Top 7 Miami Dolphins who sparked season turnaround

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake gives a stiff-arm to New England Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy during a game this season. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BUFFALO — You can say two wins isn’t a turnaround.

You can say the Miami Dolphins haven’t accomplished anything yet.

You can say Miami always provides a letdown in frozen western New York after any upset of the Patriots.

And — yeah, I mean, you’ve got valid points.

But Miami seems to have turned a corner against Denver and New England. And what seems like a lost season isn’t lost at all now.

Miami is an underdog again, this time at Buffalo and Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy and yes, it will be a bit chilly on Sunday. But let’s not forget all those yards Miami ran for against Buffalo last season (and yes, Jay Ajayi is gone, but Kenyan Drake is outperforming Ajayi this season). And let’s not forget all those Dolphins defenders who were injured when these teams met last season.

Adam Gase’s team did not quit. They were 4-7 and they had lost five straight and they had every reason to lay down, but here they are, playing meaningful football and it’s almost Christmas. And it’s Hannukah. So that ain’t bad.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah and for those of you in South Florida, be glad you’re not here. When they tried to open the jet bridge that spans across to my airplane after landing in Buffalo on Saturday evening, it, well, didn’t span and didn’t jet.

Nothing happened. It was frozen. So we walked down icy steps and into the snow (the pilot instructed workers to shovel a path and kind woman named Diana to sprinkle some salt) and anyway, I’m losing my track here. My original point was that there are players to be credited here. And yes, Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Matt Burke, too.

But for now, I felt inspired to really think about the players (and there are a handful of youngsters in here, which is encouraging) who made Sunday’s game possible. I mean, they would have played the game either way, but there’s really a reason to watch now, you know?

And who knows, maybe some or many of these guys come through down the stretch for Miami. So here are my Top 7 Miami Dolphins who sparked a 2017 season turnaround (and yes, I know you are thinking that this may seem brainless in three weeks, but hey, what if it doesn’t?)

  1. Kenyan Drake, running back — Drake has injected Miami’s offense with pure speed and scintillating shiftiness. Drake ran for 120 yards against the Broncos and 114 yard against the Patriots. He’s got runs of 66, 42 and 31 yards, when Jay Ajayi didn’t have a run longer than 21 before his departure. Now comes the true test for Drake. Cold weather. Turf. Third straight workhorse game.
  2. Xavien Howard, cornerback — Howard has four interceptions and eight passes defended, while shadowing Demaryius Thomas and Brandin Cooks the last two weeks. And last week, Howard was so sick he was vomiting. Miami’s corners have turned a corner as Bobby McCain’s been dominant and Alterraun Verner has been very solid.
  3. Jarvis Landry, wide receiver — Who will ever forget the moment when Landry pretended to deflate a football after scoring one of his two touchdowns against the Patriots? Landry is tied for second in the NFL with 88 catches, but those of us who watch Landry on a daily basis understand how his value transcends statistics. He is the heartbeat and soul of the offense.
  4. Jordan Phillips, defensive tackle — What if Jordan Phillips shows up in the last three games the way he’s shown up in the last two games? Phillips has 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hits and 1 pass defense in the last two weeks. But more than that. He’s playing hard. He’s showing emotion. He’s making an impact. Now — can he keep it up?
  5. Jay Cutler, quarterback — Folks who live in Chicago and have downloaded an app called Twitter have been predicting that Cutler is due for a four-interception game. After all, Cutler seems to have turned a corner and just when he seems to turn a corner — boom goes the dynamite! That’s how it’s always been. But credit where it’s due. Last two weeks: 2-0, 62 percent, 5 TD’s, 2 INTs,
  6. Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle — It’s not talked about enough. But imagine where Miami’s defensive front would be without Suh. The guy played all 61 snaps against the Patriots. In the last two weeks, Suh has done Suh: 7 tackles, 1 sack, 4 quarterback hits, 1 pass defended. But his value is also in all the double-teams he absorbs. And the template of relentlessness he exhibits every week.
  7. Kenny Stills, wide receiver — Stills burned the Broncos with 5 catches for 98 yards and 1 touchdown. Stills has surpassed DeVante Parker as a preferred Cutler target because of his reliability. At 15 yards per catch, Stills is 11th in the NFL on a team that has centered almost exclusively around the short pass all season. Coaches say Stills has emerged as a leader, on and off the field.

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