Miami Dolphins: 6 Players Poised for a Breakout Campaign in 2013
The Miami Dolphins have garnered a ton of attention for their explosive offseason. Miami seemingly plugged its holes and greatly improved its roster. The Dolphins as a whole appear ready for a breakout season in 2013.
But there's only one way that will happen. Miami's new additions must mesh with its old guard and come together as a team. If they want to avoid becoming the next failed dream team (sorry to bring that up again, Philadelphia), the Dolphins will need big games from some of their most important players.
Some players are shoe-ins for big years. No one will be surprised if Cameron Wake dominates again in 2013. But here are six players who are poised to surprise with breakout campaigns in 2013.
Lamar Miller showed mere flashes of his abilities in 2012, as you can see in the embedded video. In 2013, he's expected to fill the void left by Reggie Bush.
Miller appears to be a perfect fit.
He's got good size, speed and vision. Notice how in the video he patiently waits for lanes to open then attacks them. With the number of times he reached the second level, it's no wonder he had a stunning 4.9 yards per carry last year.
Miller was a dominant back at the University of Miami, tallying 1,272 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry. This is a guy who can take over a game with his abilities.
With an improved offensive line in front of him, look for Miller to turn some heads in 2013.
I know, it's a little hard to imagine the Dolphins having two breakout running backs in 2013. But while Lamar Miller may steal the show, Gillislee should surprise a lot of people as well.
Gillislee was thunderous in his senior season with the Gators. As the focal point of Florida's run-heavy offense, he ran for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. But no game was more impressive than his performance against LSU.
The Gators rode Gillislee for a staggering 34 carries. Yet he still averaged a remarkable 4.3 yards per carry on his way to 146 total yards and two touchdowns (which, by the way, were Florida's only on the day). The senior back single-handedly won the game for Florida.
Gillislee has the size and speed to find success with the Dolphins. Word from Miami's rookie minicamp indicates that he is already impressing, even drawing comparisons to Frank Gore (per The Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly).
Considering the underwhelming performance of Miami's reigning No. 2 back, Daniel Thomas, Gillislee has a very good chance to claim carries behind Miller.
This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I expect Jonathan Martin to be much improved at left tackle in 2013.
First, consider his pedigree. He played 37 of 39 games at left tackle at Stanford, so he's familiar with the position. A reliable run-blocker, Martin's largest identified weakness coming out of college was his inability to handle speedy pass-rushers.
That was proven to be true when he switched to left tackle for the remaining five games of 2012.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), his pass-blocking graded worst at left tackle against San Francisco's Aldon Smith (-4.7) and New England's Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich (-2.0 and -2.5 in two games).
In other words, Martin was mostly average at left tackle except against pretty good to phenomenal pass-rushers. That can easily be fixed.
With a full offseason to soak in the blocking schemes, reacquaint himself with the position and bulk up, Martin should be able to elevate his game to average to pretty good. Moreover, he's got quick enough feet to keep up with speedy blitzers; he just needs some technique work.
Remember, the Dolphins don't need an elite left tackle to win. They only need a pretty good one. Martin should provide that in 2013.
As the third pick in the draft, it may not be a surprise if Dion Jordan has a breakout season in 2013. But surprise or not, the pieces are there for Jordan to excel as a rookie.
Termed a "Christmas gift yet to be unwrapped" by another (fantastic) Dolphins writer here at Bleacher Report, Jordan is a physical specimen who can wreak havoc on offensive lines and quarterbacks.
He wasn't able to do much at Miami's rookie minicamp due to a nagging shoulder injury, but Jordan's measurables and college tape speak volumes. He's got size comparable to Dolphins legend Jason Taylor and speed that, frankly, a man his size shouldn't have.
With the versatility to play down at defensive end or upright at outside linebacker, Jordan should be a dangerous weapon in Kevin Coyle's defense. As long as he can put his shoulder injury behind him, Jordan should be looking at an explosive rookie campaign.
Sure, a lot of people already know who Dannell Ellerbe is. Being the starting middle linebacker on the Super Bowl-winning team will do that for you.
But if Ellerbe had stayed in Baltimore, he would have forever played in the shadow of Ray Lewis—right or not. And even if Ellerbe had been great in 2013, he still wouldn't be Ray Lewis. That's just the way it goes when replacing a Hall of Famer.
Now that Ellerbe is starting over in sunny Miami, he has a chance to make a name for himself as one of the league's top middle linebackers without the No. 52 hovering over him.
Ellerbe was great while filling in for Lewis and continued to be great once the legend returned in the playoffs. He was a terror to opposing quarterbacks, racking up five sacks, seven QB hits and 13 hurries. He's also an ace in run defense, grading out at 7.2 total per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
With a fresh start in front of him in Miami, Ellerbe is poised for a breakout season.
By drafting Caleb Sturgis, the Dolphins basically sent a message to Dan Carpenter: You're officially on notice.
Carpenter struggled in 2012, posting the second-lowest field-goal percentage of his career (81.5). Still, Carpenter is recognized as one of the league's premier kickers. To cite Dolphins writer Thomas Galicia again, it isn't necessarily Carpenter's struggles that have endangered his job, it's his considerable contract.
Carpenter will hit the Dolphins' cap to the tune of $3 million (according to Spotrac.com). While this is certainly an issue, I think Carpenter's struggles are of equal concern.
Carpenter was perfect on field-goal attempts that were less than 40 yards in 2012. However, he was only 8-for-10 from 40-49 yards and 2-for-5 from 50-plus yards.
Compare that to Sturgis, who in 2012 was 5-for-6 from 40-49 yards and a perfect 3-for-3 from 50-plus yards. Sturgis also had a superior overall field-goal percentage (85.7).
What that means to me is that even if Carpenter makes it to the regular season as Miami's starter, he'll be on a short leash. Remember, he did miss two field goals that could have won games that the Dolphins went on to lose last year.
Sturgis is the kind of strong-legged kicker who could have a breakout campaign in 2013—provided he gets the opportunity.