For the Dolphins, the 2013 season will be best remembered for events off the field rather than on it. Although they ended the year at 8-8 (narrowly missing out on the post season for the fifth year in succession), it was the events surrounding offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Incognito was accused (and found guilty following a subsequent investigation) of bullying teammate Martin, which lead to both players missing game time and a weakened offensive line allowing quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be sacked a league high 58 times (12 more than Baltimore’s Joe Flacco in second place). How the Dolphins bounce back from this controversy will define their immediate future; a string start is needed to the 2014 campaign as the team tries to move on from this controversy. Ultimately a run of four defeats in a row to drop from 3-0 to 3-4 and defeats in the last two games to rivals Buffalo and the Jets were the on-field moments that cost Miami last year.
Considering the amount of pressure and pounding that he was subjected to by a less than solid offensive line, Tannehill actually performed pretty well in 2013. 3913 yards and 24 touchdowns compared to 17 picks gave him a rating of 81.7 and suggests that he has the potential to lead this team forward in the future. This is all, of course, providing that he can stay vertical and healthy and the Dolphins entered the offseason knowing that upgrades on their line were essential. Brian Hartline topped the team in receptions (with 76) and yards (with 1016). Big money Free Agency addition Mike Wallace contributed 73 catches for 930 yards and five scores, whilst Charles Clay added 69 grabs for 759 yards and six scores. On the ground, Lamar Miller’s 709 yards on 177 carries was the best that any Dolphin could muster leaving room for improvement in that area too. The most damning statistic against the offense was the aforementioned number of sacks given up, but a combined total of seven points in must win games at the end of the year also suggest serious problems needing to be rectified.
The defence also has room for improvement after finishing 21st in allowing 359.4 yards per game. The ‘bend don’t break’ scheme was clearly in operation, however, as the unit was eighth best in terms of points allowed (at just 20.9 per game). Philip Wheeler (118), Reshad Jones (107) and Dannell Ellerbe (101) topped the tackle charts and Olivier Vernon recorded an impressive 11.5 sacks. Cameron Wake also chipped in with 8.5. In the secondary, Brent Grimes made four picks and defended 17 passes whilst Nolan Carroll picked off three passes and defended 11 more. Both Grimes and Jones managed to return picks for scores of their own whilst Dimitri Patterson also contributed four interceptions.
Marcus Thigpen had plenty of practice returning the ball, with an average of 22.3 yards on 39 kick-off returns and 7.8 yards on 34 punt returns. Kicker Caleb Sturgis managed a distinctly less than impressive 76.5% accuracy rate on his 34 Field Goal attempts and will be under pressure to keep his job when training camp starts. Brandon Fields did better in terms of punting the ball, averaging a net 42.4 yards per kick.
Head Coach Joe Philbin has now presided over two seasons in Miami and seen the side achieve a 15-17 record in that time. Heading into his third season he will need further improvement and a push for the postseason to make sure that he is still in a job for 2015. Improvement is required across the board from the Dolphins and Philbin will be well aware that another season without reaching the playoffs is likely to cost him his job.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
The Dolphins will have a very different offensive line in 2014, as they look to move on from the Martin-Incognito affair and better protect Tannehill. Martin has gone to the 49ers and Incognito released, whilst Miami moved quickly to secure the services of tackle Braden Albert from Kansas City and guard Shelley Smith from St Louis. Other high profile additions see Paul Soliai arrive from Atlanta to bolster the interior of the defensive line and former Bronco Knowshon Moreno who will give a new dimension to the running back position. Whether or not he can be as effective as he was with Peyton Manning as his quarterback remains to be seen. The arrival of Chris Clemons (from Houston), Chris Owens (from the Chiefs), Cortland Finnegan (from the Rams) and Louis Delmas (from Detroit) means that the Dolphins’ secondary will be much changed in 2014 too. Despite all this activity, there are still areas that will need to be addressed in the draft. The offensive line could still be strengthened with some fresh new players and extra weapons for Tannehill to exploit would go down well with Dolphins’ fans too.