COMMENTARY | The Miami Dolphins, along with the 30 other teams not participating in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, are already looking ahead to next season.
But unlike most years, Dolphin fans have some real hope to hold on to and a reason to be confident in the future.
With a bevy of draft picks in the first three rounds of the upcoming draft and plenty of cash in hand to make moves in free agency, often-criticized general manager Jeff Ireland has a real chance to considerably make the Dolphins a more complete team that can make a run in 2013.
The Dolphins may have found the signal caller fans have been waiting for since Dan Marino hung up his No. 13 jersey in the previous millenium in quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He showed promise as a rookie, but was held back by a lack of weapons.
And while the defensive front seven kept the Dolphins competitive for most of the season, they were severely let down by a secondary that failed to make big plays.
Still, in what was expected to become a disastrous season, the Dolphins gave south Florida a sliver of hope.
But if the Dolphins are going to become serious playoff contenders for the 2013 season, the key is to get better at controlling the air on both sides of the football.
One of the main problems for the Dolphins was finding the end zone. Miami finished the season ranked 27th in scoring offense, putting up an underwhelming 18 points per contest.
Tannehill threw 12 touchdowns this season with 13 interceptions, but he has a limited array of weapons to throw to.
Wide receiver Brian Hartline had a solid season with career-bests in receptions (74) and receiving yards (1,083), but had just one receiving touchdown the entire season.
On the other side of the field, wide receiver Devon Bess picked up 778 receiving yards on 61 receptions but, like Hartline, had one receiving score all season.
When your top two wideouts have a combined two touchdown catches all season, there's a problem. Hartline and Bess, while being solid complimentary receivers and respectable options for Tannehill, are not No. 1 receivers.
If the Dolphins are going to improve in the passing game and see Tannehill excel, which can also free up the team's solid running corps, they must find an impact receiver that has a nose for the end zone and open up the offense.
While the Dolphins have not been able to make things happen through the air on offense, the team's secondary has been just as ineffective in defending against the air attack last season.
The team's lackluster backfield got scorched time and time again last season, allowing 248.4 yards per game to finish 27th in pass defense.
Combine that with the unit's failure to force turnovers (the Dolphins had just 10 interceptions all season) and you have a serious inability to defend against the deep threat.
The Dolphins need to bring in a cornerback that can shut down opposing receivers and put less pressure on the front seven, which has done an exceptional job putting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run.
Joel Delgado lives in Miami and has been covering a variety of collegiate and high school sports for four years. He has been published in the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express-News and other sports websites and blogs.
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