Three of those players are likely to play a prominent role within offensive coordinator Bill Lazor‘s offense during their rookie seasons. Those three players would be offensive linemen Ja’Wuan James and Billy Turner and wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
All three draftees were selected within the first three rounds of the NFL draft. James will likely start at right tackle, while Turner will likely start at guard this upcoming season. The Dolphins hope Landry can show enough of the ball possession skills that he displayed at LSU, as Landry could reasonably be the team’s slot receiver by the time the regular season starts in September.
The main question that is on everyone’s mind is this: Will these three draftees improve quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2014?
Tannehill is supposed to be the franchise quarterback and he faces a make-or-break season this year. It will be Tannehill’s third season in the NFL, and if he fails to either show improvement or lead the team to the playoffs, it’s not unreasonable to expect the franchise to bring in a quarterback either through free agency or through the NFL draft in 2015 to compete with Tannehill for the starting quarterback position.
Which is the reason 2014 is such a pivotal year for not only Tannehill, but the franchise itself.
If these three aforementioned draftees aid Tannehill in leading the team to the playoffs, it’s safe to say Tannehill will be considered the franchise quarterback for 2015 and beyond. If these three draftees have very little impact in 2014, and Tannehill shows little improvement from his first two seasons in the NFL, the Dolphins have to start from scratch again when it pertains to the quarterback position.
The main goal in aiding Tannehill’s improvement as a quarterback is protecting him. Although Tannehill does struggle with pocket awareness, the offensive line’s play was inexcusable in 2013. The Dolphins’ offensive line gave up a league-high 58 sacks — also a franchise record.
This is the reason why new general manager Dennis Hickey has placed such an emphasis on adding pieces to the offensive line to make sure Tannehill doesn’t suffer the type of abuse he suffered in 2013 when he was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL.
Branden Albert will protect Tannehill’s blindside at left tackle, and Mike Pouncey will likely return as the starting center for the Dolphins. Having two highly-touted veterans anchor the offensive line, while having two rookies inserted into the lineup will be a major help to the cause. What it will all come down to is stability and chemistry. The Dolphins went through a makeshift offensive line 2013 due to the Jonathan Martin–Richie Incognito debacle.
If Landry can be an effective slot man for the Dolphins for the entire 2014 season without injury, the Dolphins’ receiving corps will be considered one of the best in the NFL. Mike Wallace may never live up to his contract billing, but Brian Hartline is a solid No. 2, and the Dolphins still have young receivers for depth purposes such as Rishard Matthews and the recently drafted Matt Hazel.
The Dolphins have all of the right pieces in order to maximize Tannehill’s skills. More than anything, Tannehill and the Dolphins’ success for 2014 will depend on the health of its players.
If James, Turner and Landry can all remain healthy for this squad in 2014, the Dolphins should have a wild card spot in the playoffs locked up as we enter the calendar year of 2015.