What is this? The Miami Dolphins are beginning to get a little national respect!?
It’s summer and ESPN loves lists, and so the network's Bill Barnwell ranked the 32 NFL teams based on “offensive arsenals,” which he defines as running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, not taking into account quarterbacks, linemen or offensive coaching.
Well, he has the Dolphins ranked No. 3 overall, trailing only — of course — top-ranked New England and runnerup Pittsburgh.
The ESPN ranking lists Miami's "headliners" as running back Jay Ajayi and receivers DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry, in that order. Barnwell’s synopsis of the Dolphins’ lofty ranking:
“It has almost become a parody, but there's a staggering amount of potential among the Dolphins' collection of skill-position talent. There's not a more exciting trio of young receivers in the game than Landy, Parker and Kenny Stills, each of whom are 25 or younger. Parker might loom as the most devastating of the three, and if he takes a leap forward in his third season, it's hard to figure out how anyone is going to cover these guys.
“Miami got lucky at running back, where it sensed some weakness and tried to sign C.J. Anderson to a hefty offer sheet in March 2016 before bringing Arian Foster in over the summer. The Broncos matched Anderson's offer and Foster retired, turning the job over to Ajayi, who announced his arrival with back-to-back 200-yard games against the Steelers and Bills before putting up a third 200-yard game against Buffalo in December. Ajayi was a little more dependent upon big plays than you might like, but there's still a starting back here with plenty of upside.
“If coach Adam Gase can get something out of [tight end] Julius Thomas, who scored 24 touchdowns in two years for him in Denver, this offense could be unstoppable. They're not all going to break out unless the Dolphins get to play with two footballs, but there's so much talent to go around that Miami won't have to depend on any one player to have a big season."
My take: The rosy outlook is mostly justified, though it rests on two big ifs: Parker having the breakout year they hope, and Thomas not reverting to his sputtering 2016 Jaguars model. And, of course, the Fins will need a solid Ryan Tannehill and a healthy O-line to help this "arsenal" shine.
One other note to put the Dolphins defense on alert: Miami will play six games against teams also ranked in this list's Top 10: Vs. the No. 1 Patriots (twice), the No. 4 Falcons, the No. 7 Chargers, the No. 8 Raiders and, in the Sept. 10 season opener, the No. 10 Buccaneers. Find Barnwell's complete list here.