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2013 Team Report: Miami Dolphins

Quarterbacks

Starter: Ryan Tannehill
Backup(s): Matt Moore, Pat Devlin

Starting QB: Ryan Tannehill had a pretty successful rookie season even if the stats don't make him out to be a Pro Bowler. The Dolphins have added some new faces to a shaky offensive line as well Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller to give the second year starter more protection and weapons. They've also tried hard to improve the defense so the offense isn't having to come back from behind in as many games. It comes down to Tannehill though and he will need to show improved decision making while taking a big step forward. The Dolphins have invested a lot in the off-season and don't look like they are aiming for results down the road. They look as if they are aiming to win now. Whether that happens or not will come down to Tannehill, who they are "all in" on.

Backup QB: Matt Moore lost his job to Ryan Tannehill and then almost never saw the field. Assuming Tannehill stays healthy, Moore won't see more than mop-up duty. If he has to step in, he should do well enough given the weapons the offense has, but he's no more than a space filler for the Dolphins. If they have to rely on him for more than a few games, the offense is going to be in trouble, which means the team is. Pat Devlin continues to make slow and steady strides, though he hadn't done enough in the past two years to warrant being in for a pass. Still, the Dolphins hadn't ruled out rolling with Devlin as a backup if Moore left in free agency and if the former Delaware quarterback has a solid training camp and preseason, it wouldn't be a shock if he ended up as the number two which could send Moore packing.

Running Backs

Starter: Lamar Miller
Backup(s): Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Marcus Thigpen (PR), Jonas Gray
Fullback(s): Jorvorskie Lane

Starting RB: After two very successful season in Miami, Reggie Bush and the Dolphins decided to part ways, leaving second year back Lamar Miller as the likely starter to begin the season. The Dolphins are high on Miller, as evidenced by the support GM Jeff Ireland has shown him. Ireland was quoted as saying that "Lamar really showed some great signs of really some explosive-play opportunity. He kind of shoots out of the cannon when he hits the hole. He's got very good hands. I thought he did a very good job in his pass protection, which keeps him on the field all three downs." In the zone-run scheme the Dolphins use, Miller's ability to get to - and through - the hole quick will be key. Of course, this is all theoretical and Miller was a healthy scratch several times last season. Recently Miller's position has become even more tenuous and he is mired in a battle for the lead back position with Daniel Thomas.

Backup RBs: Daniel Thomas needed to take a major step forward in 2012, but instead had fumbling and concussion issues. To say Thomas has been lackluster is an understatement and until training camp, the team appeared to have doubts he can even hack it as a short yardage or goal line back. However in a sudden turn of events, he now finds himself battling with Lamar Miller for the lead back spot. With a strong finish to the preseason Thomas could get the bulk of carries, when not long ago it appeared he's be fighting rookie Mike Gillislee for a roster spot. Gillislee is an elusive runner who can accelerate through a small crease for big yards. He doesn't shy away from contact and can catch out of the backfield. He's not quite built for pass protection but is definitely game for it. If he can stop dancing at the line and run a bit less upright, he could end up taking advantage of the battle between Miller and Thomas to grabsome extra carries.

Fullback: Jorvorskie Lane isn't a guy the Dolphins rely on for big yards, but they did look to him for some short yardage attempts last season, including two goal line runs for touchdowns. Lane also caught one ball for a score as well. While it's unlikely he catches many passes this year, he could be a touchdown thief of the rest if the backfield struggles to score from below the five yard line.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline
Backups: Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews, Armon Binns, Jeff Fuller, Brian Tyms, Jasper Collins, Marvin McNutt

Starting WRs: A lot of new faces grace the depth chart for the Dolphins at wide receiver, starting with former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Wallace. Wallace is coming off a down season, failing to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in several years. He's going to have to prove he can succeed with a young quarterback and bounce back from his 2012. The Dolphins invested a lot of guaranteed money in Wallace and will need that investment to pay off quickly. They're also hoping his eight touchdowns helps bolster a passing offense which had Wallace won't be the only good receiver in the offense, as Brian Hartline will return to try and build on a career high 1,083 yard season. The total was almost double any total Hartline had caught before and the Dolphins will hope that with Wallace attracting more attention than the departed Davone Bess ever did, he can do even better. They've also hoping he can improve upon the single touchdown he has averaged the last three seasons.

Backup WRs: Brandon Gibson doesn't put up huge numbers, but he did a good job of moving the chains - 38 of his 51 catches were for first downs. He also found the end zone five times, something the Dolphins couldn't do much of last year. He should fit in well next to Hartline and Wallace, and could be much more productive if he could cut down on the mental lapses. Rishard Matthews and Armon Binns are likely to be fighting over the last scraps of the offense, with Binns probably holding the edge after he contributed a little last season compared to Matthews' half season of middling production. Jeff Fuller is a raw prospect who might struggle to get away from defenders both before and after the catch. Brian Tyms was a practice squad guy in 2012 and so far hasn't shown enough to get him out of that spot, especially with the crowded position group ahead of him. The guy who intrigues the most is former Mount Union's Jasper Collins. Collins went undrafted because of the level of competition and size concerns, but runs a solid route and is an intriguing potential slot receiver for the Dolphins down the road. The team recently acquired Marvin McNutt, who was on the Eagles' practice squad last season. McNutt has talent, but can be inconsistent with his effort and held up at the line too often. Given the players in front of him, it seems hard to imagine him having a big impact.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dustin Keller
Backups: Charles Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller, Dion Sims [R] , Dustin Keller, Charles Clay (FB) (inj), Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller Dion Sims TE Michigan State, rookie

Dustin Keller has a tremendous amount of potential - potential he never quite fulfilled in New York. Whether that was because of the poor quarterback play, poor playcalling or his own limitations will be a big storyline for 2013 as he joins an offense which seems poised for a breakout season. Keller is very athletic and a danger to stretch the field - he could do a lot of damage as a mismatch for linebackers left behind when the defense is cleared out by Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace. Again though, this has been said before and the Dolphins are gambling that this time it's for real. Charles Clay stepped up off and on last year. A hybrid fullback/tight end, Clay has flashed some ability but not consistency. The other interesting member of this group is rookie Dion Sims. The former Michigan State Spartan is fast, big and agile but has durability concerns. If he can stay healthy he might be a real nice red zone threat as he is very hard to bring down when he has the ball in his hands.

Place Kicker

Caleb Sturgis [R]: Florida's Caleb Sturgis was the first kicker selected in this year's draft, taken by the Dolphins in the fifth round. As anticipated, that meant Dan Carpenter would be looking for a new employer, which he was as of August 14th. Sturgis is in the Gators' record book in numerous categories and was a Lou Groza Award finalist in both 2011 and 2012. After ranking in the top ten in attempted kicking points for two years, the Dolphins dropped to 24th in 2012.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Marcus Thigpen, Mike Gillislee

Miami's coaching staff continued their trend of giving most all of their return duties to one player, that playing being Marcus Thigpen. That they did so after Thigpen showed ball security concerns in preseason speaks to this being an organizational mindset. The Dolphins failed to add players with significant return experience in the draft, so Thigpen looks like he is secure in continuing as the primary returner for a third season.

Punt Returners: Marcus Thigpen, Mike Gillislee

Receiver Marcus Thigpen handled nearly every return for the Dolphins last season, and is set to do so again this season. Thigpen's 7.8 yards per return ranked 24th in the NFL, but the team has not invested in other options. The biggest struggle for Mike Gillislee in serving as the backup again may be in just making the roster at running back. The team added Knowshon Moreno who is likely to push the other backs down the depth chart.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Jonathan Martin, LG Richie Incognito, C Mike Pouncey, RG Lance Louis, RT Tyson Clabo
Key Backups: T Dallas Thomas, T Will Yeatman, G Nate Garner, G John Jerry, C Josh Samuda

The Miami Dolphins have reconstructed their offensive line following free agent losses in the off season. Stanford product Jonathan Martin returns to his college position at left tackle, after doing a decent job on the right side as a rookie. Martin has agility to pass protect and his grade should rise as he develops as a professional. Left guard Richie Incognito is the type of player the other team loves to hate. He provides toughness on the interior along with the superb center Mike Pouncey. Pouncey is a borderline Pro Bowl player who is arguably better than his more famous brother. His grade certainly could rise, as a strong year from the Dolphins would garner him postseason honors. Newly arrived Lance Louis will battle John Jerry for the right guard position. Louis is recovering from a knee injury but could still win the job, as he was a technically sound player prior to injury. Tyson Clabo arrives from the Falcons with a reputation as one of the league's best right tackles in 2012. Clabo vastly improves the Dolphins line on paper. Unfortunately the games aren't played on paper, and the worst part of this line's grade is cohesion, as only two players are playing in the same spots from 2012. In terms of depth, Will Yeatman is a very interesting character. Once a former college lacrosse player turned tight end, Yeatman has exceptional athleticism and should at least be the swing tackle this season. The coaching staff loves to talk him up to the media; he's certainly a player to watch in preseason. Going forward, this line certainly has the ability to rise up in the rankings, as they gain comfort with all the change.

Team Defense

In recent years, the Miami defense has been on the decline as they haven't been able to put together a complete, across-the-board effort. Specifically, led by Cameron Wake, they are excellent at accumulating sacks. They struggle, however, in almost every other statistical category and are generally a middle-of-the-pack unit. Where they seem to really struggle is at forcing turnovers. That is what keeps them from being an every-week fantasy starter.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Cameron Wake, DE Jared Odrick, DT Randy Starks, NT Paul Soliai
Backups: DE Dion Jordan (R), DE Olivier Vernon, DT Vaughn Martin, DT Kheeston Randall, DE Derrick Shelby

Starting DL: Cameron Wake made a seamless transition to DE role last year and posted 14.5 sacks to finish among the elite fantasy defensive ends. Look for more of the same from a player who is no fun to play against and a relentless pass rusher. Jared Odrick is a very solid complimentary player who holds up well against the run on early downs and still has enough quickness to contribute in passing situations as well. Randy Starks saw a dropoff in his numbers last year with the move to a 4-3 front in Miami, but he's still a valuable piece of the defense. Paul Solilai is a typical nose tackle who makes things easier for those around him rarely sees much production in terms of tackles or sacks.

Backup DL: The Dolphins used the 3rd overall pick in this year's draft to grab one of the best pass rusher available in Dion Jordan. He has been compared to Jason Taylor and should be able to take advantage of offenses sliding their protection to Wake's side. Olivier Vernon was considered a bit of a project coming out of Miami last year but he collected 3.5 sacks and should be ready for a bigger role in 2013. Vaughn Martin has contributed primarily as a backup in San Diego the past couple years and will provide depth on the interior of the line.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Koa Misi, MLB Dannell Ellerbe, OLB Philip Wheeler
Backups: OLB Jason Trusnik, ILB Austin Spitler, OLB Jelani Jenkins (R)

Starting LBs: The Dolphins were unhappy with the play of their linebackers last year and spent quite a bit of money to upgrade them in the offseason. In addition to spending the #3 pick on Dion Jordan who could see time at linebacker, they also gave out two of the bigger linebacker contracts in free agency this year. Koa Misi is the only incumbent starter and he showed definite signs of improvement in 2012, but his upside could be limited unless he earns nickel snaps. The big move for this defense was the release of Karlos Dansby, who was signed to a huge contract just three years earlier. They believe they got a more athletic player to replace him in Dannell Ellerbe, who signed a $35 million contract after winning a championship with the Ravens. Philip Wheeler enjoyed a breakout season with the Raiders in 2012, which earned him a $26 million deal in free agency.

Backup LBs: Although the Dolphins likely upgraded their starters, there is very little quality depth behind them. Jason Trusnik is more of a reliable journeyman type who can fill in when needed but not much else. Austin Spitler is a former undrafted player who has mainly contributed on special teams over the past couple years. Jelani Jenkins was a 4th round pick out of Florida who probably has the most upside among the backups here.

Defensive Backs

Starters: FS Reshad Jones, SS Chris Clemons, CB Brent Grimes, CB Richard Marshall
Backups: S Jimmy Wilson, CB Nolan Carroll, CB Dimitri Patterson, CB Jamar Taylor (R)

Starting DBs: Reshad Jones emerged from the shadow of Yeremiah Bell to become the anchor of the Dolphins defense last year. He finished among the leaders in tackles at the safety position while also adding 4 interceptions and a handful of other big plays. Chris Clemons was also a productive player in 2012 in terms of tackles, but lacked the big plays of his counterpart. The Dolphins have turned over things at the corner position in recent years by trading Vontae Davis and letting Sean Smith walk in free agency. Brent Grimes figures to hold down one of the starting spots after suffering a season-ending injury early in 2012 with Atlanta. The other spot could be manned by undersized Richard Marshall, who also had his 2012 season cut short by a serious injury.

Backup DBs: Jimmy Wilson provides depth inside but is better suited to playing in coverage than up in the box. There is solid depth outside thanks to the starting experience Nolan Carroll got last year in place of Richard Marshall. Dimitri Patterson has plenty of experience as well and is well suited to contribute in nickel or dime packages. Jamar Taylor is a player who could significantly upgrade this unit after the team drafted him in Round 2. He was considered a 1st round talent who fell in the draft due to medical concerns.

Last modified: 2014-05-15 23:05:10