Miami Dolphins 2017 Preview

 

No team has already gone through as big of a change as the Miami Dolphins. It’s only mid-August. For the Dolphins it might as well be the middle of the season. Coach Adam Gase and the Fins had to go straight to Plan B.

Miami Dolphins 2017 Preview

Plan A went down with injury in the first week of practice. There’s no telling if quarterback Ryan Tannehill, whom many expected to have a breakout seasons this year, ever recovers from his latest injury.

It happened to Tannehill’s left knee, the one with the brace, as he tried to scramble during practice. It was as bad as everyone feared. Tannehill is out for the year. That’s not a good sign for a QB that has been in the league since 2012-2013 and has yet to record a QB rating higher than 93.5 points.

Tannehill’s career might be over. Fear not, Dolphin fan. Gase’s Plan B was to bring in former Chicago Bears’ QB Jay Cutler. Yes…that Jay Cutler. Will Plan B work? What about the rest of the Miami Dolphins’ squad?

Can Miami turn it’s fortunes around and finally eclipse the New England  Patriots? Check out my Miami Dolphins 2017 Preview for some answers.

Cutler to the Rescue

The Dolphins fortunes now reside in the hands of an 11-year veteran quarterback coming off his absolute worst season as a pro.

Due to injuries, and possibly feeling the effects of an over a decade career that’s seen very few accomplishments, Jay Cutler threw 4 TD passes and 5 Ints last season. He only threw for 1,059 yards. His completion percentage was a terrible 59.1. His QB rating was a horrible 78.1. It was Cutler’s worst QB rating since the 76.8 he posted in the 2008-2009 NFL Season.

That’s how bad Jay Cutler was last season. Yet, here he is with a sweet deal throwing for the only individual to get the most out of him, Adam Gase.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. Gase worked hard to convince Jay Cutler to join the Miami Dolphins. Gase went to the powers that be in the Fins’ organization and worked on Cutler’s behalf to get the $10 million 1-year deal. Cutler needed to know he was wanted. Such is the former Vanderbilt quarterback’s psyche.

With all that being written, I’ll be the first to admit that, yeah, Plan B could actually work out.

2015 was Cutler’s best year as a pro. Under the tutelage of Adam Gase, Cutler turned into a real starting NFL quarterback. He completed over 64% of his passes. He threw 10 more TDs than picks, 21 to 11. He threw for 3,659 yards. His QB rating was the highest of his career, 92.3.

Could Plan B, which didn’t exist before Tannehill’s injury, actually work? Maybe.

Must Jay Ajayi Carry the Rushing Load?

Another individual who suffered an injury was burgeoning star running back Jay Ajayi. Ajayi suffered a concussion in the first week of training camp. He shouldn’t suit up for Miami’s first NFL Preseason game. Heck, he might be out the entire preseason.

Even when Ajayi’s on the field, his production is suspect. In 3 games last season, Ajayi was bonkers good. In Week 6 versus Pitt, Ajayi rushed for 204 yards and scored 2 TDs. His per rush average was a mind-blowing 8.2. The very next week, Ajayi punished the Bills for 214 yards, a 7.4 per rush average, and a TD. He demolished the Bills again in Week 16, rushing for 214 yards, and a 6.4 per rush average. Ajayi scored a TD in that game as well.

But, Ajayi didn’t rush that well against anyone else. In fact, Jay Ajayi played in 10 games last season where he rushed for 61 yards or less. In 7 of those 10 games, Ajayi rushed for 3.2 yards per carry or less. He must be more consistent. He must be better. If he’s not, Miami’s offense could stall in a hurry, right?

There’s another reason Ajayi must be better in 2017. Cutler’s transition from sleeping bear to killer dolphin will go a lot smoother if Ajayi plays well in every game.

Miami’s Got Some Weapons

Cutler has some wide receivers to throw the football too. The Fins resigned Kenny Stills. Stills scored 9 TDs last season. Gase hopes this is the season WR DeVante Parker becomes an elite wideout. Parker has all the skills to be one of the better wide receivers in the AFC. So far, injuries have derailed his career.

The biggest weapon, and most important to Jay Cutler, might be TE Julius Thomas. Thomas languished in Jacksonville while trying to catch passes from Blake Bortles. Cutler routinely threw the football to Martellus Bennett while in Chicago. He knows how to get the pigskin to the tight-end.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could have his best season as a pro since 2014-2015 when he caught 12 TD passes.

Another Miami offensive weapon to keep an eye on is RB/WR Kenyan Drake. Drake, a former star at Alabama, has mad football skills. Gase used him sparingly in his rookie season. Expect Gase to unleash him more often in 2017.

Has the Dolphins’ Defense Improved?

Last season, Miami’s defense finished 29th in yards allowed per game. The Fins gave up a horrible 382.6 yards per. The worst part is that opponent’s averaged 140.4 rushing yards per game against the Dolphins’ defense. Only 2 teams in the NFL were worse at stopping the rush, the Cleveland Browns and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Dolphins decided to bolster their defense during the offseason. The Fins spent their first 3 draft picks on defensive players. Round 1 saw Miami draft OLB Charles Harris from Missouri. Miami drafted another LB, Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan in Round 2. In Round 3, the Dolphins went for a cornerback, Cordea Tankersley from Clemson. All 3 should contribute right away.

The Fins also signed perennial run stopper Lawrence Timmons away from Pittsburgh. Timmons was his usual productive self in 2016 when recording 78 solo tackles, 36 assisted tackles, and 2 interceptions.

Timmons alone should held the terrific N’Damukong Suh and equally talented Cameron Wake get the much needed push upfront. With guys like Lawrence Timmons, Raekwon McMillan, and Charles Harris following Wake and Suh, who knows? Miami might have a good defense this season.

2017-2018 Miami Dolphins Schedule

In Gase’s first season as head coach, Miami finished at 10-6. It was a wonderful season for the Miami Dolphins fans, who hadn’t success like that in a long time. Gase has a shot to build on that success.

It won’t be easy. But, this Dolphins team is better built to handle the New England Patriots. Plus, the early part of the schedule doesn’t appear too daunting.

Miami tackles Tampa Bay, at the L.A.  Chargers, at the New York Jets, New Orleans, and Tennessee in their first 5 games. The Dolphins’ next 5 games before their Week 11 bye are at Atlanta, the Jets, at Baltimore, Oakland, and at Carolina.

I believe Miami loses to Tampa Bay or New Orleans, but not to both. They also should lose in Atlanta when they play the Falcons. Baltimore or the Oakland Raiders should beat the Dolphins, but not both.

Miami’s record going into the Week 11 bye should be 7 and 3. The second half of the season is where things could get dicey.

Miami is at New England, Denver, New England, at Buffalo, at KC, and at Buffalo. The Dolphins should lose at least once to both New England and Buffalo. A loss to KC is also in the cards. The key will be the home game versus Denver in Week 13.

A win against the Broncos leads to a 10 and 6 record. A loss leads to a 9 and 7 record. Either way, Miami’s got a great shot of garnering a Wildcard Playoff berth.

Miami Dolphins Super Bowl 52 Odds

The Dolphins odds to win Super Bowl 52 are a healthy 50 to 1. Not many believe Miami has a shot. Most of the reason why Miami’s odds are so high is due to the presence of the New England Patriots in the AFC East Division.

The Pats are a solid favorite to repeat as Super Bowl Champions. I’m not so sure about the Patriots repeating. That’s one of the reasons I believe there’s some value in the +5000 odds.

The Miami Dolphins’ defense should be much improved. Not only that, but Jay Cutler already knows Adam Gase’s offensive system. Gase could get the most out of Cutler just like he did in 2015. But, the real reason I like Miami has to do with the RB position.

The unknown truth is that Gase doesn’t need Ajayi to become a fantasy football stud for the Dolphins to get production from the running back position. All Gase needs is for Kenyan Drake or Oklahoma rookie Samaje Perrine, or both, to step in when Ajayi falters.

The Dolphins look strong. I think 50 to 1 are great odds on the Miami Dolphins to win Super Bowl 52.