By Tyler McMullen @Direct_Snap on July 22, 2014
The Miami Dolphins are looking primed to compete in the much-improved AFC East this season, but the team will need to overcome some offseason injuries to two key players in order to do so. Nonetheless, Miami looks like a clear threat in the AFC East as a potential Wild Card team in the AFC. Here are 10 reasons why Miami fans should be excited heading into the 2014 season.
Miami has done a phenomenal job of retooling the offensive line this season. QB Ryan Tannehill now has a stud left tackle in Branden Albert, two decent guards in Dallas Thomas and Shelley Smith, a first-round right tackle in Ja'Wuan James and a stud, Pro Bowl caliber center in Mike Pouncey once he returns from injury in mid-October. Once this offensive line gels, Miami should be able to put up a decent amount of points.
Although the New England Patriots currently "own" the AFC East, there is a ton of young potential sitting behind New England waiting for them to take one wrong step. New York is a young squad loaded with talent. Buffalo is another young squad built around a solid defense and a deadly rushing attack. And Miami is also young and full of talent across the board. Look for renewed rivalries this season and a much more competitive division.
Landry, Miami's second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, will immediately contribute to the team as a rookie as the team's fourth receiver and could even beat out veteran receiver Brandon Gibson for the third receiver job as the team's slot guy. Landry offers a bit more than Gibson as he is a tough, nitty gritty receiver who has strong hands and will fight for the football at its highest point. Landry should excite fans in 2014.
Charles Clay broke out last season collecting career highs across the board and becoming the team's most valuable offensive weapon. Clay was a true force as the team's top pass catcher in 2013 and will look to assert himself as one of the league's best tight ends in 2014. He cannot sneak up on anybody in 2014, however. Teams know who he is and how effective he can be, but that won't stop "The Claymaker".
Jones disappointed many in 2013 after receiving a contract extension just before the season kicked off. He was coming off a career season in which he was known as one of the NFL's top safeties, but his play slipped last season as he was not only a liability in coverage, but he was also a poor tackler. Jones will look to return to his 2012 Pro Bowl form in 2014, and I believe he will do so.
For some reason in 2013, it seemed as though Mike Sherman -- the offensive coordinator at the time -- did not want to unleash Mike Wallace on opposing defenses. It almost seemed like Sherman didn't know what to do with a player like him. In 2014, expect a different story with new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Lazor's offense will not only feature Wallace as the team's deep threat, but it will likely be run through the wideout.
Grimes had one of the best seasons in 2013 for a corner in Miami history, and he will look to duplicate his success in 2014 after receiving an extension with the team this offseason. Grimes is the team's No. 1 corner and a true shutdown corner. He was able to win a few games for Miami last season and will likely do the same again in 2014. If only Jamar Taylor would step up now.
Miami now has a much better offensive line in front of Tannehill to allow him to sit back in the pocket and scan the field a bit more than last season. But with Lazor now running the offense, the team's offensive potential is soaring through the roof. Tannehill now has options such as Wallace, Hartline, Gibson, Matthews, Landry and Clay to throw the football to. If the QB can find some accuracy to hit his receivers in stride, wow. Just wow.
Miami certainly has the potential to become the NFL's most feared pass rush with DEs Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, Derrick Shelby and Olivier Vernon to pair with the athletic trio of DTs Earl Mitchell, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks. The Dolphins are not only strong up front from a physical standpoint, but they are also quite deep, allowing the team to rotate players to keep their defensive linemen fresh and able to get after opposing QBs.
This is the season where QB Ryan Tannehill will likely show whether or not he is "the chosen one" in Miami. Tannehill took a giant step forward in his sophomore season, but ball-watchers were not able to see so due to him constantly being shoved into the dirt every other play. He still needs to work on his accuracy, timing and becoming a better leader, but we have yet to see the best from Mr. Tannehill.
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