The 2014 NFL season is quickly approaching with training camp just a few short weeks away now. The Miami Dolphins, like other teams, are excited to get to work and prepare for the big season ahead.
With a new offensive coordinator and a slew of changes throughout the roster made this offseason, the Dolphins are one of the more difficult team’s to pinpoint. Here is a prediction of the team’s top five players for this upcoming season…
5. Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins’ third-year quarterback could be faced with another uphill battle in Miami with a questionable offensive line in front of him. However, after the big step he took in 2013, he’s primed and ready to continue that progress this season.
Tannehill should benefit greatly from the hiring of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, whose offense is tailor-fitted to keep the former first-round pick on his feet and slinging the football with success. After being sacked a league-high 58 times last season, he’ll be happy to simply have more time to make a play this season.
4. Branden Albert
The Dolphins’ offensive was bad in 2013. Like really bad. So they did what they had to make major improvements, the biggest of which was the singing of free-agent left tackle Branden Albert.
The Dolphins will be starting all new players across the entire offensive line, but while there may be reason for concern regarding the other four starters, Albert’s addition will go a long ways toward keeping Tannehill comfortable in the pocket.
Albert leaves much to be desired in the running game, but that’s not what he was brought to Miami for. He ranks among the league’s best pass rushers and Tannehill will be very thankful to have him after what happened last season.
3. Brent Grimes
Grimes was one of the Dolphins’ standout defensive players last season and earned his second Pro Bowl selection as a result. He earned the third highest grade among all NFL cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus, and he did so after missing nearly all of 2012 due to injury.
Miami will be dependent on Grimes’ game to help bolster the Dolphins’ secondary again this season. The group was a pleasant surprise a year ago, but they’ll need to perform up to par once again if they’re going to be legitimate contenders for the New England Patriots in the AFC East.
2. Charles Clay
I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: Charles Clay has the potential be one of the NFL’s elite tight ends. He showed great promise in 2013, catching 69 passes for 759 yards and five touchdowns.
Expectations will be higher for him in 2014. He’s expected to be a key offensive weapon alongside receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline as part of a scheme in which the tight end is highly utilized.
1. Cameron Wake
The aging veteran may be getting ready for a decline as he enters the twilight years of his pro career, but he is still one of the better pass rushers in the NFL.
Despite having his playing time limited to just 72 snaps by injury between Week 3 and Week 9, Wake still managed to finish the season out with the second highest pass-rushing grade of all 4-3 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus. The 32-year-old had 8.5 sacks, helping to create the formidable duo with fellow defensive end Olivier Vernon, who had 11.5 sacks.
Opposing offenses will be forced to gameplan with Wake in mind. He is a disruptive force (10 disruptions in Week 1 along last season) who has a knack for getting after the quarterback.
With Vernon lined up opposite him and a full season of healthy (hopefully), Wake could boost his sack total back up near the 15 he registered in 2012.