Happy Birthday Cam Wake! (Now, how many years do you have left?)

 

Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake is still shredding. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Cam Wake turned 36 on Tuesday and we can pretty much guarantee he did not celebrate with a birthday shot or even a slice of cake.

Wake is a aberration, because of how he takes care of himself and his body.

“He’s a physical freak, just the way he takes care of his body, the way he eats, the way he sleeps,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said during the 2017 season. “Everything he does is all about this, and anything else is irrelevant to him. He sells out 100 percent. He’s put himself in position to do what he’s doing and that’s why age is really irrelevant to him right now.”

But for how long can it remain irrelevant?

Wake is in the final season of his contract, scheduled to count $8.6 million against the cap. That Wake is the ninth-highest cap hit as of now for the 2018 Dolphins is extremely reasonable.

Consider that Ndamukong Suh is scheduled to count $26.1 million against the cap next season. And defensive end Andre Branch is scheduled to count $10 million against the cap, a reward for a strong 2016 season.

Wake notched more than 10 sacks in consecutive seasons for the first time in 2016-17. And in an ideal situation, he would yield some of the work load to Charles Harris in 2018. Not that he’ll do so willingly.

“He’s extremely important,” Gase said. “One, being a guy that’s been around for a long time, he has a veteran presence. Obviously he’s really the heart and soul of what we’re about as an organization. He’s a guy that we want to basically retire here. He shows up every day and comes to work and does his job at the highest level, whether it be out at practice or on game day, whether it’s a meeting or walk through. You wish you had a whole bunch of guys like him. He’s a rare guy.”

During last season, Suh said he believes Wake can make an impact for a few more seasons.

“I definitely think so,” Suh said. “I think definitely Cam can play at a high level for the next two, three years or however long he chooses to continue to play. I think he got a little bit of a late start due to some circumstances that were out of his control, and the way he takes care of his body, the way he’s mentally focused in the game, I think he definitely can play as long he wants to.”

But how realistic is it for Wake to dominate at 36?

Well, let’s look at the NFL’s Top 10 career sack leaders to get a sense.

Among those men, in their age 36 season, the average was 8 sacks.

Is 8 sacks feasible for Wake next season? Sure, why not. He’s averaged 8 over the past 4 seasons.

Among those men, the average final NFL season was age 37.

Are 2 more seasons feasible for Wake? Sure, why not. We’d say maybe even 3 more seasons, if he felt like it.

If you’re wondering, Wake is 42nd on the all-time sack leader list, even though he didn’t begin his NFL career until age 27.

If Wake were to average 8 sacks over 3 more seasons, he’d end up with 116, good for 22nd in league history.

Here’s what the best sackers in NFL history did in their age 36 seasons: Bruce Smith (7), Reggie White (11),  Kevin Greene (15), Julius Peppers (7.5), Chris Doleman (12), Michael Strahan (9), Jason Taylor (5), DeMarcus Ware (4), Richard Dent (6.5), John Randle (5.5).

Wake has talked repeatedly about how taking care of his body puts him at an advantage.

“I know what this game takes away from you, physically,” Wake said near the end of last season. “When you sign up, you kind of have to write some body parts off knowing that they’re going to the cause. You look around and you see a lot of these young pups, they really don’t know what they’re getting themselves into probably; but the older guys who do and they’re still doing it and still doing it well, my hat’s off to them.”

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Dolphins’ defense finally gets the chance to play the way it was built to play

MIAMI GARDENS – Tom Brady looked flustered on Monday night. Sometimes he looks hurried or angry, even in games that New England wins, but rarely is he flustered.

The Miami Dolphins’ defensive front made that happen in this 27-20 upset of the defending Super Bowl champions, pushing through the Patriots’ offensive line like a rising tide and forcing from the future Hall of Famer so many antsy and inaccurate throws that Brady ended up with a tawdry 59.5 quarterback rating, his worst in four years.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) puts pressure on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the second half of the game between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Monday December 11, 2017. (Andres Leiva / The Palm Beach Post)

“The guys that we have up front, we should run the show,” said defensive end Cameron Wake. “That’s the way it should be.”

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But it hasn’t been, or at least not often enough, which is something coach Adam Gase takes personally. He’s in charge of the Miami offense, and his unit hasn’t been in charge of much of anything on the way to a 6-7 record.

More than once Gase has said this his defense was built to play with the lead, because that’s when Wake and Ndamukong Suh and Andre Branch and Jordan Phillips can do what they were born to do, which is to breathe fire into a quarterback’s face, and to earn all those big salaries in doing so.

Think of Monday’s 0-for-11 failure on third down by the Patriots. That doesn’t happen without Brady being chased and pushed and prodded into an uncharacteristic 24-of-43 passing night. Xavien Howard’s two interceptions don’t happen, either, without Brady unloading the ball under duress and throwing it toward covered receivers instead of taking the usual, casual check-down targets that commonly are available to him.

“I think there were less screen passes in there and stuff like that,” Brady said. “Ideally you’d like to spread it around to everybody. We just got behind and that’s not really the way we wanted to play the game. It was just a bad loss.”

Not bad enough to ruin the Patriots’ season of course, but it did delay their clinching of the AFC East title for at least another week. Meanwhile, Miami maintains slim hope of a wild-card playoff spot way out there somewhere with a trip to snowy Buffalo coming up next.

That won’t be fun, but rattling Nathan Peterman ought to be easy in comparison to throwing Brady off his game. A Miami defense built to play with the lead needs only to get some help from Jay Cutler, who threw three touchdowns against New England and got the Dolphins out in front by 17 points with a quarter to play.

“I never really pay attention to sacks,” Gase said in last week’s run-up to New England. “I always look at pass disruptions. How many times are you hitting the quarterback? How many times are you putting pressure on the quarterback where he has to move off the spot and he has to get rid of the ball sooner than he wants to?”

Well, let’s see. On Monday night Brady threw it 43 times and he must have been bothered by the pass rush, what, at least 30 times. Mixed in there were sacks by Suh and Jordan Phillips and hurries by just about everybody, from Suh to Cam Wake to rookie Davon Godchaux, who right around the two-minute warning got so aggressive that he was flagged for roughing the passer.

Remember New England’s last, best chance to mount a comeback? The Patriots got it all the way to the Miami 1-yard line on a 23-yard pass to Danny Amendola with 1:24 to play. All Brady wanted to do was get the ball in the end zone as quickly as possible from there, cutting deep into Miami’s 10-point lead and stopping the clock right there.

Instead there was a series of five incompletions, with veteran tackle Nate Solder getting caught holding against Wake, and both Wake and linebacker Lawrence Timmons taking turns knocking Brady down just as the ball came out of his hands. Before long the Patriots were backing up, taking a field goal instead of a touchdown, looking to an on-side kick as their salvation. That didn’t go their way, either, and so the Patriots, who crushed Miami 35-17 a couple of weeks ago, are 10-3 and headed home grumpy.

Would it have made a difference having Rob Gronkowski in the New England lineup instead of serving a one-game suspension? Sure, but not enough to reverse the kind of momentum Miami’s pass rushers had going, a burst of energy that was unleashed by the rare pleasure of having a big lead.

Complimentary football, that’s what Gase always calls it, and when it happens, when the offense helps the defense and the special teams pitch in, too, it’s a lot easier to write a complimentary column.

There’s no trouble here, for instance, calling Monday’s win the most impressive for Miami since that 20-17 comeback at Atlanta on Oct. 15.

There were plenty of games like that in 2016, when the Dolphins surged to 10-6 and a playoff spot. It was a 30-15 win over Pittsburgh that turned things around, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing a couple of picks and getting sacked by Wake and Branch and generally not looking at all like himself. No wonder, with Miami building a 23-8 lead through three quarters, a sure signal that the Steelers would be passing all the time and the Dolphins’ pass rush would be crashing all the time.

Every now and then, in other words, Miami looks every bit the equal of the best teams in the league. It’s why the 2017 TV schedule featured so many prime-time games, and why the Dolphins’ dismal performance on national telecasts has been such a disappointment.

Maybe there’s a little more fun left in this season after all, as long as the Dolphins’ defense plays like it was built to play. Gase said it again on Monday night – “It really starts with our front.”

Dolphins sign Cam Wake to contract extension worth $19 million

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) reacts to fan comments during the AFC practice for the NFL Pro Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)
Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) reacts to fan comments during the AFC practice for the NFL Pro Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Benc)


The Miami Dolphins announced Saturday that they have signed Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake up to a two-year contract extension. The deal is reportedly worth $19 million, with $11 million guaranteed.

Wake, 35, came back from an Achilles injury last season to lead Miami with 11.5 sacks and help the club reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

This Pro Bowl was his fifth appearance and it was a big one for him personally after missing much of the 2015 season to a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

For complete coverage of the Dolphins click here.

“Just getting back here from where I came,” Wake said in December when his Pro Bowl selection was announced. “Obviously being injured and coming back and the year we had, it’s very rewarding and memorable. And to cap it off with a Pro Bowl doesn’t hurt, either. The season was a step in the right direction, and now I get to enjoy some time with the best players in the world. To me, that’s a good way to end the season.”

Wake was due $6.9 million in 2017 base salary before signing the new deal.

The Dolphins signed Wake before the 2009 season out of the Canadian Football League  and in his time in the league he has been one of the best pass rushers. He has played 116 games for Miami, and recorded 81.5 sacks. Only Demarcus Ware has more in that time.

Wake, who celebrated  his birthday in January, has a chance to join an elite group a pass rushers next season. According to ESPN Stats and Information, only 10 players in NFL history have recorded double-digit sacks beyond the age of 35. Five –Reggie White, Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene, Rickey Jackson (Pahokee High) and Bruce Smith  – are in the Hall of Fame.

The signing of Wake was the latest move in a busy week for the Dolphins. Besides paving the way for the departure of veteran left tackle Branden Albert –  a move that will save the franchise $7.2 million  – they waived defensive end Mario Williams, defensive tackle Earl Mitchell and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Other than Albert, those departures won’t hurt much. Williams was dead weight, Ekpre-Olomu never saw the field last year and Mitchell made five starts.

In total the moves created $20.1 million in salary cap space heading into free agency and the draft. The Williams move had been a forgone conclusion for months. Speculation grew that Albert, too, had played his last game as a Dolphin, and recently, Albert himself told associates he was bracing for such a move. Albert has begun training for next season and does not plan to retire.

The Dolphins also are expected to discuss contract extensions with top wide receiver Jarvis Landry and starting safety Reshad Jones. Both have one year left on their deals.

The tape don’t lie: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers, a review

Miami Dolphins' Jay Ajayi is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers' Ross Cockrell (31) and Mike Mitchell (23) in the second quarter in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)
Miami Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ross Cockrell and Mike Mitchell in the NFL Wild Card Playoffs at Heinz Stadium. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I gave the game tape a closer look.

There are no more weeks left in Miami’s 2016 season. An overachieiving campaign came to a painful end on Sunday at Pittsburgh.

Here are some things I noticed:

  1. Miami must add at least one strong, physical, aggressive, sturdy, bulky, ideally hurculean, nasty, intimidating linebacker this offseason. Watching what Le’Veon Bell did to the Dolphins defense was torture. And yes, Bell is one of the most talented running backs in the league. And yes, Pittsburgh has a very big, strong, talented offensive line. But. The Dolphins didn’t seem to have a chance. Time and time and time again, Miami’s highly-paid defensive linemen were tied up and their linebackers were swallowed up, washed out, pushed aside, rendered ineffective non-factors. On the first play of Sunday’s game, a tone was set. Linebacker Jelani Jenkins is blocked out of the play as Bell burst through a hole vacated by Ndamukong Suh and safeties Michael Thomas and Bacarri Rambo are forced to make a downfield tackle. Later in the first, Bell gains 15 yards through the middle as defensive end Nick Williams is not quick enough on a dive to corral Bell, linebacker Kiko Alonso is blocked hard by a fullback and linebacker Neville Hewitt is shoved aside by a guard. Throughout the season, the holes were too big and Miami’s defenders were too easily moved aside. As defensive end Cam Wake said after the game, the bleeding started early. In the second quarter, a well-designed offensive play. Pittsburgh’s right tackle comes all the way across the line to rub out an overpursuing right defensive end Andre Branch as Bell runs by. Bell patiently waits for his massive blockers to swallow up Miami’s defensive line and linebackers. Again. Miami desperately needs a hulking intimidator who can shed blocks and create fear with power and nastiness. Alonso and Hewitt are blocked out; Rambo takes a poor angle and Bell goes down after 26 yards, just short of the goal line. At the end of this season, Rambo did not make the type of touchdown-saving tackles that injured safeties Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus regularly did. In the third quarter, Bell goes right through the middle again for 15 yards. Suh and Jordan Phillips are double-teamed. Bell patiently, patiently, patiently waits for a hole to develop and when one does, neither Alonso nor Jenkins have worked their way through trash and the blocks of larger men to put themselves in a position to make a play. The Dolphins desperately need one or two linebackers to pair with Alonso, who played fairly well this season, but needs help.
    bell3858
    Dolphins players are unable to break free as big, strong men in black and gold control the box.

    bell31013
    Le’Veon Bell, it seemed, never really felt like he was in danger of imminent tackle.
  2. Tony Lippett seemed tentative and is still learning how to best position his body. In an ideal situation, veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell would have been available and the second-year cornerback Lippett could have rotated in every third or fourth series. Lippett is a developmental player on the rise. But Sunday was a struggle. On the second play of the game, Lippett immediately seemed tentative and cautious as he allowed a catch to dynamic Antonio Brown. On the first touchdown of the game, shortly into the first quarter, Lippett had a shot to tackle Brown before he changed gears and exploded along the left sideline for a touchdown. But again, tentativeness. The rookie cornerback Xavien Howard seemed more comfortable, confident and aggressive from the start. Interestingly, Lippett told me the Friday before this game that he is trying to learn some things from Howard, who he considers aggressive. On the touchdown, Lippett was blocked to the inside by a tight end and and safety Rambo didn’t have the speed to make the angle to cut off Brown. Lippett’s inexperience showed at times on Sunday. Coaches know he’s still learning where to best put his feet. Less than six minutes later, another strike to Brown, beating Lippett. Lippett was not well-positioned and was on the ground after a completion. Another bad angle by Rambo and Brown was long gone and it was 14-0 Steelers. Lippett could have been more aware of his body position and the situation and what he had behind him if he were to miss the pass breakup and the tackle. Lippett has all the physical tools to be an above-average cornerback. He just needs more simmering.
    browntd1
    It appears Tony Lippett might attack Antonio Brown. Soon, Brown is gone.
    browntd2
    Tony Lippett is on the ground. And Bacarri Rambo is about to not put Antonio Brown on the ground. Brown put the Dolphins in a 14-0 first-quarter hole on Sunday.

     

  3. Rookie Laremy Tunsil out-performed veteran Branden Albert. Albert showed outstanding toughness by playing through a significant wrist injury down the stretch for the Dolphins. But overall he did not have his typical Pro Bowl-caliber season. And on Sunday, it was a struggle. In the third quarter, Albert could not stop a speedy linebacker from shooting into Miami’s backfield and dropping Jay Ajayi for a 1-yard loss. Twice, blitzing defenders ran in from Matt Moore’s left side and sacked him for critical lost fumbles. Now, many players were involved in those failures, including offensive linemen, Moore, tight ends and running backs. And Pittsburgh deserves credit for some nicely-disguised blitzes. But Albert didn’t seem as mobile as he has been in the past. Miami does not want to create a self-inflicted lineup “hole” but it will at least be discussed if the time has come to move Tunsil to left tackle. Tunsil was very good throughout the season, and strong on Sunday at the entirely unfamiliar left guard position. Tunsil said after Sunday’s game he’s willing to do whatever is best to help his team. But clearly his future is at left tackle. A memorable moment for Tunsil occurred in the second quarter, when the guard literally pancaked Steelers defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, creating a giant hole on a 7-yard Ajayi run. Tunsil is the real deal. But will Miami chose to move him over and replace his mentor, Albert, in 2017?
    tunsilblock
    Pittsburgh Pancakes! Laremy Tunsil does his thing.

    ajayialbert31420
    On this play, Jay Ajayi is about to take a tackle for loss. The man about to tackle him got past Branden Albert, who was playing through injury.
  4. Kenyan Drake should have an increased role in 2017. Drake had three kickoff returns for 101 yards on Sunday, which was almost completely overlooked because of the final score. But Drake led the Dolphins with 5.4 yards per carry in the regular season. Early on, coaches said he needed to mature. And even Drake conceded there were a few things he could do to more quickly become the consumate professional. But Drake is legit quick, fast, explosive and dynamic. He has already shown the potential to mock his third-round draft status. In the third quarter against Pittsburgh, Drake had a terrific 58-yard kickoff return, making an explosive cut at Miami’s 22 and deking a Steeler out of his pants. He accelerated. He made a tackler miss. Drake showed why he is destined to take the traditional sophomore leap. If he’s focused and hungry, he’ll make a greater NFL impact next season.

    drakereturn
    Kenyan Drake is about to put on the fake and turn on the afterburners.
  5.  EXTRA POINTS. Linebackers Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt had nice blocks on Michael Thomas’ short fake punt conversion in the second quarter… Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips had two of those highlight-reel plays defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has spoken about, notably beating a double team and dropping Le’Veon Bell for a 2-yard loss in the first quarter. Remains to be seen if Phillips can harnesses all of his talents on a consistent basis… Running back Damien Williams is an excellent pass-catcher, sparkplug and a very good special teamer. But at times, he is susceptible to the blitz. And opposing defensive coordinators seem to know this, too… Despite the final result on Sunday, Miami is still very fortunate to have Matt Moore under contract as the second-string quarterback next season… While I believe Miami really likes what defensive end Andre Branch and wide receiver Kenny Stills bring to the table, they are not players without flaw. And if another team offers a deal outside the Dolphins’ budget, I could seem them leaving… My “Tape Don’t Lie” All-Underrated Dolphins for 2016: 1) Ryan Tannehilll 2) Isa Abdul-Quddus 3) Ja’Wuan James 4) MarQueis Gray 5) Neville Hewitt…. And, finally, my “Tape Don’t Lie” Scrappiest Dolphins for 2016: 1) Jarvis Landry, 2) Jay Ajayi, 3) Kiko Alonso 4) Bobby McCain 5) Damien Williams. Also considered: Byron Maxwell, Mike Hull, Reshad Jones and Mike Pouncey (but both on injured reserve)…. Thanks so much for reading this season.

    moorefumble2
    Matt Moore and Jay Ajayi are friends, but this is less than ideal. There’s always next year.

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7 Dolphins who can make the Pro Bowl this season

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry (14) warms up at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 29, 2015.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry (14) warms up at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 29, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Despite a losing record in 2015, the Dolphins had five players named to the Pro Bowl team, marking the 13th time that Miami had at least five selections. Perhaps surprisingly, the Fins’ total was higher than that of the Jets, Bills and Broncos.

With a little health — and presumably a few more wins — here are seven Dolphins players that can make the Pro Bowl this season.

Jarvis Landry:

Landry is growing into the role of bona-fide star and seems poised to continue his upward trend. Landry gained 1,157 receiving yards last year, almost 400 more than in his rookie year. Though he has yet to catch more than five touchdowns in a season, Landry’s third year may prove to be a breakout year in that statistical category.

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) gets in a final word with the Patriots offensive line during the last minute of the Dolphins win over the Patriots at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 3, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) gets in a final word with the Patriots offensive line during the last minute of the Dolphins win over the Patriots at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 3, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Ndamukong Suh:

After failing to make the Pro Bowl roster last season, Suh will be expected to make his return this winter. After a season in which he had 40 tackles and six sacks, Suh is hoping to upgrade his production. If the Dolphins defense improves and Suh raises his game, it would be fair to assume he is a lock for his fifth Pro Bowl.

Mike Pouncey:

Pouncey was selected to last year’s Pro Bowl roster, but missed the game due to injury. The former Gators offensive lineman, who has been selected to the Pro Bowl for three straight years, will look to fight off injury concerns and deliver another solid season in front of Ryan Tannehill.

Reshad Jones:

Jones was selected to his first Pro Bowl last season, and he will look to continue the play that helped him land that distinction. Last year, Jones made 106 tackles while also intercepting five passes — two of which he returned for touchdowns. The Dolphins would be thrilled if he were to put together a similar season this fall, particularly with the Fins’ other questions in the defensive backfield.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches a pass during a drill. The Miami Dolphins held organized team activities at training camp in Davie, Florida on May 26, 2016.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) catches a pass during a drill. The Miami Dolphins held organized team activities at training camp in Davie, Florida on May 26, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DeVante Parker:

Entering his second year in the league, Parker will look to build off a strong end to his rookie season. Parker gained at least 87 yards in each of the final three games of 2015, including his 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 16 against the Patriots. Parker may be poised to take a leap forward and put an otherwise disappointing rookie campaign behind him.

Kiko Alonso:

One of the Dolphins’ top offseason acquisitions, Alonso has shown Pro Bowl-level talent in the past, but he has battled injuries for a large portion of his young career. In his rookie season with Buffalo, Alonso made 87 tackles and had two sacks and four interceptions. If he can remain healthy, the Dolphins hope he can return to the form of his breakout 2013 season.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) injured his achillies in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on October 29, 2015.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) injured his achillies in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on October 29, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Cam Wake:

Lining up opposite of new Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams should ease some of Wake’s pass-rushing burden. Wake is coming off a season that was cut short due to injury, a season in which he missed the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2011. If he can stay healthy, he may find himself selected to his fifth Pro Bowl.

This is how the Miami Dolphins will end their playoff drought

The Miami Dolphins haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. Since that time, the franchise was seen multiple coaching changes, personnel changes and made hundreds of roster moves, including several at key positions. Despite a near decade of average to mediocre seasons, the Dolphins future may be bright. Here are five reasons to believe that the Dolphins could end their playoff drought this season:

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase directs mini-camp practice at Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase directs mini-camp practice at Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

Adam Gase:

First-year coach Adam Gase brings the reputation of being an offensive coach with him to Miami. The team’s success will hinge on his ability to maximize the potential of Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line, while also getting solid production out of his defense. Gase’s track record as an offensive coordinator should give Dolphins’ fans a reason for optimism.

Jarvis Landry:

Jarvis Landry has been a bright spot for the Dolphins offense in the last two years. He has caught at least 80 passes in his first two seasons and eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in 2015. Landry has trended upwards in his brief time in the league, leaving little reason to believe that that trend won’t continue.

Tom Brady’s suspension:

Anytime the best quarterback in the division is facing a four-game suspension, it is reason for optimism. For years, the Patriots have sat atop the AFC East with little competition, but Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” suspension may open the door for another team to take the top spot. If the Dolphins can capitalize on the opportunity, they can put themselves in strong position to make a playoff push.

Jay Ajayi:

Entering his second year, Ajayi will benefit from a heavier workload and may benefit from an improved offensive line. Much like Tannehill, Adam Gase’s offense may help Ajayi develop. The offense may be able to open up some running lanes for the former Boise State Bronco. If the Dolphins can implement the running game more than they did last year, creating a balanced offensive attack, it could lead to more wins.

Revamped defense:

The additions of veterans Mario Williams and Andre Branch should help bolster a pass rush led by Cam Wake. The Dolphins also added linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell in a trade with the Eagles and drafted cornerback Xavien Howard. If the new faces on defensive contribute, the Dolphins may be a step closer to the playoffs.

5 most important Miami Dolphins defensive players entering 2016 season

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) walks off field after win over the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) walks off field after win over the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

To say that the Miami Dolphins’ defense underperformed in 2015 would be an Ndamukong Suh-sized understatement.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle paid for the defense’s poor play with his job. With training camp set to begin later this month, we take a look at the five most important defensive players entering the season. Continue reading “5 most important Miami Dolphins defensive players entering 2016 season”

Should these Dolphins stay or go in 2016? (Defensive line)

The Dolphins have major decisions to make with impending free agents and players who might be too costly to keep. Here’s a look at every player who finished the season on the 53-man roster (or injured reserve or the suspension list) with beat writer Andrew Abramson’s prediction for whether or not he will remain on the team in 2016.

You get to make your predictions, too!

Vote: Should these Miami Dolphins stay or should they go in 2016?

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