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NFL Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins: 5 Players Who Will Be Pivotal to Team’s Success in 2014

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Players Who Will be Key to Team's Success in 2014

Cameron Wake-Kim Klement USA Today Sports

The Miami Dolphins will enter the 2014 season with new expectations. Following an 8-8 season that saw the team fall a win short of clinching their first playoff berth since 2008, the Dolphins will enter 2014 looking toward a fresh start.

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will lead the offense as quarterback Ryan Tannehill enters his third season. Lazor will have the opportunity to work with one of the more talented receiving cores in the NFL, featuring the likes of Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson and Charles Clay. Tannehill improved his passing touchdown totals from his rookie season to his second one, as the second-year QB threw for 26 touchdowns in 2013, an improvement over his 2012 season total of 12 touchdowns.

However, weak areas of the offensive unit cost the team several wins throughout the season. An offensive line that allowed 58 sacks on the season—a franchise record—and a rushing attack that ranked near the bottom of the league was too much for the team to overcome. The deficiencies of the offense became obvious in the regular season's final two games when the unit failed to score versus theBuffalo Bills and when it scored just seven points versus the New York Jets with a playoff berth on the line.

On the other hand, the defense was perhaps the team's greatest strength, as it ranked eighth in the NFL in points allowed per game, allowing just a shade under 21 points per game. However, the defense has key free agents that the team will need to resign as it enters the 2014 offseason. Cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive tackle Randy Starks stand as the biggest priorities for the team to resign.

With that said, who are five players who will be key to the team's success in 2014?

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Charles Clay

Jason Bridge-USA Today Sports

When starting tight end Dustin Keller went down for the season before it even began, most in Miami thought the position was a lost cause for 2013.

Until they found out who Charles Clay was.

Clay notched 69 receptions for 759 yards and six touchdowns. He was the Dolphins' breakout player of the year. With coordinator Lazor heading the offense and Clay's ability to play fullback, tight end and receiver, it should be a treat for Dolphins fans to watch Clay in 2014.

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Mike Wallace

Robert Mayer-USA Today Sports

The big name free agent who was lured to Miami with a five-year, $60 million contract wasn't amazing in his first season with the Dolphins—but he was decent. In his first season in South Florida, Wallace hauled in 73 receptions for 930 yards and five touchdowns. Hardly an eye-popping season, but Wallace improved as the season wore on.

Over his final six games, Wallace hauled in four touchdowns. He caught just one touchdown during the season's first 10 games.

If the Dolphins are to take the step into becoming a playoff contender, they will need their $60 million man to play like an elite receiver.

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Brent Grimes

Thomas J. Russo - USA Today Sports

One of the largest reasons why Miami had a top 10 defense was due to the play of cornerback Brent Grimes. In his first year with Miami, Grimes was elected to the Pro Bowl.

The issue is, Grimes signed just a one-year contract with the Dolphins in 2013. If Miami wishes to keep its defensive nucleus together, it will likely have to shell out big money to retain the eight-year veteran.

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Cameron Wake

Thomas Campbell - USA Today Sports

You know how the quarterback is considered the most important position in football? Well, defensive end is likely considered the most important position in football after quarterback.

With the influx of rule changes over the last several seasons that favor the passing game, the role of pass rushers have never been as valued as they are today. And there aren't many pass rushers who are better than Cameron Wake when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Wake was named to his third Pro Bowl in 2013. Over his first five seasons in the league, Wake has notched 51.5 sacks.

As long as Wake continues to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, the defensive unit will remain strong.

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Ryan Tannehill

Robert Mayer-USA Today Sports

Perhaps the one individual player who holds the Dolphins' key to success the most is none other than quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

It's simple—the NFL is a quarterback's league. If you have a great quarterback, your team will be great. If you have a bad quarterback, your team won't be so great. Tannehill has been somewhere in the middle over his first two seasons. Hence, the reason why Miami was 7-9 and 8-8 over the past two seasons.

If Miami's third-year quarterback can make the leap to being a top 10 quarterback, the sky is the limit for the Dolphins in 2014.