Ryan Tannehill probably won’t be the spread-option threat Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson were last year, but the Dolphins expect him to play as well as those other two draft classmates because, in Year 2 of their careers, there are no longer excuses for the Miami quarterback. Last year, with limited weapons, Tannehill was not nearly as good as RG3 or Wilson or Andrew Luck. The Dolphins spent a lot of money this offseason to build around Tannehill so they expect him to be the most improved quarterback in the NFL. Miami, meanwhile, has what some consider the best backup in the NFL. Last year when Tannehill got hurt against the New York Jets, Matt Moore entered the game and won it for Miami. That’s all you can ask a backup quarterback on the field. Off the field, Moore is a good sounding board and motivator for Tannehill.
Running backs: C
Reggie Bush is gone and philosophically that’s the right call because the Dolphins had two, younger, cheaper players they drafted waiting in the wings that needed to play. That’s how great teams do business. Small problem is neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas have been electric in the preseason to the point they battled until the end of training camp for the starting job. This might just be a position that requires platoon work from Miller, Thomas and a third running back. The fullback position? What fullback? The Dolphins might have one on the roster but you probably won’t see him a ton other than goal line and short yardage situations.
Receivers/tight ends: B+
This was a terrible, horrible, pathetic team weakness last season. But general manager Jeff Ireland upgraded quite well, thank you, to the point the Dolphins probably have the best receiving corps in the AFC East. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline are both former 1,000-yard receivers. Brandon Gibson is an upgrade in the slot. The Dolphins seemed truly set at tight end with veteran Dustin Keller showing great chemistry with Tannehill but he’s out for the season with a major knee injury. It’s time for youngsters Charles Clay, Dion Sims and Michael Egnew to perform. Will they? Yes, but probably inconsistently.
Offensive line: B-
The line looked like a mess in the offseason and early in camp. Jake Long departed for St. Louis and while Jonathan Martin struggled, John Jerry had to deal with an injury and the rest of the line lacked cohesion. But something happened in late August. Martin started playing better. Jerry got healthy. Suddenly, the swinging gate to the quarterback was closed. If the group remains healthy, it should be fine. Nate Garner remains the unit’s most dependable backup. The team needs depth at both tackle spots.
Defensive line: A
This group has been the team’s strength for years and remains that way. Although rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan had a disappointing preseason (injured) the club remains hopeful he can add pass rush to a unit that doesn’t seem to need much help. Cameron Wake is still a beast and at the other DE spot new starter Olivier Vernon has made strides. No, Vernon might not be a 12-sack player, but perhaps 8-9. Beefy Paul Soliai clogs the middle and Randy Starks remains the most versatile player of the group because he can play inside or outside and stops the run as well as rushes the passer. Jared Odrick would start on most other teams. He’ll get some starts for Miami but more likely will be a fine reserve that still gets a lot of playing time.