Miami Dolphins: 7 building blocks for 2016
The Miami Dolphins went through several changes this season, from coaches to the offensive line to the secondary. They now have their head coach of the future in Adam Gase, but there are still several holes to be filled on the depth chart. There are a handful of talented players to build around on the roster for 2016, though. Here are the seven best in Miami.
1. Jarvis Landry
Arguably the best player on the Dolphins' roster is Landry. He's already broken several team records and has the most receptions in NFL history through two seasons. He's not just Ryan Tannehill's security blanket out of the slot, he's a dynamic playmaker that can find the end zone from anywhere on the field. He only has nine touchdown receptions in his career, but he's also scored on a rushing attempt and a punt return, as well. The Dolphins got a steal when they drafted him in the second round in the 2014 draft and his play surpasses his salary by a wide margin. Had it not been for Landry's 110 catches and 1,157 receiving yards, the Dolphins likely wouldn't have won even six games this season.
2. Reshad Jones
The Dolphins don't have a ton of talent on defense, and it showed in their statistics this season. However, they do have one of the best players at his respective position in Jones. No defensive back had more tackles than Jones (135) in 2015, and only three players overall had more than he did. He also added five interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns -- two sacks and 15 passes defensed. He's under contract through 2017, so the Dolphins will have him on the last line of defense for the near future. It's a huge letdown that he didn't make the Pro Bowl this season after posting one of the best years by any defensive back in NFL history. Now it's a matter of Miami finding a few more defensive backs to play alongside him.
3. DeVante Parker
Through 11 weeks, it looked as though it would be a lost season for Parker, the team's first-round pick in 2015. He had recorded just four catches for 49 yards in eight games, but something clicked in Week 12. In his final six games, Parker made 22 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns, bringing a sigh of relief to all Dolphins fans. A big reason why Parker struggled early in the season is that he underwent offseason foot surgery, delaying his progress and development. Rishard Matthews also emerged as the No. 2 receiver, blocking Parker from the starting lineup. Matthews will be a free agent in March, meaning Parker will be the No. 2 guy going forward. There are plenty of reasons to be excited about the tandem of Parker and Landry for years to come.
4. Ryan Tannehill
Tannehill is considered to be the team's franchise quarterback going forward, but he isn't exactly Miami's best player. And he may not even be with the Dolphins for the entirety of his lucrative contract. Gase will be his third head coach in five seasons, and it's not definite that Gase will view Tannehill as the team's best option at quarterback. He improved each season prior to 2015 but didn't look like the confident thrower this season. He completed 61.9 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while he also fumbled it 10 times. On the bright side, his 7.2 yards per attempt was the highest in his career and should gain more confidence in Parker next season.
5. Ndamukong Suh
The Dolphins gave Suh the largest contract for a defensive player in NFL history last offseason, but he didn't meet expectations in his first season in Miami. He failed to make the Pro Bowl and had just six sacks. That doesn't mean he's not worth the money, though. He's still one of the most dominant and disruptive players in the NFL and forces opponents to change their game plans. He and the Dolphins both hope Suh has a better season in 2016, but that could be difficult if Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon aren't back with the Dolphins to take pressure off of him. Suh will be here for some time after signing a six-year deal, so the Dolphins have him in the middle of the defense to build around.
6. Jay Ajayi
Lamar Miller will be a free agent in March and isn't certain to return. That leaves Miami with Ajayi as the likely candidate to be the team's lead back. He showed flashes of potential down the stretch and would have been a second- or third-round pick in 2015 had it not been for long-term concerns about his knee. He finished the year with an average of 3.8 yards per carry but was above 4.0 in a game just once after Week 11. He struggled down the stretch, yet it shouldn't deter the coaching staff from using him more in 2016 -- especially if Miller isn't back. He's young (22) and was an all-around solid running back at Boise State, running with power while still having good enough hands to make catches out of the backfield.
7. Mike Pouncey
One of the key points of emphasis this offseason will likely be improving the offensive line for Tannehill. He was sacked 45 times in 2015, accounting for a loss of 420 yards. For as bad as the offensive line was, Pouncey is one of the best centers in football. Although he missed the final two games of the season, Pouncey had his usual consistent season snapping the ball to Tannehill and blocking for running backs up the middle. He's a centerpiece (no pun intended) for the Dolphins to build around on the offensive line, and he's still young at the age of 26. If Tannehill is expected to be the franchise quarterback, the Dolphins need to start from the middle of the O-line and build outward.