Miami Dolphins: 10 Players That Are Sure To Propel Their Team To 2013 Playoffs
10 Players That Will Lead the Miami Dolphins to 2013 Playoffs
The buzz surrounding the Miami Dolphins just keeps getting louder and louder. After drafting a quarterback in the first round in the NFL Draft last year, the Dolphins have been adding talent to their roster, one crucial piece at a time. There are now enough pieces in place to make the rest of the nation sit up and take notice.
The mention of Miami as a possible playoff team has been laughable for the last several years, but the recent splash the team made in free agency, coupled with a new logo design and uniform overhaul, has the fans excited and the national media paying close attention.
The thing is, the playoff talk in South Florida is not all that far-fetched. The free agent acquisitions alone could possibly make the Dolphins ready for the playoffs, but they still have 11 picks coming up in the 2013 NFL Draft on April 25. This puts Miami in prime position to build a team that could contend for a Super Bowl for years to come.
The following 10 players will need to play to their potential if the Dolphins are to make the playoffs in 2013, regardless of who general manager Jeff Ireland selects in the draft. By clicking the “Next” tab, you can see who these 10 players are and then add your thoughts to the topic. If you feel there was a difference-maker that should have been included or a player that should have been left off, you can make use of the comment box below. You can also reach out to us on Twitter using the hash tag #RML, for Rant My Life.
10. Dannell Ellerbe
After becoming the heir apparent to Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe surprised everyone by leaving the Baltimore Ravens for sunny South Florida. The signing of Ellerbe kicked off a changing of the guard in Miami, with Karlos Dansby and Keith Burnett being released and Phillip Wheeler and Ellerbe taking over. It was a gamble on the part of the Dolphins, but they get younger and more athletic in the middle of the defense, something that could prove to be a difference-maker in the AFC East.
9. Randy Starks
A major part of Wheeler and Ellerbe’s success will be dependent on Randy Starks. Along with Paul Soliai, Starks will man the middle of the defensive line, and if he plays well, things get much easier for the second level of the defense. Starks was added to the Pro Bowl last season when the New England Patriots’ Vince Wilfork was forced to miss due to injury. The addition was well deserved, and if the Dolphins make the 2013 Playoffs, it will due in part to Starks' contribution.
8. Brian Hartline
The first thing the Dolphins did this offseason was lock up Brian Hartline for the next five years. For a team that was very stingy with its re-signing money, this was a huge contract and it shows how important they believe he is to their chances at success. Last season, Hartline set career-highs in yards and catches and with the addition of other offensive weapons, Hartline will get even more opportunity in 2013.
7. Reshad Jones
Reshad Jones came on out of nowhere last season, emerging as the one bright spot in an otherwise depressing secondary. The Dolphins re-signed Chris Clemons, keeping their safety tandem in tact, which should lead to even more production from the back end of the secondary. Ranked by Pro Football Focus as the league's third-best defensive back last season, Reshad should have gotten the Pro Bowl nod, and his omission will likely feed his competitive spirit, pushing him to improve upon a stellar 2012 season.
6. Dustin Keller
For the last several seasons, Dustin Keller was on an enemy roster. Now Keller has left the New York Jets behind and is prepared to be the big-threat tight end that Ryan Tannehill needs. Keller flashed moments of excellence while in New York with Mark Sanchez throwing him the ball. It will be great to see what he can do in this new offense. He has a one-year contract with the Dolphins to prove what he can do, and if he lives up to expectations, he will be a major part the offensive game plan.
5. Brent Grimes
In 2011, Brent Grimes was ranked by PFF as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but he was unable to follow up his terrific season. Instead, Grimes lost the entire season when he blew out his Achilles tendon. The Atlanta Falcons chose not to pay what it would take to keep them in their roster, opening the door for the Dolphins to lock him down with a one-year contract worth $5.5 million, If Grimes is fully recovered from his injury and is able to play at a high level at the corner position, the Dolphins will have addressed one of their biggest areas of need.
4. Lamar Miller
The Dolphins elected to let Reggie Bush ride off into the free agency sunset. In order to replace the numbers that leave with Bush, Miami will hand the ball to second-year running back, Lamar Miller. As a rookie, Miller sat third on the depth chart, and struggled to get carries, but this did not keep the former Miami Hurricane from posting the highest yards-per-carry on the team.
Miller will have third-year back Daniel Thomas at his side, but the Dolphins are not sold on Thomas after two disappointing and injury filled seasons. The Dolphins believe Miller can step in and provide them everything that Bush offered and more and if they are right, Miller will be a huge part of Miami’s success
3. Cameron Wake
You cannot talk about talent on the Dolphins' roster and not bring up Cameron Wake. Pro Football Focus ranks the pass rushing defensive end as the very best in the league, and he was Miami’s lone representative when the Pro Bowl players were announced. Last season, he posted 17 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and a staggering 46 QB hurries. The Dolphins are rumored to be looking for another pass rusher to complement Wake on the defensive line. Whether they do or don’t, Wake will do his part to propel Miami into the 2013 Playoffs.
2. Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace was thought of as the biggest catch of the free agent market, and Miami wasted no time getting him signed to their roster. It is easy to see why Wallace was so highly thought of. Any time he is on the field, he is a threat to change the complexion of the game. His speed demands defenses to pay attention to where he is at all times, and the attention he draws will open things up for some of the other offensive threats. Wallace came with a big price, but he has the potential to be worth every penny.
1. Ryan Tannehill
None of the Dolphins’ offseason moves will matter if they do not get top-tier play from their franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. Miami selected the young quarterback with the eighth pick of last year’s draft, and while everyone thought he would be a project quarterback, Tannehill came into camp with intentions of being the starter in Week 1. His on-field leadership, quick release and strong arm propelled him up the depth chart, and a non-football injury to veteran David Garrard pushed him to the top spot.
The season was up-and-down for the rookie, but that is what rookie seasons are supposed to look like. Tannehill had plenty of memorable moments, and it is clear he has the skills necessary to become a dominant NFL quarterback. The thing is, just having the skills is not good enough. He will need to prove himself this season by getting the ball in the end zone with a much higher frequency than he did last season, while learning how to beat coverage. PFF ranks his performance against the blitz the best in the league, and there is a very high ceiling on this kid.
Management has gone out and gotten him the weapons he needs to be successful, and while there are still a few holes here and there, Tannehill has been given enough that there can be no excuses. He needs to prove he is the franchise guy at Sun Life Stadium. He needs to prove he can pick up where Dan Marino left off, and carry this team into the future. If he does, then the 2013 Playoffs will be just the beginning.