- Miami felt its locker room wasn’t up to the task of handling all of last season's unexpected adversity. Will acquiring several veterans and high-character guys this offseason lead to improvement in South Beach?
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Dolphins 2018 win total: 6.5 (-130 over, +110 under)
Dolphins 2017 record: 6-10
Key offseason acquisitions: G Josh Sitton, WR Danny Amendola, WR Albert Wilson, DE Robert Quinn, C Daniel Kilgore, RB Frank Gore, DT Akeem Spence
Key offseason losses: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Jarvis Landry, C Mike Pouncey, K Cody Parkey, G Jermon Bushrod, TE Julius Thomas, LB Lawrence Timmons, QB Jay Cutler
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Dolphins’ win total
1. How much stock do you put into culture? 2017 included the loss of Ryan Tannehill, the drama surrounding free-agent addition Lawrence Timmons going AWOL, the scandal with former O-line coach Chris Foerster and the chaos caused by Hurricane Irma. Coaches around the league will tell you having the right culture is crucial, and Miami has felt its locker room wasn’t up to the task of handling all the unexpected adversity. Thus, the heavy turnover with some highly respected veterans—Frank Gore, Josh Sitton, Daniel Kilgore, Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson (not to mention first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, who earned rave reviews for character and leadership at Alabama). Adam Gase thinks he's got the guys he needs to turn things around inside the locker room, and that will turn around the results on the field. Considering the outrageous highs (road wins over the Falcons and Chargers, a decisive MNF victory over albeit Gronk-less New England) and lows (a 40-point loss at Baltimore, getting shutout by New Orleans and, until a meaningless TD at the final whistle, the Jets), there could be something to that.
2. There’s no denying this: The talent base is worse than it was a year ago. It was a tumultuous three seasons in Miami for Ndamukong Suh, but he’s a Hall of Fame-caliber talent and Miami had him for three years of his prime. Jarvis Landry likely improvised a bit too much for Gase’s taste, but there’s no one left on this roster who can duplicate his ability in catch-and-run situations (a problem exacerbated by DeVante Parker’s questionable status after a broken finger). Mike Pouncey is a Pro Bowl-caliber talent when healthy, Daniel Kilgore is a journeyman.
3. While the overall talent is down, the Dolphins get two potential cornerstone players back from injury. Ryan Tannehill and Raekwon McMillan (a second-round pick in 2017) both missed last year with torn ACLs. Even before the injury, Gase told anyone who would listen that Tannehill was ready for a big leap forward in ’17. McMillan is a true defensive quarterback, a middle linebacker who was sorely missed after the Timmons drama and another up-and-down year from the talented but always inconsistent Kiko Alonso. It’s another case of more steadying hands on this roster, even if neither one is proven.
4. Before there was Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan, Adam Gase was the NFL’s whiz kid. In his head-coaching debut at age 38, Gase led the Dolphins to a surprise 10-win season and playoff appearance in 2016. Then things came apart at the seams last year. He has opted for “get where they’re supposed to be” receivers like Amendola and Wilson over the dynamic but improv-inclined Landry. Second-round TE Mike Gesicki provides the receiving threat Gase desperately wants (and desperately lacked with Julius Thomas last season) in his trademark "Y-iso" sets (that's three receivers bunched on one side, the tight end split out wide on the other). It's all a sign that Gase believes his scheme is good enough to win, even if the talent is middling. Though ultimately, it will come down to whether Gase’s assessment of Tannehill as a franchise QB is warranted or not. The Dolphins were at the very least in “like” with Baker Mayfield last spring. But once Mayfield was off the board first overall, there were no signs that the Dolphins tried to come up and get one of the other three QBs.
5. Deciding whether you believe in the Dolphins also depends on whether you believe in the Jets and Bills. Gang Green might have one of the best defenses in football this year, but is it enough to carry an offense that’s still very much a work in progress? The 2017 Bills were arguably the flukiest playoff team in recent memory, and while Josh Allen is likely an upgrade over Tyrod Taylor in the long run, Taylor’s ultra-conservative style allowed Buffalo to stick around and steal win after win thanks to opponents’ mistakes. There’s a pretty easy argument to make that, even in a transitional year, the Dolphins are the second-best team in the AFC East. Even with a tough inter-divisional slate (the AFC East teams get the stacked NFC North and much-improved AFC South), you have to go back to 2005 to find a division that had three teams with 10-plus losses (it was the NFC West that year).
PICK: OVER 6.5 Wins