By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on April 4, 2014
The majority of intrigue surrounding the Miami Dolphins in recent days has pertained to which new players they will add in the 2014 NFL Draft. But it's never too early to begin predicting which current players are poised for a breakout season. Here are the Dolphins' top five breakout candidates.
Rishard Matthews filled in admirably for Brandon Gibson in the slot at about the midpoint of the season. He was sure-handed, ran crisp routes and made key catches in clutch situations. Don't expect him to take a backseat to a recovered Gibson or a potential free agent addition like Nate Burleson either. Matthews has the potential to cement himself as Miami's No. 3 receiver in 2014.
The Dolphins' new left or right guard Shelley Smith finally has a starting role after looking the part in limited action with the St. Louis Rams. Smith has the athleticism to become one of the league's top run blocking interior linemen. He's an excellent fit in Miami's zone-blocking scheme and is poised for a breakout campaign as a result.
Last April's No. 3 overall pick had an underwhelming rookie season -- and that's being nice. Dion Jordan tallied a mere 2.0 sacks and found himself on the sideline more often than not. His freakish athleticism didn't diminish, though. With a full offseason of preparation, Jordan should be a handful for opposing offenses to contain on passing situations and could steal some of Olivier Vernon's snaps on base downs in year two.
2013 was supposed to be Lamar Miller's breakout season. Just 709 rushing yards later, it clearly wasn't. But while fantasy gurus and national pundits have lost faith in Miller, his ceiling remains high. With a revamped offensive line, there's no reason why 2014 can't be the year his potential finally materializes. Even with Knowshon Moreno in the mix, Miller should get his fair share of carries every Sunday.
Like Jordan, second-round pick Jamar Taylor barely played as a rookie. Don't label him a bust just yet, though. The Dolphins were confident enough in his abilities to let Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson walk, replacing the two with Cortland Finnegan, who has struggled in recent seasons. Taylor will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting role in 2014. He'll be a breakout performer if he lives up to his draft grade.
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