The Miami Dolphins came within a win away from clinching their first playoff berth since 2008 in their last two regular season contests of 2013.
Instead, they laid two duds in games against sub .500 AFC East opponents in the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. In those two regular season contests, the Dolphins scored a total of seven points, while being outscored 39-7.
What ensued was a makeover of the personnel within the organization – offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was fired, replaced by Bill Lazor. General manager Jeff Ireland was finally fired after a six-season tenure with the team, replaced by Dennis Hickey. Players involved in the ‘Bullygate’ scandal during the 2013 season, such as Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, were let go or traded during the offseason.
With the makeover arose new hope for a team that came so close to achieving their goal of clinching a postseason berth.
Fast forward a few months later to present-day in July, and those hopes are being quickly dashed due to injuries and suspensions before the 2014 season even officially begins.
Dion Jordan, the team’s No. 3 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, was suspended by the NFL on Thursday due to violating the league’s performance-enhancing policy. He will miss the first four games of the regular season, and won’t be eligible to return until Week 6 versus the Green Bay Packers, following the team’s bye week.
The bad news follows a string of bad news stories that have lingered within the organization over the past month.
Starting center Mike Pouncey, the only returning offensive lineman from the starting lineup of 2013, will miss at least the first month of the season due to hip surgery. For a team that ranked at the bottom of the league in sacks allowed with a franchise-record of 58 sacks, Pouncey was the one reliable lineman that the Dolphins could count on.
That won’t be the case for the month of September as Pouncey is now out of the lineup. The Dolphins hope that Sam Brenner or Nate Garner can replace Pouncey in the starting lineup.
The bad news trend doesn’t stop there, running back Knowshon Moreno is currently going through knee issues in his left knee that might require arthroscopic surgery. It would explain why Moreno has fallen behind Lamar Miller on the depth chart and has yet to prove himself as the team’s No. 1 back through OTAs.
The Dolphins signed Moreno to a one-year, $3 million deal with the intention that he’d be the back to improve the Dolphins’ stagnant rushing attack, which ranked 26th in the NFL in 2013.
For the first month of the 2014 season, which includes home games versus 2013 playoff teams in the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, and away dates with the Bills and the Oakland Raiders, the ‘Fins will be without their top offensive lineman and their third-best pass rusher. They also might be without the running back who was supposed to be the unquestioned starter at running back.
With the Patriots remaining the best team in the AFC East, and teams such as the Bills and the Jets both improving during the offseason to remain competitive within the division, the Dolphins have their work cut out for them.
The 2014 season will be a season with very little margin for error for a team that hopes to end its five-season drought of not making the postseason.