Miami Dolphins

Who needs to step up for the Dolphins to make a run in 2018? ESPN says these five players

Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill #17 throws during the Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on June 6.
Miami Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill #17 throws during the Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activities at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on June 6. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

After sliding to a 6-10 record last season, the Miami Dolphins are hoping for a resurgence in 2018.

For that to happen, coach Adam Gase is going to need big years from a host of players, especially as the Dolphins attempt to replace the production of players such as Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pouncey.

But who exactly needs to step up?

ESPN has its thoughts. The website unveiled its list of five players from each NFL team who will be vital to the team's success in 2018.

For the Dolphins, that list includes quarterback Ryan Tannehill, running back Kenyan Drake, defensive end Robert Quinn, left tackle Laremy Tunsil and linebacker Raekwon McMillan.

Tannehill is the most obvious of the group. He's returning from ACL surgery and hasn't played in a live game since Dec. 11, 2016. He put up career-best marks in 2016 in completion percentage (67.1 percent), yards per attempt (7.7) and QB rating (93.5) before missing the final three games with the knee injury.

"If the Dolphins’ disappointing 6-10 finish last season is to be written off as the product of losing Tannehill to a knee injury — and not a greater problem — then getting Tannehill back playing at a 2016 level will be of prime importance in 2018," ESPN's Mike Rodak wrote.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media about quarterback Ryan Tannehill

As for the other four, each has either a chip on his shoulder from inconsistent performance or something to prove in a new role.

Drake took over as the Dolphins' starting running back after they traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. He rushed for 444 yards on 91 carries (4.9 yards per rush) and three touchdowns in his final five games, all starts. Drake also caught 17 passes for 150 yards in that final stretch. His goal now is to replicate that success over a 16-game season while sharing touches with veteran Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage.

Quinn, who came to Miami in an offseason trade with the Los Angeles Rams, has impressed during his short stint with the team. The 6-4, 265-pound defensive end will need to make his presence known on the field once the season starts.

Tunsil, Miami's first-round pick in 2016, had a lackluster season as the Dolphins' starting left tackle in 2017. Pro Football Focus ranked him 47th out of 81 tackles last season. He has help along the line — namely new left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore — but Tunsil will need to hold his weight on the left side.

McMillian was slotted to see significant time as a rookie after Miami drafted him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That plan ended when he tore his ACL on his first play in the preseason. The second-year linebacker is healthy now, his knee fully healed, giving him a second chance to make a quality first impression.

"It was hard at first, but then I kind of sucked it up and told myself that I could either let this year be a waste or prepare myself for next year, because I know next year there is going to be a role to start," McMillan told reporters during OTAs. "I can't have any setbacks."

The next step in seeing how far these players have developed will come during training camp. Rookies report to Miami's traning facility in Davie on July 18. Veterans report a week later.

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