This has been a fantastic offseason for Miami from signing Mike Wallace to being aggressive and trading up for Dion Jordan in the draft. I feel like the team is on the verge. Yes, there are questions and I'm not projecting super bowl for 2013 but a 9-11 win season looks possible. I want to look at the team, unit to unit, the draft and the AFC East and start some discussions.
This is still the biggest quesiton as far as what Ryan Tannehill can become. I believe he has the deep arm to exploit the talents of Wallace and will step his game up. I can see Tannehill being similar to a Phil Simms with more athletic ability. I see him running more this year and, with more talent around him, taking that next step. If Miami is going to be a super bowl quality team in 2014 and beyond, Tannehill has to show the ability to bring the team back and carry Miami on his shoulders every now and then. Having Matt Moore as a quality backup helps this unit.
Offensive Line C/C+
The grade here is really incomplete. Will Miami regret letting Jake Long go, or can Jonathan Martin take that next step and become a decent LT? There's still the possibility that the Dolphins trade for a LT, but it looks more likely the team will sign a Winston or Clabo at RT. Pouncey is one of the best centers in the game and I like the Thomas pick as a LG. He could be tried at RT, but I think he fits Philibin's system at guard. This is not a great overall unit and is still a work in progress as the line transends to a new coaching philosophy.
Wide Receivers C+
This unit went from maybe bottom two or three in the league to somewhere in the middle of the pack. Wallace is a game changer, Keller is the pass catching tight end Miami hasn't had in a long, long time. Bringing Hartline back made sense. Gibson produced for the Rams and is ascending. I like the pick of Sims at tight end. This unit is a lot better, but I think there is still room for more talent. Will any of the undrafted players surprise?
Running Back C+
Miller gets his chance and that's a good thing. If he plays to his ability this grade could go way up. Thomas is in a make or break year. He needs to stay healthy and produce or could find himself looking for another team. Late rounder Gillispee (sp) could be the number two back.
Defensive Line B+/A-
Lots of talent here with run stoppers Solai and Starks in the middle and two gifted pass rushers in Wake and Jordan at ends. Jordan may play outside linebacker, or move around as a hybrid guy. Vernon is a player who could take that next step and also provide a pass rush. Both Solai and Starks are signed for one year so there will be big decisions at DT moving forward.
I absolutely love that this unit was revamped in the offseason with the emphasis on speed and playmaking ability. Ellerbee, Wheeler and Misi figure as the starters with Jordan also in the mix. Jenkins could push for playing time.
This is another unit that could improve dramatically and will need to with the opponents Miami faces early in the season. The big question is if Grimes, a former pro bowler, can regain his 2010 form and how soon rookie Taylor steps into a starting role. Davis likely pushes for playing time. He needs to improve his run defense, but could help in obvious passing downs. The team should be at least solid with Jones, one of the better safeties, and Clemens who could still take his game to the next level.
Jordan has all the talent to become an elite pass rusher. I love the trade up to get him. Taylor should start opposite Grimes. I really think Ireland hit a home run with both those selections. Thomas will push to start at LG. Sims is another player who should see the field a lot.
The AFC East
This division isn't as strong as it's been in the past. The Jets are rebuilding and don't have much on offense. Their defense should keep them in games as they transition to Smith at qb. Buffalo is revamping on offense with a rookie quarterback. Manuel has a lot of upside and the Bills drafted talent around him. New England is clearly still the class of the division and as long as Brady is healthy the Patriots are the team to beat.