Haven’t the New England Patriots won the AFC East enough for one lifetime? It can’t be easy being a fan of the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills or New York Jets. No matter how good they seem to be, their season is always ruined by the Patriots dynasty. One of those three teams needs to step up and dethrone the kings.
The New York Jets don’t have enough talent right now to get there so that leaves only the Bills and Dolphins. The Bills have a few new coaches in place and some questions still unanswered, so can the Miami Dolphins finally get it done? If so, they’ll need a few key players to meet the challenge:
Devante Parker: Of Miami’s big 3 wide receivers, Parker has struggled to break out. He’s showed the type of talent the Dolphins drafted him for but has struggled with his consistency. Parker has been praised in camp for being more aggressive and vocal in camp showing he might be finally buying in. Out of college his ability to win one on one toss up catches was a main component in the Dolphins drafting him. If Parker can develop into a redbone threat it opens up opportunities for more plays underneath.
Julius Thomas – If Miami had a need on offense this offseason, tight end was towards the top. Miami hasn’t figured out how to get productivity out of the position in some time so a fresh face was added. What better face than someone who is familiar with the coach and scheme. Thomas struggled in Jacksonville but so did the rest of his team. If he can bounce back and be the player he was under Gase for the Broncos, or at least close to it, expect Miami’s receivers to benefit.
Mike Pouncey – Pouncey needs to buckle down and get healthy. He doesn’t need to go out and prove himself in the preseason. He doesn’t need a lot of reps. He just needs to be physically healthy and in shape to play football. That’s his focus. The Dolphins run game is a different animal when Pouncey is healthy and Jay Ajayi has become a target. As confident as Miami is in their new class, the run game thrives with Pouncey at center.
Ryan Tannehill – Every year we hear how this needs to be Tannehill’s breakout year and this year is no different. You can point to as many stats as you want. Fluff his achievements and make up new configurations on how he’s in with the best in the league. However, the fact of the matter is, it’s not about stats anymore. Ryan Tannehill needs to find that beast inside him and unleash his killer instinct. Fans don’t want to see mild-mannered Clark Kent, they need save-the-day Superman. It’s time to step up, or ship out.
Reshad Jones – Jones is another cornerstone of the Dolphins gameplan. Having missed a large chunk of last season the defense really needs him back. Not only is Jones a ball hawk, he’s a key component in stopping the run. He’s always near the top of the list in tackles and finds a way to make his presence felt. The Dolphins struggled last year against the run and got picked apart in their final few games through the air. Jones is arguably one of the top safeties in the game so his health will give the team a boost.
If last year’s final game against the Pats proved anything, it was the Dolphins just weren’t ready. The team was a complete turn around from shortcomings each season before, but they weren’t close to a playoff team. The Dolphins have built a deeper talent pool this offseason and kept from overspending. Now they just need to fire on all cylinders and pray the Patriots finally stumble. They have the talent, can they finally step out of the shadow?