10 Reasons the Miami Dolphins' Record Will Improve from Last Season

Scott AltmanCorrespondent IMay 6, 2012

10 Reasons the Miami Dolphins' Record Will Improve from Last Season

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    It's overzealous to expect a deep playoff run from the Miami Dolphins this season. 

    The Dolphins are under the direction of a new head coach who is implementing a new offensive scheme. And, there are still quite a few holes that Miami has yet to address. 

    However, it's not overzealous to expect improvement from the Dolphins this season.

    The stars are aligned for this team to improve from last year's 6-10 record. Don't expect Miami to reach, say 10 wins, maybe seven or eight—that's a realistic target for this year's squad. 

The Dolphins Have the Foundation of an Exciting, Dynamic Offense

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    Last offseason, Jeff Ireland made invigorating the Dolphins' anemic offense one of his chief priorities. 

    Following the 2012 NFL draft, Ireland might have achieved his goal. 

    The Dolphins offense now features a slew of dynamic playmakers including: Reggie Bush, Charles Clay, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Clyde Gates and Michael Egnew.

    Granted, most of these players still need to prove themselves, the foundation of an electric and exciting offense is in place.

    Although Miami still lacks an "alpha," go-to wide receiver, Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin still have the personnel to create mismatches and keep defenses guessing. 

Improvement (Hopefully) Along the Offensive Line

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    The x-factor for this year's Dolphins team is the offensive line.

    Last year's line was a disaster, and it was largely responsible for the offense's struggles. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee this year's offensive line will be any better. 

    Jake Long and Mike Pouncey will retain their spots, but the other three starting jobs are still up for grabs, which is discomforting this late in the offseason. 

    Two inexperienced, unproven linemen, Lydon Murta and Jonathan Martin, will battle for the right tackle job. Meanwhile, incumbent left guard Richie Incognito might not be athletic enough for the West Coast offense, and there's no clear-cut favorite for the right guard job. 

    If the Dolphins manage to assemble a quality offensive line, then the offense will be in position to succeed. 

Better and More Stable Quarterback Play

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    It doesn't matter which quarterback wins the starting job, the Dolphins' quarterback play is destined to improve this year. 

    Matt Moore already has 12 starts under his belt, and he should only progress with a full, lockout-free offseason in Miami. 

    David Garrard is a rock-solid veteran with experience running a West Coast offense. 

    Ryan Tannehill probably won't win the starting job, but if he manages to overshadow Moore and Garrard in training camp, then he might deserve a chance. 

The Presence of Lamar Miller

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    Don't underestimate the impact Lamar Miller can have this year. 

    Durability concerns knocked Miller down to the fourth round, but if he stays healthy, the Dolphins will have a freakishly athletic first-round talent at their disposal. 

    Miller's 4.3 speed alone gives the Dolphins great flexibility. For example, they can put Miller in the backfield and Reggie Bush in the slot—that has to scare opposing defenses, right?

    While Miller might not post huge numbers this season, he should (assuming he stays healthy) make a noticeable impact. 

The Hiring of Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle

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    The only noticeable weakness on Miami's defense is safety.

    As of now, Chris Clemons, Reshad Jones, Jimmy Wilson, Tyrone Culver and Tyrell Johnson will battle for the starting safety jobs—not exactly a comforting list of names. 

    But, if there's anybody who can salvage this situation, it's new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. During his 11-year stint as the Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach, Coyle developed a reputation for making anonymous and washed-up players shine. 

    Hopefully, Coyle can bring his Midas touch to Miami. 

A Revamped Pass Rush

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    When Jason Taylor retired, Cam Wake was the only pure pass-rusher left on the Dolphins' roster. Thankfully, the 'Fins landed Olivier Vernon in the third round and also added Jamaal Westerman to help solidify the pass rush. 

    With Vernon in the fold, the Dolphins now have two fearsome pass-rushers coming off the edge. Jared Odrick and Randy Starks can rush the passer from the interior. 

    When Miami needs to pressure the quarterback, they shouldn't have a problem doing so. 

Reversing the Red-Zone Woes

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    Under Tony Sparano's watch, the Dolphins were one of the league's least efficient teams in the red zone. Last year, Miami scored a touchdown in just 47 percent of their red-zone visits—the ninth-worst rate in the NFL. 

    Those struggles shouldn't persist, though. 

    Joe Philbin's Packers offense scored touchdowns in 65 percent of its red-zone visits. 

    Plus, third-round pick Michael Egnew is a perfect red-zone threat. Defensive backs won't be able to cover his 6'5", 252-pound frame, and linebackers won't be able to keep up with his 4.5 speed.  

Players Entering Contract Years

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    The Dolphins have an uncanny number of players entering the final year of their contracts. In total, 35 players (including players on the practice squad) have expiring deals according to Spotrac.com

    Amongst these 35 players are marquee players such as Jake Long, Sean Smith, Reggie Bush, Randy Starks and Tony McDaniel. 

    Although this list is terribly long, it might actually work in Miami's favor. Each of these players has extra motivation to play their best football, and that should translate to positive things for the team as a whole. 

Favorable Strength of Schedule

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    It's way too early to gauge how easy or difficult the Dolphins' schedule is, but as of now, it doesn't look too bad. 

    The Dolphins will face eight teams that finished with a record of .500 or less last season (and they'll play two of those teams, the Jets and Bills, twice). 

    A few of those sub-500 teams will emerge as playoff contenders this season, but there are more than six winnable games on this schedule. 

Preseason Positional Battles Throughout the Roster

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    Only a handful of positions on Miami's squad have predetermined starters entering training camp. 

    Barring any last-minute signings, there will be competitions at wide receiver, left guard, right guard, right tackle and safety. 

    It's discomforting that so many starting jobs are still up for grabs, but competition is healthy. Nobody can get complacent, and players will have to elevate their play throughout the preseason.

    Hopefully, this results in better overall play from players at these select positions.