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NFL Miami Dolphins

5 Reasons Why Miami Dolphins Will Be Better in 2014

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5 Reasons Why Miami Dolphins Will Be Better in 2014

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Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

The Miami Dolphins had possibly the worst ending to the 2013 NFL season of any NFL team. It wasn't that the Dolphins were the worst team in the NFL, or even close to being one of the worst teams in the NFL. By all accounts, the Dolphins actually had a decent season. They finished 8-8, and in spite of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin debacle that captured headlines for the last half of the NFL season, coach Joe Philbin was able to steer the ship and keep Miami in playoff contention until the very end of the season.

The problem is, Miami stood at 8-6 entering Week 16 with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth by winning one of their remaining two regular season games. Those two games were versus the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, two teams which stood under the .500 mark when the Dolphins played them. Miami didn't just lose these two games, they lost them in excruciating fashion. The Fins combined to score just seven points in the final two weeks versus two teams who weren't even playing to be in the playoff race.

Because of the way the Dolphins ended their season, and due to the collapse of the offense's performance in the final two games, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and general manager Jeff Ireland were fired. It was the fifth-straight season Miami missed the playoffs, and the fifth such season they failed to achieve a winning record.

So, why would there be reason to believe the Dolphins will be better in 2014 than they were in 2013 following their close to this past regular season?

Here are five reasons for why the Dolphins will be better in 2014 than they were in 2013.

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The Arrival of Bill Lazor

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Howard Smith-USA Today Sports

With the firing of Mike Sherman, the Miami Dolphins now usher in a new era for the offense. Bill Lazor, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, was hired to replace Sherman at offensive coordinator.

Sherman accomplished very little as Dolphins offensive coordinator, as Miami ranked 27th and 26th in points per game in both of his seasons leading the offense. Lazor helped Eagles quarterback Nick Foles become one of the top quarterbacks in the league as Foles led the NFL in quarterback rating.

Under the tutelage of Lazor, Ryan Tannehill should continue to improve into the franchise quarterback the Dolphins hoped he would become when they drafted him with the eighth overall selection in the 2012 NFL Draft.

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The Running Game Will Improve

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Stew Milne-USA Today Sports

The Miami Dolphins were as bad as one team could be when it came to running the football in 2013. After the departure of starting running back Reggie Bush through free agency, the Dolphins decided that second-year running back Lamar Miller and third-year running back Daniel Thomas would be able to carry the load in the absence of Bush.

Boy, were they wrong.

The Dolphins finished the season ranked 26th in rushing yards, while ranking in the bottom four in total rushing attempts. Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman realized rather quickly that the Dolphins' offensive line was a mess, combined with the fact that Miller and Thomas weren't ready to carry the rushing load. What this resulted in was zero support to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who not only faced immense pressure from the pass rush, but also faced pressure to carry the offense due to the fact that Miami had no running game.

In 2014, the running game can't possibly be worse than it was in 2013.

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Ryan Tannehill Will Make Strides in Third Season

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Robert Mayer-USA Today Sports

A lot of people forget that 2013 was just Ryan Tannehill's second season in the NFL. Not only that, but people forget that this past season was just Tannehill's fourth season playing quarterback at a high level. He started out his collegiate career at Texas A&M playing wide receiver. It wasn't until his junior season that he made the transition to quarterback, and even in that season, he started just seven games.

Patience, Dolphins fans.

Nobody is saying he is going to be the next Dan Marino, but Tannehill has the opportunity to prove to be Miami's franchise quarterback. He led the Dolphins to a win away from making the playoffs in spite of a rushing attack that ranked near the bottom of the league, and an offensive line that was the worst in the league at protecting the passer. The offensive line allowed 58 sacks in 2013, a franchise single-season record.

Tannehill has shown the moxie and ability to win in the clutch. Give him a little bit more support, and this is a quarterback that is capable of making the Dolphins an annual playoff contender.

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The Defense is Solid

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Steve Mitchell-USA Today Sports

One unit that you cannot blame for the Miami Dolphins' shortcomings in 2013 was the defense. The defense ranked eighth in the NFL in points allowed per game and kept the Dolphins in many games when the offense struggled.

The Dolphins will have to re-sign several key players such as Randy Starks and Brent Grimes in order to maintain their level of play in 2014, but there is no doubt there is a strong nucleus on the defensive side of the football.

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The AFC East is Weak

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David Butler II-USA Today Sports

Maybe the most important reason for why the Dolphins will improve in 2014 is the competition within their division, the AFC East. Obviously, with an offseason coming up, teams such as the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills could improve. However, it's hard to see either of those two teams improving through free agency and the draft to the point where Miami is left looking up at them.

The New England Patriots finished another 12-4 regular season, culminating in an AFC Championship Game appearance, where they fell to the Denver Broncos, 26-16. However, with Tom Brady approaching 37 years old and the team no longer possessing its aura of invincibility as it did years ago, the Dolphins will have their chances at reigning supreme in the AFC East in 2014.