5 Miami Dolphins Who Mean the Most to the Team’s Future

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5 Dolphins Who Mean the Most to the Team's Future Success

5 Dolphins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins’ 2013 season was a failure. There is no other way to put it. A year that the Dolphins and their fans had marked on the calendar as a year of change proved to be more of the same. The Dolphins took the field in 2013 with a new logo, new uniforms and a plethora of flashy new pieces that were acquired through free agency.

The Dolphins were riding high after a 3-0 start then a four-game losing streak started the Dolphins on a course of inconsistency which lasted the entire season. On the Monday after the fourth loss, a game which the Dolphins led the AFC East juggernaut New England Patriots 17-3 at halftime in Gillette Stadium, Jonathan Martin left the team and the ugly saga of “Bullygate” had begun.

The Dolphins ended the season in perfect post-Marino Dolphins’ form, on a losing streak which cost the team a playoff berth. The Dolphins lost two straight games to division rivals after achieving redemption against the Patriots with a 24-20 fourth quarter win in Miami.

The Buffalo Bills were the first to hand the Dolphins an old-fashioned beat down. It was the second time that the Bills had corralled a win against the Dolphins with their back-up quarterback, Thad Lewis. The Dolphins managed only 103 yards of total offense while allowing 203 yards of rushing yards alone. It was a porous day in the trenches for the Dolphins.

The New York Jets, who the Dolphins had treated like a little brother in New York in week 13 of the regular season, were the next, and last, team to beat the Dolphins last season. The Jets had come to Miami with the mentality to wreck their rivals playoff hopes and did just that. The Dolphins turned the ball over three times on their way to surrendering their final opportunity to play more games in the New Year.

The Dolphins looked flat and unmotivated in the two season-ending losses, a direct reflection of Head Coach Joe Philbin. While the personnel on the team may have been lacking, the Dolphins entire team looked like they would be content with watching the playoffs from the couch.

Ted Wells has released his report on the investigation into why Martin left the team and, after the possible disciplinary actions are handed down, the Dolphins can move forward from the hideous soap opera.

Miami has also moved forward from the 2013 season as a whole, parting ways with key cogs of a system which floundered so feebly at the end of the season. GM Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins mutually parted ways while OC Mike Sherman was flat out fired for his offense’s performance in the two games of the season, which featured only seven points mustered.

Ireland and Philbin had become enemies and were working against each other in 2013. That dysfunction could never lead to success so Ireland agreed to part ways with the team. While Ireland wasn’t the best GM (understatement of the year) he wasn’t the sole reason for the Dolphins struggles in 2013.

Dennis Hickey is the man who is tasked with replacing Jeff Ireland as well as reversing Ireland’s mistakes. Hickey has to replace an offensive line who’s only returning starter, Mike Pouncey, may face disciplinary action for his involvement in the bullying scandal.

The Dolphins are looking forward to next season after the fiasco of 2013. Hickey has by now evaluated the roster and learned what positions need upgrading.

I have identified for Hickey the five Dolphins’ players who are most important to the team’s future success. (You’re welcome Mr. Hickey.)

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5. First round draft pick

First Round Draft
Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

This pick could go many different ways depending on what the Dolphins do in free agency, but whoever is picked will immediately become a huge part of the Dolphins’ future success. The Dolphins own the 19th selection in the NFL Draft and will need to take the best available guard, tackle or defensive tackle depending on what happens in free agency. This will be Hickey’s first draft pick as the Dolphins GM and whoever the pick is will need to be an instant contributor, unlike Dion Jordan last season.

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4. LB Dannell Ellerbe

Dannell Ellerbe
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ellerbe is an integral part of the Dolphins' success, or lack thereof. As the middle linebacker, Ellerbe is the signal caller for the defense and a key part of Dolphins’ DC Kevin Coyle’s double A gap blitzing system. Ellerbe was given a large sum of money last offseason and was sold to the Dolphins fan base as a someone with a superior ability to blitz.

Ellerbe only produced one sack last season. The Dolphins were 24th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed in 2013, allowing the most yards on the ground since the infamous 1-15 season of 2007. The Dolphins need more production from Ellerbe, who was one of their big money free agent additions from the 2013 offseason.

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3. WR Brian Hartline

Brian Hartline
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Hartline had his worst game of the season in week 16 against the Bills then went down with a PCL tear against the Jets in week 17, Ryan Tannehill was obviously affected. Hartline may be the league’s most disrespected and underrated receiver. Hartline runs precise routes, can read a defense and gets to the right spots -- traits that a receiver in the West Coast offense must excel in.

Hartline is Tannehill’s favorite receiver and has been so since the two first started playing together late in the offseason of Tannehill’s rookie season. Tannehill often looks Hartline’s way when he knows a blitz is coming or he needs to get the ball out quick. Hartline needs to recover effectively and provide Tannehill with the security and sure hands that Tannehill will need to lean on in order to succeed in 2014.

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2. CB Brent Grimes

Brent Grimes
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Grimes is a true shutdown cornerback, a rarity in today’s NFL filled with impressive athletes. Grimes, who was the second ranked CB according to PFF’s ratings, did not allow a single touchdown in 2013 and is the type of player you can build a secondary around. The Dolphins have not yet locked up this lockdown corner who is set to enter the free agent market, but Miami would love to get Grimes inked to a new deal.

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1. QB Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Tannehill is undoubtedly the most important piece to the Dolphins’ future success. The Dolphins offense was carried by Tannehill in 2013. Miami was 29th in the league in rushing attempts and 10th in the league in passing attempts.

If the Dolphins want to be successful in 2014, management will need to provide Tannehill with offensive linemen who can not only pass block but run block. The Dolphins will need a running game to take some pressure off of Tannehill.

With that being said, Tannehill needs to improve in his pocket presence and deep ball accuracy for the Dolphins to have optimal success in 2014. The Dolphins gave up a franchise record 58 sacks last season, and a plethora of those sacks can be blamed on Tannehill for staying in the pocket too long and not “feeling” the pass rush coming.

Tannehill also left at least five touchdowns on the field with off-target deep balls to Mike Wallace. Tannehill will need to hit those downfield passes next season and take advantage of those chunk yardage opportunities.

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