5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Miami Dolphins

Our previews of all 32 NFL teams continue as we move on to the next team in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins, who finished in third place in the division last season.

The Dolphins were without QB Ryan Tannehill last season and called upon a coming-out-of-retirement Jay Cutler to lead the team on the field. The resulting 6-10 record was a four-game regression from 2016, when they made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Tannehill is back now and ready to come  back from the season-ending knee injury he suffered last preseason. New to the team this year are veteran RB Frank Gore, WR Danny Amendola, DE Robert Quinn and backup quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty. Among the team’s notable draftees are first-round pick S Minkah Fitzpatrick and RB Kalen Ballage, one of the team’s two fourth-round picks. Gone are WR Jarvis Landry, DT Ndamukong Suh and TE Julius Thomas.

With Cutler at the helm, the Dolphins finished 25th in the NFL with 4,923 yards and 28th with 281 points last season. When Tannehill last played in 2016, he threw for 2,995 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games. Last season, WR Kenny Stills had 58 receptions for 847 yards and six touchdowns and WR DeVante Parker had 57 catches for 670 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. With the Patriots, Amendola caught 61 balls for 659 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games. RB Kenyan Drake took over as the team’s primary running back after the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles, and in his 16 games — including six starts — Drake carried the ball 133 times for 644 yards and three touchdowns. Gore had 261 carries last season for the Colts, totaling 961 yards with three touchdowns. The Dolphins’ defense was in the middle of the league in yards allowed, but the defensive unit allowed the fourth-most points in the league.

The Dolphins’ schedule begins with a Week 1 home game against the Titans before they visit the Jets in Week 2. They return home to host the Raiders in Week 3. They play the Patriots in Foxborough in Week 4, then travel to Cincinnati for a meeting with the Bengals. After home games against the Bears and Lions, the Dolphins head to Houston to take on the Texans in Week 8. After that, they host the Jets and visit the Packers at Lambeau Field before getting a Week 11 bye. Coming out of the bye, the Dolphins visit the Colts and host the Bills and Patriots in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively. Week 15 sends the Dolphins to Minneapolis to take on the Vikings. They then host the Jaguars and visit the Bills to finish out the regular season in Week 17.

The offense should be better with Tannehill back than it was with a past-his-prime Cutler, who came out of retirement to play last season. But the Dolphins traded away one of the league’s best receivers in Landry. He had 112 receptions last season, which opens the door for other receivers like Stills and Parker to step up their games and become bigger pieces of the offense. Ajayi should get the majority of the rushing workload, with Gore taking over when he needs a breather, but don’t be surprised if Ballage gets worked into the team’s gameplan more as the season progresses and the rookie knows more of the team’s playbook and gains more experience. The Patriots should easily win the division again this season, but the Dolphins may finish in second place. With the AFC being more wide open than the NFC, they could compete for one of the conference’s two wild cards.

Source: http://www.miamidolphins.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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