The Dolphins are probably the most stable team in the division outside of the Patriots. They have the pieces in place to make a substantial run, but there are some serious questions that the team hasn’t answered. Should the Patriots be afraid of being dethroned by the Dolphins? Let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses and decide:
Why should the Patriots be afraid: On offense, Joe Philbin has given the reigns over to QB Ryan Tannehill and have signed him to a large extension (6 year, 95 million) as a sign of good faith. He has improved every year and threw for over 4,000 yards last year. The Dolphins acquired WR Kenny Stills in a trade, signed TE Jordan Cameron and drafted WR DaVante Parker in the first round to improve his weapons. Second year Jarvis Landry looks like a future stud and adding a healthy Lamar Miller gives him a capable runner.
On defense is where the strength is. There might not be a more underrated and dangerous player outside of Cameron Wake and to add one of the best defensive tackles in DT Ndamukong Suh gives them a dangerous duo to team up with steady DE Olivier Vernon. This is a dangerous defensive line that can wreak havoc across the line. CB Brett Grimes is an incredibly talented CB that teams up with probably the most underrated safety in the game with Reshad Jones. He is solid against the run and is excellent in coverage. These core players are the keys to a dominant defense that has the potential to carry them far.
Why shouldn’t the Patriots be afraid: Despite the optimism, there are some glaring holes that the pundits aren’t really addressing. When it comes to the offense, Tannehill might be overpaid, but he produces enough to warrant his new contract. With that, they have only solid offensive line starter with C Mike Pouncey. LT Brandon Albert is 30 and is coming off a major knee injury. Last year’s rookie RT Ja’Wuan James was overwhelmed and they have no real proven starter at either Guard spot. It doesn’t matter who is playing QB, RB or WR, if they can’t protect Tannehill, they are going nowhere. Lamar Miller has trouble staying healthy and they don’t have proven depth behind him. This means that is truly ALL on Tannehill’s shoulders and if you have watched him play, you can question why the team would do that.
On defense, there are some huge holes that they haven’t addressed. The back 7 leaves a lot to be desired. They have a promising LB in Jelani Jenkins and a solid starter with MLB Koa Misi, but they are both unproven and there isn’t a starter outside of him. Grimes is a great corner, but he’s 32. How much longer can he play at an elite level? Also, who is playing opposite him? Right now, their biggest acquisition was slot CB Brice McCain. That’s not the most encouraging sign for anyone. FS Louis Delmas has shown flashes but can’t stay healthy and is coming off an ACL tear.
What does all this mean? There’s obvious talent there in Miami, but it’s too lofty to expect much more than .500 for this team. There is a lot of holes on this team and questions aplenty across the offensive line, secondary and line-backing corps. If they get these resolved, they are definitely a team to be reckoned with, but are still most likely a year away.