Revisiting 10 Bold Miami Dolphins Predictions from the Preseason
The season never goes quite as we expect.
With so many big offseason moves, there was no shortage of hype around this team. Many thought it had a real shot to unseat the New England Patriots—and that was even before all the devastating injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Rob Gronkowski and others.
It fell short of that goal, and fell short of the playoffs once again. There could be some major changes coming, but the Dolphins do have at least one big bright spot in the development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Let's take a look back at what I predicted, and how it panned out. Make sure you swallow your beverages quickly; you might spit them out all over your monitor.
Cameron Wake Will Log More Than 15 Sacks: False
What I Said: "He earned his first selection to the AP All-Pro team in 2012 after putting up 15 sacks, but something tells me Wake could bring down the quarterback more often than that in 2013. Beyond simple sacks, Wake was the most productive pass-rusher on a per-snap basis according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) among all edge-rushers, be they 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends."
What Happened: Wake had 2.5 sacks in the first game of the season but took another six weeks to get on the board with his next sack. It's hard to maximize his potential sack total with a drought that long.
In the interest of full context, the Dolphins defensive end was hobbled with a knee injury early in the season and although he missed just one game, it took him awhile to get back to his full self.
Wake remains a building block for the defense, and with the emergence of Olivier Vernon, Wake hasn't needed to carry the full burden of the Dolphins pass rush. That only becomes more true if rookie Dion Jordan begins to live up to the billing as the No. 3 overall pick.
Mike Wallace Will Have More Than 1,300 Receiving Yards: False
What I Said: "Wallace averages 17.2 yards per reception in his career, and that's with a pair of down years in 2011 and 2012. If he can return to form and go for 18 yards per reception, he only has to catch 72 passes to set this mark. As the only big-play threat in the passing game for the Dolphins, their offense may struggle if he's unable to hit this mark."
What Happened: Wallace finished with 73 catches for 930 yards. Ryan Tannehill did not connect with Wallace on as many big plays as they probably would have liked. Some of that is on Wallace, some of it is on Tannehill. The two connected on just six of 36 passes that traveled 20 yards or more through the air (16.7 percent).
If they had been better in that area, Wallace could have easily hit 1,300 yards. Wallace indicated he and Tannehill left "10 or 15 touchdowns" on the field this year due to their mistakes, so who knows how many yards they left on the field as well.
The Dolphins Will Finish Better in Pass Defense Than Run Defense: True
What I Said: "The Dolphins ranked 27th against the pass in 2012, compared to 13th against the run. Most of their offseason moves on defense, however, have been geared toward improving their pass defense. They made a concerted effort to get lighter on the defensive line by drafting Dion Jordan, and moving Jared Odrick to the inside only magnifies that effort."
What Happened: The Dolphins finished the 2013 season ranked 16th against the pass and 24th against the run, in terms of yards allowed. Really, though, the Dolphins finished better in pass defense in every category: They gave up six yards per pass attempt (12th) and 4.1 yards per rush attempt (18th); they allowed 17 passing touchdowns (third) and 14 rushing touchdowns (18th).
Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler were a disappointment with regards to their play against the run; the two combined for 32 missed tackles this year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
One major reason for their performance against the pass was the presence of cornerback Brent Grimes; the Dolphins signed him on a one-year deal last offseason, and he played well all season long. Whether it's in Miami or elsewhere, Grimes is getting paid this offseason.
Brian Hartline Will Lead the Team in Receptions: True
What I Said: "Ryan Tannehill lost two of his top targets from last year in Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano, but Brian Hartline led all Dolphins receivers in 2012, and he'll probably do it again. Since he was the receiver Tannehill trusted the most last season, it wasn't a surprise that the Dolphins brought him back. That trust also means that Tannehill might look in Hartline's direction on a regular basis while he continues to build chemistry with all the new receivers around him."
What Happened: That's almost exactly how it ended up happening. Wallace was not a big part of the game plan early on, and had three receptions or less in four of the Dolphins' first seven games. Hartline was consistent throughout the season, and even had a stretch of six games in which he had five receptions or more.
His value took a bump when tight end Dustin Keller went on injured reserve in the preseason, and he only became more valuable when Brandon Gibson went down with an injury in Week 7.
Even still, it ended up being close. Hartline finished with 76 receptions, Wallace finished with 73.
Reshad Jones Will Have the Most Interceptions by a Safety: False
What I Said: "As a result of changes in the secondary, the Dolphins will likely be spending less time in a straight-up Cover 2 shell with man coverage underneath. They'll disguise coverage more and let Jones do different things to give their best defensive back more opportunities to make plays on the ball."
What Happened: Wrong, oh so hilariously wrong. Jones finished with one interception, while Giants safety Antrel Rolle led all safeties with six.
Jones ended up doing a lot of different things in coverage for the Dolphins this year, but he simply did not make as many plays in coverage this year as he did last year. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Jones allowed a reception on 37 of 45 throws into his coverage, with just one interception and two passes broken up.
The Dolphins gave Jones a four-year, $29.36 million extension this offseason, and he simply did not live up to the money in the first year of that deal.
Ryan Tannehill Will Throw for 4,000 Yards: False
What I Said: "The pass-happy NFL has made passing for 4,000 yards seem like it's par for the course. On the contrary, only 10 quarterbacks hit 4,000 passing yards in 2012. To beat that total, [Ryan] Tannehill has to throw for 706 more yards on the season—or 44.1 more yards per game—than he threw for last year."
What Happened: Tannehill threw for 39.7 yards per game more in 2013 than in 2012, and fell just 87 yards short of my prediction of 4,000 yards. Despite being sacked a league-high 58 times, Tannehill was still nearly able to hit that yardage total. Imagine how much better this offense could have been with a competent offensive line.
There were obvious signs of growth from Tannehill this year; he was more accurate, completing 60.4 percent of his throws (a 4.1 percent raise from 2012) and had a passer rating of 81.7 (5.6 points higher than 2012).
If Tannehill continues to develop, it may only be a matter of time before he's one of the most prolific passers in the league.
The Dolphins Will Snap Their Losing Streak to the Patriots: True
What I Said: "The Dolphins currently hold the dubious title of the longest winning drought against the Patriots in the AFC East. ...They won by one point at home on December 6, 2009. In that time, however, the Dolphins have kept it close with the Patriots on several occasions. Most recently, they lost two of their past three games to New England by one possession. The Dolphins will find a way to snap their losing streak to the Patriots at some point this season."
What Happened: In the Dolphins' most thrilling win of the season, Ryan Tannehill led two two-minute drives for a touchdown, at the end of each half. The second such drive put the Dolphins ahead for good, and unknown safety Michael Thomas high-pointed the ball in the end zone for the win. Of course, this was the last high point of the season before the Dolphins would crumble and fall short of the playoffs.
Caleb Sturgis Will Hit 90 Percent of His Field Goals: False
What I Said: "Only nine kickers hit more than 90 percent of their field goals in 2012, and two of them attempted fewer than 20 field goals. If Sturgis continues to improve, as he did throughout his college career, he could land in good company."
What Happened: PFFFFFT.
Yeah, I couldn't have been more hilariously wrong on this one. Not only was Sturgis in the bottom four in field-goal percentage, but his eight misses were the second-most missed field goals in the league.
Dan Carpenter, released by the Dolphins prior to the season, went on to hit a career-high 91.7 percent of his field goals for the Buffalo Bills.
Brandon Fields Will Set the NFL Record for Punting Average: False
What I Said: "There are few punters in the league with the leg Brandon Fields has. The seventh-year punter edged on historic status in 2012 with an average of 50.2 yards per punt. That average put him at fifth all time for a single season. But if he keeps up his preseason average of 53.1 yards per punt, he'll shatter the old record set by Sammy Baugh, which has stood since 1940."
What Happened: There was no way Fields could keep up such a torrid pace, and as a result, he fell short of last season's numbers and finished with 48.8 yards per punt on average. That still ended up being the second-highest average in the league, just not the record-shattering numbers I predicted.
Final Record of 9-7, Wild Card: False
What I Said: "The Dolphins, like every team in the AFC East, have a pretty brutal schedule this year. They face the NFC South (Falcons, at Saints, at Buccaneers, Panthers) and the AFC North (at Browns, Ravens, Bengals, at Steelers). If they split those games and go 4-4, that puts them in good position to earn a playoff spot. A 4-2 record in the AFC East is not out of the question, and then they just have to win one of two games against the Chargers and Colts to finish above .500 and potentially in the playoffs for the first time since 2008."
What Happened: So close.
They went 4-4 in their games against the NFC South and AFC North, as I predicted, and won their games against both the Chargers and Colts. However, it was a 2-4 record against the division that ended up being their undoing. They had a chance to hit my prediction in the final week but fell short in a gut-wrenching loss at home to the New York Jets.
If I had been right on the Dolphins' record, they would have made the playoffs as the final Wild Card team. As it is, they enter the offseason with major questions.
Final Score Card: 3 out of 10
Man, I feel like I just got sacked 58 times in a day. I should just give up.
Apparently, my powers of foresight are not nearly as good as they need to be to pull this off without looking like an idiot.
I'll try to do better next time. So should the Dolphins.