of off field issues (notably an assault charge and a curfew issue both of which saw him suspended for all of or part of games), but is a very productive, aggressive and big bodied receiver. A natural fit for the slot in this offense, his route running ability could really allow him to line up anywhere in the formation. Fellow rookie Jakeem Grant will likely be Jarvis Landry's replacement on kick returns, and that's where he'll have to make his mark as he is way too undersized to see consistent looks in the offense. More intriguing is Rashawn Scott, a rookie out of the University of Miami who has great focus and an ability to high-point the ball and make contested catches. However, like Carroo, Scott he's had issues with suspensions from the team but without the high-end potential Carroo has. Brandon Shippen is a small school prospect who played in every game while at Temple but had limited production and while he possess speed and explosiveness, also seems pretty raw. Matt Hazel appeared in all of five games last year but never caught a pass, and is likely just a warm body for the roster, as is AJ Cruz, who has logged more time in the Arena League than the NFL. Before the draft, Griff Whalen was thought to have a "legitimate" chance to be the No. 4 receiver, as Gase liked his flexibility. Now, with numerous other receivers in the mix post-draft, he's likely to go back to special teams, perhaps returning punts. Tyler Murphy is a quarterback who converted to wide receiver and spent most of his time in Pittsburgh on the practice squad.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jordan Cameron
Backups: Dion Sims, Thomas Duarte [R], MarQueis Gray, Dominique Jones, Gabe Hughes [R]

Despite being a much heralded signing last offseason, Jordan Cameron didn't do much for the Dolphins. His 35 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns were disappointing at best, but the team has said that they believe he was misused last season. New coach Adam Gase has done well with tight ends before, so this bodes well for Cameron in 2016. There are many other passing options in the offense though, so it's unclear how much Cameron will get used compared to Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and rookie Leonte Carroo. Dion Sims missed part of the 2015 season with a concussion, had a solid game in Week 6 and then disappeared, something which has happened all too often in the offense. As outlined in the fullback section, MarQueis Gray is another blocker and in a group crowded with them, his ability to make the roster comes down to whether the team keeps a fullback. Dominique Jones has played in just 13 games over the first three years of his career and wasn't even active in 2015, so consider him a camp body who won't last. Finally, rookies Thomas Duarte and Gabe Hughes are both late round/UDFA prospects with a long way to climb to make the team. Duarte was mostly a straight receiver at UCLA who played a lot out of the slot but can't block. Unless the team moves him to receiver or Duarte improves his blocking, he's a long shot to make the final roster, though he has a lot of upside. Hughes has the physical tools to succeed but too often didn't use them to the fullest when looking at his Florida Tech tape. If he cannot start to put more effort into his play he also won't make the team.

Place Kicker

Andrew Franks, Marshall Koehn [R]: Franks won the job over Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis as an undrafted free agent last year, but only attempted 16 field goals, making 13 of them, although one miss was from 63 yards. He was 33-for-36 on extra points, which was on the low end of the scale for NFL kickers in 2015. This year, the Dolphins brought in another undrafted free agent, Marshall Koehn. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said Koehn reminds him of Franks, so this could be a battle to the very end of the preseason. One that we probably don't care about for fantasy unless Adam Gase and company revitalize this offense in short order.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jakeem Grant, Jarvis Landry, Damien Williams

Originally Miami's top kickoff returner, Jarvis Landry's increased role in the offense cause the Dolphins to scale back his involvement in the return game. Damien Williams was the primary beneficiary of the open opportunity in 2015, but in 2016 both seem to have fallen behind rookie returner Jakeem Grant.

Punt Returners: Jarvis Landry, Jakeem Grant

One of the NFL's workhorses when it comes to punt returns, Jarvis Landry retained his role in 2015 despite heavy use on offense, too, and there's little indication that he'll cede much responsibility in 2016, either. If he does, it will be because electric rookie Jakeem Grant is playing too well on returns not to use.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Branden Albert, LG Laremy Tunsil [R], C Mike Pouncey, RG Jermon Bushrod, RT Ju'Wuan James
Key Backups: Billy Turner, Sam Young, Kraig Urbik, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas

The Dolphins will be thrilled to get Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey back into the lineup. Pouncey was on the shelf for the final two games of last season with a foot injury. Branden Albert made his second Pro Bowl last season, and has quietly been among the better left tackles in the league. He might be replaced by this year's 13th overall pick Laremy Tunsil out of Ole Miss. Tunsil had a public drop during draft night but he is considered a smash mouth prospect from the SEC and his addition elevates this unit to the next level. Right tackle Ju'Wuan James does an effective job, but the right guard position is an open competition between Jermon Bushrod, Kraig Urbik, Billy Turner and Sam Young. Projecting Bushrod to win this competition is based purely on his veteran experience, it could certainly go a different direction. Kraig Urbik and Sam Young will be lurking should Bushrod or the youth movement fail at the position. Overall, the Dolphins can be among the league's better units this season if their high profile first round pick adjusts quickly to life in the league and if they can resolve the right guard situation. Tier Ranking: Mid Tier.

Team Defense

The Dolphins have one of the most fearsome front fours on paper with Cameron Wake returning from an achilles tear and the addition of Mario Williams to go with Ndamukong Suh, but last year's unit was a mess, finishing well outside of the D/ST1 tier they were drafted in. The team could improve with a new head coach and staff, but the cornerback and linebacker positions are vulnerable. Starting the season at Seattle and New England makes it impossible to draft and play the Dolphins D, but when they open at home against Cleveland in Week 3, we'll be looking at them as a streamer.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Cameron Wake, DE Mario Williams, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Earl Mitchell
Backups: DE Andre Branch, DE Dion Jordan

Starting DL: Cameron Wake suffered a torn Achilles in week 7 last year, so there are definite concerns about his health and effectiveness coming into the 2016 season. At 34 years of age, he's already in the twilight of his career but the Dolphins felt confident enough to give him a contract extension through 2017. If he can return to health and play close to his normal level, the Dolphins pass rush should get a huge boost but that's a big question mark. Although he appeared to quit on the Bills last year due to frustrations with how he was being used, Williams is one of the most productive pass rushers in the league and should bounce back in his new environment. He could be a downgrade over Olivier Vernon, however, who left Miami and signed a big deal with the Giants. Ndamukong Suh signed a massive contract a year ago and was criticized for freelancing early on, but he's certainly capable of dominating inside. Earl Mitchell is a solid run defender who does his job, but provides limited upside for fantasy owners.

Backup DL: Andre Branch has been a solid contributor at times for the Jaguars, but he didn't play up to expectations overall. He signed a 1-year deal in Miami and provides some insurance in case Wake is not ready to play much early on. Dion Jordan was a high draft pick who has been a complete bust thus far, but he's apparently been training hard and hoping to make a comeback following his year-long drug suspension. He has been conditionally reinstated and was with the team as camp opened.

Linebackers

Starters: WLB Jelani Jenkins, MLB Kiko Alonso, SLB Koa Misi
Backups: OLB James-Michael Johnson, OLB Spencer Paysinger, ILB Zach Vigil

Starting LBs: Jelani Jenkins had a breakout year in 2014, but took a big step back last year as he played through an ankle injury and saw a huge drop in his production. If healthy, he can be a difference maker on defense and a reliable fantasy starter. Kiko Alonso has only been in the league for 3 years, but he's already been traded twice. He missed most of the last two years with injuries, but was extremely productive as a rookie with the BIlls in 2013. His quickness and cover skills make him an intriguing option in the middle of the Dolphins defense, but his ability to stay on the field is a huge concern at this point. Miami tried to move Koa Misi inside last year, but he was a poor fit there and should be more comfortable on the strong side as a 2-down player.

Backup LBs: The Dolphins don't have great depth at linebacker, but James-Michael Johnson and Spencer Paysinger are both experienced backups who can fill in if called upon. Zach Vigil came into the league as an intriguing undrafted free agent last year, saw some playing time right away, and could be in line for a bigger role this year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: S Reshad Jones, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, CB Byron Maxwell, CB Xavien Howard [R]
Backups: S Walt Aikens, S Michael Thomas, CB Bobby McCain, CB Tony Lippett

Starting DBs: The Dolphins plan to use left and right safeties so neither player figures to line up excluviely on the strong or weak side. Reshad Jones is one of the best and most productive safeties in the league, but he may be asked to do too much given all the question marks around him in this secondary. He's also a potential holdout as he's been skipping the team's voluntary workouts in hope of getting a new contract. Isa Abdul-Quddus emerged as a productive player for the Lions last year, and could help solidify the other safety spot. The corner positions look like a glaring weakspot, however, as Brent Grimes is now in Tampa and will be replaced by Byron Maxwell who suffered through a terrible year with the Eagles. Xavien Howard was also added in the 2nd round of the draft and is expected to compete for a starting spot right away. The Dolphins corners as a group have good size, which should allow them to play more aggressive press coverage this year.

Backup DBs: Walt AIkens and Michael Thomas are both key special teams players who got some starting experience last year after Louis Delmas tore his ACL in camp. Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett are holdovers at corner, who should also be in the mix for significant playing time.

Last modified: 2016-08-29 12:10:45