The number one thing to take away from the pre-season is that you shouldn’t take anything away from the pre-season. These glorified scrimmages can prove who is worthy of the bubble spots on the roster and who is capable of flashing ability in one-on-one situations.
The pre-season has had its bright spots sprinkled in over a mirage of doom and gloom for the Dolphins. It has further confirmed my original line of thinking in that this team is going to play some shoot outs, and it’s going to compile a lot of yardage – some of which may be garbage time glory for fantasy owners.
Adam Gase is said to want to run the football, but we also hear that he’s willing to adapt to his game plan to suit the roster he has to work with. This roster has a good pass protecting offensive line, game breakers at wide receiver, a good quarterback and a backfield stable that leaves plenty to be desired.
With that said, I’m assigning 1,100 plays to the offense with a heavy emphasis on the passing game. 615 pass attempts, 425 rushing attempts and 30 sacks to bring us to the grand total. This is an increase of over two plays per game from 2015. The combination of quicker pace and higher third down efficiency will result in more snaps from this offense.
In this piece I will cover expectations from each position group, break down the schedule from the eyes of Vegas bookmakers, give you projected offensive stats that have been formulated off percentages and scheme fits and, lastly, I will predict the Dolphins 2016 record.
I’ve made no secret that I think Adam Gase is just what Ryan Tannehill needed to take the next step in his career. The majority of the videos I’ve seen from Dolphins camp in terms of quarterback drills are working on improving on dealing with a collapsing pocket. If he improves this portion of his game, and the returns on giving him more freedom – I see no reason his numbers won’t dramatically improve. Tannehill has always been a guy that makes good decisions and takes care of the ball. He’s been a 2% interception rate and 4% touchdown rate type of guy for the last couple of years. The best in the league are at 1% INTs and 7% TDs, so I’m projecting some jumps.
Tannehill’s Projected Stats: 390/615 (64% comp) 4,740 yards (7.7 YPA), 33 TDs (5.5%), 10 INTs (1.7%)
Running Backs Report:
I learned a valuable lesson in my brief sporting career and it’s that who starts the game isn’t what’s important, but rather who finishes. Arian Foster earned the starting gig with his performance in the Atlanta game while Jay Ajayi continues to look miscast in this offense. Foster has experience in a zone scheme and understands leverage, pressing a hole and identifying cutback lanes – I don’t see any of those traits in the Boise State product. Isaiah Pead and Kenyan Drake should provide special teams and third down duties.
Foster’s Projected Stats: 160 carries, 640 yards (4.0 YPC), 5 rushing TDs
Ajayi’s Projected Stats: 99 carries, 346 yards (3.5 YPC), 3 rushing TDs
Pead’s Projected Stats: 48 carries, 245 yards (5.1 YPC), 2 TDs
Drake’s Projected Stats: 32 carries, 150 yards (4.7 YPC) 1 rushing TD
Tannehill’s Projected Stats: 48 carries, 293 yards (6.1 YPC) 1 rushing TD
Landry’s Projected Stats: 22 carries, 139 yards (6.8 YPC) 1 rushing TD
Others Projected Stats: 16 carries, 43 yards (3.1 YPC) 0 rushing TDs
Team Projected Stats: 425 carries, 1,856 yards (4.3 YPC/116 YPG) 13 rushing TDs
Wide Receiver and Tight End Report:
This young group is oozing with potential but it needs to show up on Sundays. We know what we’re getting with Landry, but Devante Parker, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant are pretty much mysteries. Parker averaged 21.5 yards per catch last year in games where he actually saw multiple targets. Kenny Stills was miscast in Bill Lazor’s scheme but Adam Gase has made it no secret that he has admiration for the burner and even mentioned how he wanted to acquire Stills while he was the OC in Chicago. Originally, I had Parker as the breakout star but now I’m more partial to Stills – he and Tannehill are showing real chemistry. Jakeem Grant is forcing his way onto the field and will be the bigger contributor of the two rookies while Carroo gets a bit of a red shirt season. Jordan Cameron is a waste of a roster spot and likely won’t be back next year. He’s injury prone, an unwilling blocker that runs sloppy routes and has had drop issues in the pre-season.
Landry’s Projected Stats: 131 targets, 101 catches, 1121 yards (11.1 YPC), 7 TDs
Parker’s Projected Stats: 98 targets, 54 catches, 897 yards (16.6 YPC) 8 TDs
Stills’ Projected Stats: 106 targets, 63 catches, 1020 yards (16.2 YPC) 6 TDs
Grant’s Projected Stat: 48 targets, 28 catches, 543 yards, (19.4 YPC) 2 TDs
Carroo’s Projected Stats: 23 targets, 13 catches, 126 yards (9.7 YPC) 3 TDs
Tailbacks’ Projected Stats: 108 targets, 79 catches, 644 yards (8.2 YPC) 3 TDs
Cameron’s Projected Stats: 48 targets, 22 catches, 163 yards (7.4 YPC) 1 TD
Sims’ Projected Stats: 32 targets, 18 catches, 127 yards (7.1 YPC) 2 TDs
Others’ Projected Stats: 21 targets, 12 catches, 99 yards (8.3 YPC) 1 TDs
33 passing touchdowns, 13 rushing touchdowns, 2 defensive touchdowns, 1 special teams touchdowns, 20 field goals made = 403 points = 25.2 PPG.
Offensive Line Report:
Laremy Tunsil is this team’s best offensive lineman and has played like it in August. Branden Albert is fully healthy for the first time in quite a while and Ja’Wuan James is simply steady. Mike Pouncey is an alarming injury risk and Jermon Bushrod’s pass blocking prowess earned him the job over Billy Turner. This team is elite in terms of pass protection but will struggle to create lanes for the backs. The depth is atrocious and will slow the offense when the inevitable injuries to Albert and Pouncey strike.
Albert Projected Stats: 900 snaps, 4 sacks, 30 pressures, 3.3% pressures allowed rate
Tunsil Projected Stats: 1070 snaps, 2 sacks, 40 pressures, 3.7% pressures allowed rate
Pouncey Projected Stats: 800 snaps, 3 sacks, 25 pressures, 3.1% pressures allowed rate
Bushrod Projected Stats: 900 snaps, 4 sacks, 50 pressures, 5.5% pressures allowed rate
James Projected Stats: 1070 snaps, 5 sacks, 40 pressures, 3.7% pressures allowed rate
Thomas Projected Stats: 240 snaps, 4 sacks, 30 pressures, 12.5% pressures allowed rate
Turner Projected Stats: 300 snaps, 1 sack, 15 pressures, 5.0% pressures allowed rate
Steen Projected Stats: 270 snaps, 1 sack, 20 pressures, 7.4% pressures allowed rate
TEs and QB Responsibility Projected Stats: 6 sacks
Team Pass Blocking Projected Stats: 30 sacks, 225 yards lost, 250 total pressures, 23% under duress rate, 5,350 snaps, 4.6 team pressure allowed rate
Defensive Line Report:
Ndamukong Suh is a legitimate challenger for the title of “best defensive lineman not named J.J. Watt.” He requires double teams throughout the game, he can create pressure from the interior and plays with a mean streak that opposing players hate competing against. Cameron Wake is set for a huge year as a situational rusher while Jason Jones figures into the mix on running downs. Newly acquired Mario Williams had a lack luster pre-season which is concerning after his effort was questioned last year in Buffalo. Julius Warmsley was the surprise earning his way onto the 53 man roster as Suh’s primary backup. This is the Dolphins strongest and deepest position group.
This is the backbone of the group. At press time, the two snap eaters appear to be Kiko Alonso and Koa Misi. Alonso has been a missed tackles machine for the Dolphins while he and Misi both struggle to stay healthy. Speaking of health, the Phins will be without Jelani Jenkins for the first part of the season after his play has slowly tailed off following an impressive first half of the 2014 season. Rounding out the bunch are second year undrafted Marshall grad Neville Hewitt, career special teams ace Spencer Paysinger, and Mike Hull.
Defensive Backs Report:
Xavien Howard is being regarded as the savior of a bad cornerback group. He has only seen limited action in the pre-season finale but the Dolphins loved him in the draft process and were thrilled with him making it to their pick in the second round. Byron Maxwell isn’t exceptional but he’s a formidable starter on the other side. Bobby McCain has the brightest future of the corners but that is primarily as an interior slot corner. Tony Lippett needs another year to refine his technique while a host of others vie for playing time on special teams. Despite an underwhelming pre-season, Jordan Lucas won the ninth defensive back role and needs to contribute on special teams to ward off practice squad members, Lafayette Pitts and AJ Hendy.
Reshad Jones is one of the elite players in this league and pairs better with Isa Abdul-Quddus than he did Walt Aikens a year ago. Aikens put on some weight and could contribute in sub-packages closer to the line of scrimmage while Michael Thomas continues to earn his money on special teams.
It really drives me crazy when people circle wins and losses on a schedule based on who has a better pre-season roster. It’s not about who you play, but when you play them. For instance, Miami drew the one game Tony Romo was healthy for last season and it was the difference between a win and a loss. I will take a Vegas gambler’s look at the schedule here and tell you what to look for in all 16 games.
Week 1 September 11 @ Seattle – Century Link Field
First, I invite anyone that can make it to this game to join Sam from the Podcast and myself for a tailgate before the game. Look for the Perfectville banner. As for the game, there isn’t a better time to catch, arguably, the best team in the NFL. The Seahawks have started 2-4 and 2-2 the previous two seasons and the offense always takes a while to get cranking. This, along with the worst offensive line in the league up against our stout D-line give me hope. That said, Miami is 0-3 in games I attend and the Seahawks are pretty damn good. I have low expectations.
Dolphins 14 – Seahawks 27 (0-1)
Week 2 September 18 @ New England – Gillette Stadium
The Patriots backfield is worse than ours and Jimmy Garappolo is a below average quarterback. That’s a dramatic fall off from Tom Brady and Dion Lewis. On top of that, they will be down Sebastian Volmer and Rob Ninkovich with Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman both getting nicked in the pre-season. The Dolphins match-up well here and if they can’t win this game, it could be a long season.
Dolphins 20 – Patriots 17 (1-1)
Week 3 September 25 vs. Cleveland – Hard Rock Stadium
This is where the offense starts to heat up. The first two contests are against tough defenses and the Browns, frankly, probably couldn’t stop Clemson from scoring 30. The opening of the Rock has the fans and the defense fired up as they continually pressure Bob Griffin and get the ball back to an in rhythm offense.
Dolphins 44 – Browns 24 (2-1)
Week 4 September 29 @ Cincinnati – Paul Brown Stadium
This is one of those instances where an inferior team consistently proves to be a pest against its superior, Tannehill is 2-0 against the Bengals. However, any team that gets such good push in the trenches and has the caliber of tailbacks that the Bengals do will give the Dolphins all they can handle. Going on the road for the Thursday game has always proved challenging for the visitor. The Bengals may not have Tyler Eifert yet and could be looking at a trap game after playing the defending champions just four days prior, but this is one of the best teams in the conference.
Dolphins 23 – Bengals 27 (2-2)
Week 5 October 9 vs. Tennessee – Hard Rock Stadium
The only thing keeping me from giving the Titans a big record jump is the presence of Mike Mularky – he is 2016’s Joe Philbin. The Titans have a more than formidable ground game and have beefed up a pedestrian group of receivers with some serious size in the interior of its defense. If the Dolphins can get out to an early lead and negate the power run game they’ll be in good shape. Unfortunately, this is where the heat plays into the road team’s advantage as Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry prove too much for Miami to handle with an overtime win.
Dolphins 23 – Titans 26 OT (2-3)
Week 6 October 16 vs. Pittsburgh – Hard Rock Stadium
The Steelers should not be looked at lightly in any sense. But with vital home games against Buffalo and New York on the horizon, motivation could be a struggle in this game. Even more compelling of an argument, the Steelers vaunted passing attack will give a bleak Dolphins back seven all it can handle with the first real aerial raid shoot out the newly christened Hard Rock Stadium. Byron Maxwell will be having nightmares starring Antonio Brown all week leading up to this contest.
Dolphins 35 – Steelers 44 (2-4)
Week 7 October 23 vs. Buffalo – Hard Rock Stadium
Predicting games this far down the line is a presumptuous task but I’ve been charged with worse. I think Rex Ryan will be fired by this point and there’s a decent chance Tyrod Taylor has missed a few games. With the bye week looming and the defense salty about the beating Pittsburgh put on it, Miami sends the 2016 Bills campaign to an early grave as the fellas from Western New York fall to 1-5.
Dolphins 28 – Bills 16 (3-4)
Week 8 – BYE WEEK
Week 9 November 6 vs. New York Jets – Hard Rock Stadium
Four consecutive home games with a week off is good for the players rest and recovery. The former two coming against direct divisional and playoff competitors is a true scheduling advantage a year after Miami lost this home game to London. The Jets first half schedule is brutal and the second year of Brandon Marshall anywhere is typically a precarious venture. Without Chris Ivory, the running game won’t be as bruising and the Dolphins hit their stride with back to back divisional wins and a perfect 3-0 on the season in the AFC East.
Dolphins 29 – Jets 26 (4-4)
Week 10 November 13 @ San Diego – Qualcomm Stadium
The Chargers get the Titans before Miami and a BYE following the game. With these two teams fighting for the same playoff position, this game has an early January feel to it. Any time Phillip Rivers is in a pressure situation, I like his odds. A cross-country trip where the team will be displaced for two weeks is a difficult adjustment for a Dolphins team that just won two massively important games.
Dolphins 22 – Chargers 30 (4-5)
Week 11 November 20 @ Los Angeles – L.A. Coliseum
This game will test the Dolphins interior line with Aaron Donald basically doing whatever he pleases from his tackle position. Rushing Tannehill up the middle will slow the Dolphins offense but it’s the defense the carries the way in this one. Jared Goff has taken over at this point and the turnover machine results in a defensive touchdown the puts it away. This is the game that gets Jeff Fisher canned as the first season back in L.A. proves to be disastrous.
Dolphins 16 – Rams 6 (5-5)
Week 12 November 27 vs. San Francisco – Hard Rock Stadium
I have the Niners finishing with the first pick in next year’s draft. Chip Kelly’s wildly unsuccessful offense gives the Dolphins an extra two possessions and wears down the Frisco defense in the Miami sun. The route begins early and the Dolphins salt it away with the team’s first 200 yard rushing performance of the season.
Dolphins 36 – 49ers 16 (6-5)
Week 13 December 4 @ Baltimore – M&T Bank Stadium
At this point, the Dolphins would need three wins from five to secure a playoff spot and the Ravens will be in a similar situation. Head coaching prowess, experience and homefield advantage have me leaning towards Baltimore in that scenario. The Ravens offensive line is its strength and Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh are proven winners in these conditions while a young Dolphins team still has to learn to execute in the cold, under pressure when playoffs are on the line.
Dolphins 19- Ravens 29 (6-6)
Week 14 December 11 vs. Arizona – Hard Rock Stadium
Tyrann Mathieu is back running at full strength and the Cardinals are hitting their late season stride heading into the playoffs. A crop of weaker opponents has Bruce Arians and the Cards in one game at a time mode as they spread out the Dolphins suspect secondary and put on a passing clinic before David Johnson twists the knife in Miami’s playoff hopes as he continues an MVP worthy season.
Dolphins 28 – Cardinals 39 (6-7)
Week 15 December 17 @ New York Jets – Met Life Stadium (Saturday Primetime)
Another season where Dolphins fans look back to two or three games that cost them January football. Certainly the Tennessee, San Diego and Baltimore games will be the culprits if this prophecy is fulfilled. After a disheartening two week stint, not even a primetime match-up with the club’s most hated rival is enough to rally the lads to a victory. Brandon Marshall goes off on his former team while Todd Bowles improves to 3-1 against his former employer and the Dolphins season is officially sunk before Christmas, yet again.
Dolphins 20 – Jets 31 (6-8)
Week 16 December 24 @ Buffalo – New Era Field
The new era at the former Ralph Wilson Stadium did not go as planned as the Bills are filling the Christmas list with draft prospects and free agent hopefuls. The Dolphins travel up north after having accepted its fate for an eight straight season without the playoffs and put together a resounding, fearless performance. Dolphins’ fans are treated to a white Christmas Eve victory that, in the end, only affects draft position.
Dolphins 33- Bills 23 (7-8)
Week 17 January 1 vs. New England – Hard Rock Stadium
The Patriots have clinched the division at this point despite having a down year and the Dolphins put it back into coast mode after the win in Buffalo. Bill Belichick forgets nothing, especially the beating his offense took in this exact game one year prior. Miami has an opportunity to sweep the Patriots for the first time in nearly two decades and lets it fall by the wayside as the Patriots cruise.
Dolphins 13 – Patriots 26 (7-9)
That brings the record to 7-9. A one game improvement from a year ago but a much better feeling going into the off-season. The 6-10 2015 Dolphins had multiple games where the result was out of reach very early, the team gave less than a stellar effort, and the direction of the club was pointing straight down.
With Adam Gase’s energy, offensive ingenuity, and the improvements on that side of the ball, this team is going to be ready to compete very soon. Perhaps two off-seasons away from fixing the running game, tight ends, line backers and secondary, if the Dolphins can attend to two of these areas, this is a playoff team.
Offensive Output: 403 points (25.2 per game) 9th in the NFL
Defensive Output 417 points (26.1 per game) 27th in the NFL
The offense will make yet another jump in 2017 as the young players get even more comfortable in coach Gase’s system. A few pieces added to the back seven and an influx of young pass rushers moves the defense into the middle of the pack making this a formidable playoff team in 2017.
The timing could not work out better as the young coach and the young roster should be ready to take the division crown as soon as 2017. By 2018, with Tom Brady on the wrong side of age 40 and the Dolphins three years into the system, that’s when the takeover happens – for good.
Mondays will be the game review as we go over the tape and talk about the studs and duds of Sunday.
Thursdays I will break down the upcoming opponent, how we attack them and what to expect.
Don’t forget to check out the podcast with Chris and Sam and almost doctor Will Merring with the Phinjury report.
We will see you in Seattle.
We all know how much Sam hates talking about other teams as well as Chris’ insistence with spending a second on the AFC East. Well I have done pre-season predictions since my pre-pubescent days. I have twice nailed the two Super Bowl teams in the last decade (2010 with Green Bay over Pittsburgh and 2004 with New England over Philadelphia.)
I think this holds me accountable and gives me credibility. So, with that, here are the 2016 NFL predictions.
|New York Jets||7-9|
|New York Giants||6-10|
Conference Championship Games
Cincinnati over Kansas City
Green Bay over Seattle
Super Bowl Champions: Green Bay Packers
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
Offensive Player of the Year: Antonio Brown
Defensive Player of the Year: Luke Kuechley
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Tyler Boyd
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Myles Jack
You can find me on Twitter @Travis_Writes
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