The Miami Dolphins have already been hit by key injuries that could prove to be devastating early blows to their playoff aspirations.
First, came the news that Knowshon Moreno is battling a knee injury that has hampered his performance in practice and will require surgery. Then, news broke that star center Mike Pouncey underwent surgery and should miss “at least” three months for recovery.
For a Dolphins offense that was already set to have four new starters along the offensive line this season, it will be difficult to replace Pouncey, who was a top-15 center over the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus. He earned a Pro Bowl selection in each of the last two seasons and expected to be one of the offense’s leaders alongside quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Speaking of Tannehill, the Dolphins gunslinger may face the greatest obstacles of all in Miami. He was the most sacked quarterback a season ago. With an entirely new offensive line in front of him, including the potential for two rookie starters, this season suddenly does not appear to be much more promising in terms of pass protection for Tannehill.
The Dolphins are hopeful that new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will be able to mitigate that concern though, as his spread offense is expected to attack opposing defenses like rapid fire. The offensive line has been the greatest detriment to Tannehill’s development as an NFL quarterback, so if Lazor’s offense can deflect some of the pressure he’s seen in his first couple of pro seasons and give him the time necessary to utilize the Dolphins’ talented group of offensive weapons, Miami could be legitimate AFC East contenders this season.
Of course, the offense’s success will also be dependent on a strong running game, something that could be a bit more difficult if their free-agent acquisition Moreno cannot contribute as expected. Moreno is coming off a 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in Denver and, now in the prime of his career, was thought to be a great addition to Miami’s offensive attack.
The Dolphins will need the other backs on their roster to step up and prove they can be valuable both as a ball carrier and receiver out of the backfield. Luckily for them, Lamar Miller has had a quality offseason thus far and looks like the starter heading into training camp next month.
Things haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot for the Dolphins, who would seek their first playoff berth since 2008. It’s going to take a lot of patience and hard work to get where they want to be, but with a full offseason still ahead and the current tally of injuries expected to take a minimal toll during the regular season (Moreno should be close to 100 percent for training camp), head coach Joe Philbin and his staff could have one of the better Dolphins teams in recent history.