For the Miami Dolphins, last year started with a lot of excitement, with a new coach in Joe Philbin, a new quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and a new buzz with the exposure created by HBO’s series Hard Knocks. This year, Philbin and Tannehill will both be entering their secondseason leading this team, and the team will be expected to improve on their 7-9 record last year. To help Tannehill, the Dolphins were the most active team in free agency this offseason, resigning critical team members, as well as bringing in new talent at important skill positions.
In order for Tannehill to improve, the Dolphins needed to focus on two positions: wide receiver and left tackle. The first need that the Dolphins addressed was at receiver, because Miami had one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL, though Brian Hartline started to emerge into a star at the end of the year. The Dolphins rewarded Hartline with a 5-year deal, and then signed one of the best receivers in free agency, Mike Wallace. Signing both receivers was an important step for Tannehill’s development because of their complementary skill sets. Hartline is a big receiver (6’2, 200 pounds), who can spread the field, but is best at finding open spots in the defense. Mike Wallace, on the other hand, is a pure speed receiver, and will be able to give the Dolphins a deep threat for Tannehill to utilize. Wallace will require the opposing safety’s constant attention, which will allow the other Dolphins receivers to stretch the field and take advantage of lapses in coverage. The Dolphins also needed to add an impact tight end, after letting Anthony Fasano go in the offseason. The Dolphins lured Dustin Keller away from the division-rival Jets, who was Mark Sanchez’s favorite target. Keller will provide Tannehill with a solid safety valve in the passing game, but is also a good route runner, and will be used with Wallace and Hartline to open up the field.
Though the Dolphins added weapons on offense, Miami was dealt a huge blow when former first round pick Jake Long signed with the Rams. Long had been Miami’sstarting left tackle since they drafted him #1 in 2008, and was going to protect Tannehill’s blind side for many years. However, by the time Long had signed with the Rams, the top left tackle free agents had been signed by other teams. The Dolphins signed former Atlanta Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo to protect Tannehill. Clabo is no stranger to protecting young up-and-coming quarterbacks, as he has protected Matt Ryan since Ryan’s rookie year. Clabo is a very consistent choice because he has started every game since his debut with the Falcons in 2006. Clabo, like Long, is a big body that has surprisingly quick feet, allowing him to not only take up a lot of space, but also allowing him tohedge defensive ends away from the quarterback. With a solid blind side protector, Tannehill should be able to take his time with his footwork and mechanics, allowing him to be a more consistent passer.
The Miami Dolphins are still probably a year or two from challenging the Patriots for the AFC East title, not to mention challenge the best in the league in the playoffs. In order for them to do this, Ryan Tannehill will need to take the next step in his progression as a quarterback to become more consistent and more aware of opposing defenses. However; with the new receiving options that he has, as well as a solid blind-side protector, Tannehill has the weapons to make the next step, now he just needs to take it.