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As the Miami Dolphins prepare to close out their preseason schedule, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about the regular season which begins on September 13th against the Washington Redskins.
You can’t deny the improvements that the team has made since last year when yet another promising fall turned into a disappointing winter.
Between players that were added in free agency or the NFL Draft and players who have been on the Dolphins roster that have improved since last season, there is a lot to be excited about in 2015.
Starting on the defensive side of the ball, Miami made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a six-year deal worth $114 million, making him the highest paid defensive player in league history.
Judging by everything I’ve seen during training camp practices and the preseason, it appears that the Dolphins’ investment was a wise one.
The combination of Suh, Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Earl Mitchell has created what could be one of the best defensive lines in team history.
The attention that opposing teams will have to pay to Miami’s defensive front will certainly make the rest of the unit that much better.
The Dolphins already have a couple of Pro Bowl-level players on defense in Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones which will take some of the pressure off of the linebacking corps.
It appears that Miami finally has some stability at linebacker with Jelani Jenkins, Koa Misi and Kelvin Sheppard, plus the added depth provided by Chris McCain.
There are still some question marks surrounding the linebackers but there appears to be enough talent at the position that it shouldn’t hinder the Dolphins defense as much as it has during the past couple of years.
Moving on to the offense, there have been plenty of promising signs about what the Dolphins can do when they have the ball.
It all starts with fourth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has steadily improved in each of his first three seasons.
He’s worked extremely hard since the end of last season and all indications are that the effort is going to pay off in a big way.
Tannehill has taken big strides with his accuracy, consistently hitting his receivers in stride all over the field. The biggest knock on Ryan has been his trouble throwing the deep ball and while there is still room for improvement, he’s connected on more of those passes this year than any other at this stage.READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Sites In South Florida
Across the board, Tannehill’s teammates have raved about his leadership on and off the field. It’s safe to say that the Dolphins are now his team and he’s definitely embraced that role.
While Miami’s front office received the most attention for signing Suh to fortify the defense, several moves were made to better suit the offense to Tannehill’s skillset and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s scheme.
Gone are Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Charles Clay. In their place the Dolphins added several proven playmakers that should complement everything that the team is trying to do on offense.
Miami used their 2015 first round draft pick on wide receiver DeVante Parker, giving Tannehill the big-bodied receiving threat that they have lacked for years.
They also added speedy deep threat Kenny Stills and former Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron to the mix. Combined with the very talented Jarvis Landry and ascending receiver Rishard Matthews, there is no shortage of reliable options for Tannehill to throw to.
As for the running backs, that’s another position that the Dolphins are a lot deeper than some people realize.
Lamar Miller had a breakout year in 2014 despite averaging just 13.5 carries per game and it’s looking like he’s going to shoulder a bigger workload in the upcoming season. His average of 5.1 yards per carry was second only to Baltimore’s Justin Forsett and he was just as reliable in third and short situations as he was during early downs, converting on 11 of his 14 third down rushing attempts of two yards or less.
Miller bulked up during the offseason but hasn’t lost any of his speed and he’s been vocal about wanting to take on more of a leadership role in the huddle.
This could be a big year for the fourth-year running back, especially considering that he’s in a contract year. Miller is hoping that head coach Joe Philbin will agree that he’s a three-down back that can handle any situation and so far during the preseason he’s shown the ability to succeed both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield.
Beyond Miller, Miami has to be pleased with the options at running back. Damien Williams has looked good during practices and seems to have the backup role locked up. LaMike James is beginning to recapture some of the magic he showed while in college and could be called upon to handle the Dolphins kick return duties this season.
Then there’s rookie Jay Ajayi, who was considered by many as the steal of this year’s draft when Miami selected him in the fifth round. Injuries have slowed his development but there is a lot of future potential in the bruising back.
Truly, there is a lot for Dolphins fans to be excited about as the team prepares to begin its 2015 campaign. The problem is that there have been plenty of years in the past where preseason promise has led to December disappointments, but considering everything that has just been listed it looks like this could finally be the year that Miami exercises some of their past demons and breaks into the playoffs.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Watch Miami take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday at 7 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccination Sites In South Florida
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