Miami Dolphins: 5 Players Who Mean The Most To A Playoff Run
5 Players Who Mean the Most to a Miami Dolphins Playoff Run
The Miami Dolphins were a favorite to get into the playoffs after Week 3 of the NFL season. They were sitting at 3-0 and had beaten the Indianapolis Colts on the road and the Atlanta Falcons at home. Having won against two playoffs teams from last season, including one that was close to being in the Super Bowl, Miami had reason to believe they could make a run.
However, after an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Dolphins' season began to slip away. They lost against Buffalo, Baltimore, Carolina and Tampa after either leading or being tied late in the game. Also, they were stuck in the middle of a bullying scandal that saw them lose two offensive lineman.
After week 12, Miami was 5-6 and on the outside looking in for the Wild Card spot. They had a couple of difficult games coming up in Pittsburgh and against the New England Patriots, but to beat the New York Jets. After humiliating the Jets, they were able to score late TDs against the Steelers and Patriots to put them at 8-6 and in control of their own destiny.
With second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill having the best three-game stretch in his career, he will have to continue to lead this offense to wins in the last two games. He has eight touchdowns and only two interceptions in the last three games, and has completed over 60 percent of his passes in those games. Against the first-place Patriots last week, he had a season-high passer rating of 120.6 and his first career game with three TDs and no interceptions.
Over the last three weeks, Miami has had a lot of players step up in key moments. These five guys will have to be important for them to not only get into the playoffs, but make a run to the Super Bowl.
5. Bryant McKinnie
The Miami Dolphins have had a historically-bad offensive line this season. However, they have been performing much better since the team traded for Bryant McKinnie and plugged him in at left tackle. They are missing their starting left tackle Jonathan Martin and left guard Richie Incognito due to the bullying scandal, and have had to plug people in to different spots. McKinnie anchored the Ravens' offensive line that kept Joe Flacco upright through the postseason last year and will need to do the same for Tannehill this year.
4. Caleb Sturgis
Very often in the playoffs, winning a Super Bowl comes down to the consistency of your kicker. The New England Patriots may be just a one-time Super Bowl Champion if not for the clutch kicks of Adam Vinatieri. In last year's playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens won two games by a field goal. Rookie Caleb Sturgis has been inconsistent this year and has missed eight FGs. Four of those kicks were from 50 yards or longer, but that could be the difference between winning and losing a game.
3. Cameron Wake
The Miami Dolphins drafted Dion Jordan with the no. 3 overall pick to go with Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon to form one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. Jordan has yet to break through, but the combination of Wake and Vernon has 20 sacks this season, and each has taken home an AFC Defensive Player of the Week Award. Wake has been one of the best pass-rushers in the league for the last couple years and with potential playoffs matchups against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, he will be key to them making a run.
2. Brent Grimes
The Miami Dolphins signed Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, Philip Wheeler, Brandon Gibson and Dannell Ellerbe this offseason, yet Brent Grimes may be the most important pickup of all. Through 14 games, opposing wide receivers only have three TDs against the Miami Dolphins, and Brent Grimes has four interceptions. With possible upcoming matchups against A.J. Green, Dwayne Bowe, DeMaryius Thomas or whoever Tom Brady wants to throw to, Grimes will need shut down the passing game for the Dolphins to succeed.
1. Ryan Tannehill
No surprise here as a quarterback is the most important player to his team making a run in the postseason. Ryan Tannehill has played the best football of his career over the last three weeks and is starting to look comfortable late in games. He has led late touchdown drives against Pittsburgh and New England in the last two weeks to get Miami victories. He has the ability to run if needed, and has found chemistry with tight end Charles Clay to give him an outlet over the middle to go with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. In their six losses, Tannehill has 10 TDs and nine INTs. In their eight wins, he has 13 TDs and only five INTs. With them not having a consistent running game, the Dolphins will need Tannehill to be excellent in the last two weeks to get into the postseason.