I’m not a sports bettor, as evidenced by a recent venture to Las Vegas highlighted by a tribute performance to The Beatles in which circus-trained acrobats dazzled the crowd with incredible feats of athleticism.
It was really good.
Vegas does not think the Dolphins are going to be really good. In fact, Vegas thinks the Dolphins are going to stink in 2018.
Perhaps I am a sucker. When a line seems too good to be true, it usually is, and Vegas usually knows more than even the guy who covers a team on a daily basis.
There’s a sports book at The Mirage (that’s where The Beatles: LOVE can be seen) and there are also plenty of online wagering destinations, which all seem to have this in common: they hate the Dolphins.
It seems the folks in the desert feel Miami’s talent pool has dried up (see Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, and yes, The Jupiter Juggernaut, kicker Cody Parkey).
There are issues. Plenty of issues. But an over/under line of 5.5?
Hmmm. I’ll bite. If, you know, I was the wagering type.
It seems Miami is projected to win between 5.5 and 6.5 games this season, after winning 6 last season (with smokin’ Jay Cutler! at quarterback). It seems I have a different perspective on Miami’s roster building strategy.
Yes, Miami’s overall approach in free agency and the draft can be questioned. But did you notice that the power trio of Mike Tannenbaum-Chris Grier-Adam Gase made moves designed to win this year? We’re not talking a Super Bowl. We’re talking be a legitimate contender for the playoffs entering December. And I’m here to tell you that’s how I see it.
I’m here to give you 10 reasons for hope (hey, it’s May). And I’m here to say I believe Miami definitely, positively, absolutely, without question, without hesitation, with full conviction, will win — at least six games. More likely seven to nine.
We must begin this story of hope with references to 1. starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who return this season after missing all of last season with knee injuries.
How devastating is it to play without the men expected to wear the headsets, as Miami’s coaches on the field, before the season even begins? Tannehill is a polarizing figure in this town, which is hard to believe considering how vanilla his persona can seem.
But he can be good enough. There I said it. Again. Why can’t Tannehill be Matt Ryan-Kirk Cousins-Alex Smith-like? Why can’t Tannehill be worthy of Pro Bowl consideration? I know many of you are tired of hearing it. But what if, just maybe, you see it this season?
Tannehill is worth at least two or three wins over the 2017 version of Cutler. He just is.
The Dolphins need a star as Miami is a star-driven town, and there aren’t too many obvious ones on the roster at the moment. But I present 2. running back Kenyan Drake. What if I told you no running back in the NFL had more yards than Drake over the last five weeks of the season? None. What if I told you Drake had three rushing plays for 40-plus yards, which tied for the second-most in the NFL, despite starting just five games?
Miami dumped Pro Bowlers, especially Ajayi, Landry and Suh, in part, because they felt their leadership style wasn’t conducive to a winning atmosphere. Miami wanted to reconfigure its nucleus with players they feel bring a more team-oriented approach. Enter 3. Josh Sitton, Frank Gore and Danny Amendola.
All three players have won in the league. Sitton is still playing at a very high level, filling a long-suffering need at guard. Amendola is going to have a hard time justifying his salary, but he is a quality addition to the locker room. And Gore, a true professional, can help mentor Drake.
You’re going to claim blasphemy for raising 4. DeVante Parker at this moment. But Parker has turned a bit of a corner in his preparation, knowing this is truly a make-or-break season in his career, say those who know him best. We’ll see. But Parker has the ability. It’s never been about ability. And having Tannehill back will help him.
For years, Miami has been embarrassed by tight ends and has trotted out embarrassing performances by tight ends. Thus, Miami drafted 5. Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe to catch and block and 6. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker to blanket Rob Gronkowski and friends.
Those were very role-specific selections. And you may not agree with all of them. But they should help in this area.
In fact, for years, there have been outcries for a guard, a tight end and a linebacker or safety who can cover the tight end. If there are outcries about that this season, it won’t be because Miami didn’t try to address the concerns.
We’re losing a bit of steam but we come to 7. Robert Quinn, the pass-rusher slyly acquired by Tannenbaum for a fourth-rounder. It can be argued that Quinn, if healthy, will generate more game-changing plays this season than Suh would have, if mostly by nature of his position.
No two players in recent NFL history have created more strip-sacks than Quinn and Cam Wake and the notion that they may be charging rookies like Josh Allen (Buffalo) and Sam Darnold (New York Jets) should foster some enthusiasm.
Remember that time Wake and Suh crunched former Jets quarterback Bryce Petty? Oh, sorry, forgot for a moment the Dolphins have signed Petty. We won’t bring up the backup quarterback situation here. Story for another day.
Tannehill has been quite effective throughout his career when protected, and so the decision to exercise 8. Ja’Wuan James’ fifth-year option, along with the expected development of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, gives Miami capable bookends. From a pure upside perspective, in fact, these former first-rounders have the ability to dominate at times. What if they do, far more often?
You might say we’re reaching when we talk about Miami’s 9. re-configured coaching staff, but Gase trusts offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains explicitly. And there are new voices for the receivers, running backs, offensive line, defensive line and defensive backs. And it should very much help defensive coordinator Matt Burke that this is his second season calling plays. It also helps that the club has loaded up on young defensive talent in the first three rounds of recent drafts.
This exercise nearly complete, I bring up reason 10. why I don’t think the Miami Dolphins fail to win at least six games this season. I say, for sure, at least seven games, all the way up to nine or 10.
The AFC isn’t very good. And Miami’s schedule isn’t as good as it was last season.
There are five or six hard games on the Dolphins schedule, but even if they were to lose all five, there are five or six games they should be favored, in my opinion, to win.
Vegas clearly doesn’t see it that way. Remember, I don’t bet on sports.
But I’m sure some do.