It's almost unfathomable to think that the Miami Dolphins have been to the playoffs just once in the last 11 seasons.
And for fans of the 'Fins, it's probably a lot more painful to recall that the team has suffered through four straight losing seasons since shocking everyone with an 11-5 mark and an AFC East title in 2008.
But a year ago, new head coach Joe Philbin and company split their final 12 games after a 1-3 start. And while a 7-9 record is nothing to necessarily celebrate, there were certainly signs of progress made.
Hence, the Miami Dolphins will reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008…
If: Second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill strikes gold with his new set of pass-catching targets. Wide receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are now joined by free agents in wideouts Mike Wallace (Steelers) and Brandon Gibson (Rams) as well as tight end Dustin Keller (Jets). The Dolphins totaled just 288 points and managed only 28 offensive touchdowns last season and the team is hoping for a lot more production from their passing attack.
And: The better-than-advertised Miami defense ups its game a bit. And that's in regards to making the big play as the Dolphins totaled only 16 takeaways in 2012. That despite the fact that defensive end Cameron Wake and company totaled 42 sacks this past season. Philbin's club also allowed only 28 offensive touchdowns in 16 games despite the fact the club ranked 21st in the league in total defense, including 27th in pass yards allowed.
But: If running backs Daniel Thomas and/or Lamar Miller can't carry the load in terms of the ground game. With Reggie Bush off to Detroit, the third- and second-year pros, respectively, will be counted on to give the Dolphins some balance. Also, with the free agent departure of left tackle Jake Long (Rams), there's a bit of a void on the offensive line. Jonathan Martin moves over to left tackle, but will the Dolphins fill the vacancy early in the 2013 NFL draft?
So what do you think? Obviously overtaking the Patriots in the AFC East is a tall task indeed but certainly not impossible. But is Philbin's revamped team capable of pulling off a big surprise? As 2012 unfolded, the Dolphins improved as the season wore on and looked like a confident team despite the losses. Will the new-look team make a serious run at the postseason or is this a team destined for another subpar campaign?
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country, can be heard on Yahoo! Sports Radio and many other networks and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Miami Dolphins
- Joe Philbin