Miami Dolphins

Five reasons the Miami Dolphins might be worse in 2016

The Dolphins face the loaded NFC West and have three Pacific Time Zone games in the season’s first 11 weeks, including a season-opener against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.
The Dolphins face the loaded NFC West and have three Pacific Time Zone games in the season’s first 11 weeks, including a season-opener against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. AP

The amazing aspect of the Dolphins’ 15-year run of futility is this:

They’ve really only hit rock bottom once, in 2007 (when they went 1-15).

For as bad as the Joe Philbin Era was, they still were just four games under .500 in his three-plus seasons.

So a cynic might say they’re due for catastrophe.

In fairness, there appears to be far too much talent on this year’s roster for a complete tank job in 2016.

But the margin between mediocre and plain bad isn’t that big in NFL, so with a few unlucky twists and turns, this coming Dolphins season could even be a step back from last year’s 6-10 stinker.

Here are five possible reasons why:

1. Schedule: A 1-3 start to the 2015 season was a catastrophe for the Dolphins.

But oddsmakers would be surprised if the 2016 Dolphins would do any better.

In the first four weeks, they play three playoff teams on the road: Seattle, New England and Cincinnati.

The Dolphins face the loaded NFC West and have three Pacific Time Zone games in the season’s first 11 weeks.

In all, Miami has the league’s 11th-hardest schedule — and fourth-toughest in the AFC.

Miami Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum names tight ends coach Dan Campbell the team's interim head coach following the firing of Joe Philbin. You'll see 10 minutes of the news conference.

2. Youth: In a way, Adam Gase is a symbol of his whole team — young and unproven.

Gase is 38, the youngest coach in the NFL. He’s coaching the youngest roster in the AFC East.

The Dolphins don’t have a wide receiver over the age of 26. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake are 23 and 22, respectively (a big reason why the Dolphins added veteran Arian Foster on Monday).

And the Dolphins could start as many as 11 players (including specialists) who are in their first, second or third seasons.

Why’s this important? The four youngest teams in the league went a combined 28-36 last year.

“We’re young, but that’s not going to be an excuse,” Gase said. “Nobody is going to care when it comes September. Nobody is going to be like, ‘You guys are young.’ Nobody cares. You just got to figure out a way to win.”

Adam Gase has been named the 12th Miami Dolphins head coach in franchise history on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility in Davie.

3. Secondary: The Dolphins had statistically their worst pass defense ever last year, setting or tying franchise worsts in completion percentage (64.6), passing touchdowns (31) and passer rating (97.4).

They ranked 28th league-wide in third-down defense, with teams converting 43.4 percent of the time.

And that was with Brent Grimes, a member of the club’s all-time team. Grimes is gone, thanks both to a drop in production and the antics of wife Miko.

Grimes’ replacement: Byron Maxwell, the ex-Eagle who graded out as the No. 75 corner in football last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

The other side of the field is even more precarious. The Dolphins will either start a rookie in Xavien Howard or Tony Lippett, who is a converted wide receiver.

Sportswriter Adam Beasley talks about the Dolphins' firing of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, and explains what changes might occur in the team's defensive strategy in time for the next game Oct. 18 against the Titans.

4. Run defense: These are defensive rankings that usually add up to a bad team:

▪  28th in rushing yards per game (126.2)

▪  21st in yards per play allowed (5.6)

▪  And 26th in opposing plays per game (67.2)

That was the Dolphins’ report card in 2015, when their front four was Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell and Olivier Vernon.

Now they’re without Vernon, who was one of their better run stoppers, and have replaced him with aging Mario Williams.

Reshad Jones, Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams and Koa Misi missed the first day of voluntary minicamp on April 26, 2016.

5. Tight ends: Dolphins tight ends combined to catch only 58 passes last year.

There were 11 NFL tight ends who had more receptions all by themselves: Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, Gary Barnidge, Greg Olsen, Jason Witten, Zach Ertz, Benjamin Watson, Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Heath Miller and Jacob Tamme.

Miami didn’t upgrade this offseason, however, so the team must get more out of Jordan Cameron and Dion Sims.

Adam Beasley delivers Miami Herald Dolphins report after Wednesday's mini-camp at Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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