By Jeremiah Thermidor
Head coach Joe Philbin put forth a strong effort towards his rebuilding project in Miami with this being his first season with the Dolphins. He brought in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, and several more new faces to the coaching staff in order to turn a team around, which went 7-9 the previous season. Miami, though, once again finished the year 7-9 and not on a good note. The Dolphins suffered a 28-0 blowout loss to the Patriots on the road in Week 17, showing just how much work needs to be done if they hope to be competitive at all next season. The most significant changes made to the team this year was the decision to start rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the incumbent Matt Moore, trading away Pro-Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and star cornerback Vontae Davis, releasing veteran safety Yeremiah Bell and switching from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 scheme. This is how the Dolphins fared in the NFL this season as a result of some of those moves.
The Dolphins ended the season 27th in total offense beating out only the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, Chargers and the Cardinals in that category. It’s very easy to blame Tannehill, who is a young guy trying to manage an offense which didn’t have a consistent receiving core he could count on to make big plays. Miami’s lack of big-play wide outs explained why it closed out the season with the 26th receiving offense this year. Tannehill didn’t have a solid offensive line at his disposal and Miami’s running game struggled to find a rhythm and had to overcome injuries, which is why the Dolphins finished at No. 17 in the rushing offense category. Miami was 26th at converting first downs, 19th at converting the all-important third downs and in a five-way tie at 23rd with 5 fourth downs completed this season. The league leader in that category was the Philadelphia Eagles with 14.
Miami was No. 21 in total defense this year allowing 356.8 total yards per game. Miami’s secondary struggled this season, which was partly due to a lack of leadership at the safety position after the team let go of Bell in the offseason. Bell, who spent this season with the Jets, provided instruction and set a great example for the young defensive backs last season. Overall, though, Miami’s secondary didn’t get any better or much worse this year considering the team’s receiving defense only fell two spots from 25th in the 2011 season to 27th this year.
The Dolphins finished 19th at limiting opponent first downs and26th at stopping third down conversions. With stars like Pro-Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Randy Starks having one of the best seasons of their careers, Miami’s defense began the first five games ranked in the top ten at stopping the run and finished the season at 13th. The Dolphins racked up a good number of sacks, proving they had one of the best pass rushes in the league. Miami finished with 42 sacks on the year which landed the team at No. 7 in that category. The Dolphins ended the season near the bottom of the league at No. 27 with 10 interceptions. Miami was eighth in the league as it forced 19 fumbles this year. As far as special teams is concerned the Dolphins finished 13th in kickoff return yards, 15th in punt return yards, and 10th in gross punting yards.
The Dolphins will look to make a lot of changes, particularly with the offense which is in desperate need of the premier receivers required to offset the weaknesses of a young quarterback like Tannehill. Miami will also need to revamp its secondary by bringing in some play makers, especially at the cornerback position.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.