Miami Dolphins: Early 2015 Awards Predictions
For the next month you will see a plethora of 2015 NFL season previews, and some will focus on league-wide awards.
What Dolphins awards will I be predicting? The typical awards such as MVP, offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year and most improved player as well as some off-the-wall awards like game of the year, and the Roberto Wallace Award (presented to the player most likely to make noise in training camp).
Who are my predictions for said awards? Let's take a look.
Best Undrafted Rookie: Jeff Luc
Linebacker was a position of need for the Dolphins, yet it was also a position that was neglected throughout free agency and the draft.
It was after the draft when the position was addressed thanks to the signing of a few undrafted free-agent linebackers, with one of them bound to become the best undrafted rookie signing of 2015.
I went with Jeff Luc as the winner of this award, as thus far he looks to be the best of the bunch. He looks the part size-wise at 6'1" and 251 pounds, and he has played well in minicamp so far.
The Roberto Wallace Award: Tony Lippett
Remember Roberto Wallace?
If you don't, Wallace was a wide receiver with the Dolphins from 2010 until 2012 who was known more for being talked up during the preseason than anything he did on the field.
What did he do on the field? Six catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns. Ignorant fans will call DeVante Parker a bust if those are his numbers in Week 1, but for Wallace, that was his career.
You wouldn't have known that was the path he'd take from what you heard in the 2012 preseason though, when Wallace was being compared to Brandon Marshall.
Since then, I've created an award named for him, and as much as this pains me to say, my main nominee for it is cornerback Tony Lippett.
Let me explain; I'm not bashing Lippett. I'm giving him this award because, throughout the 2015 preseason and training camp, you're going to hear a lot from Lippett.
Every play the kid from Michigan State makes will be salivated over, and unfair comparisons to Richard Marshall will populate social media (and even this website).
I'm intrigued by him as well, but I also see Lippett as a project who will spend most of 2015 playing special teams despite the fact Miami is very shallow at the cornerback position.
You'll hear from Lippett more in 2016 and beyond, but for 2015, you'll hear a lot from him early. But in the regular season it will feel like he doesn't exist.
Comeback Player of the Year: Louis Delmas
There are plenty of candidates for the comeback player of the year on the Dolphins.
Branden Albert is the first obvious candidate, while Mike Pouncey's return to center makes him a candidate as well.
I'm going with Louis Delmas as the comeback player of the year. The Dolphins' defense dropped off after Delmas got hurt, sending their playoff chances down south as well.
Delmas is returning from a torn ACL suffered in November, but he is ready to return now, as he is already feeling like he can go full speed despite the coaching staff holding him back in minicamp (per Jameson Olive of Fox Sports Florida):
“I feel 100 (percent). The coaching staff and the training staff are going to do a great job of maintaining me and making sure I don’t recover faster than I should recover. I am coming out here and doing everything, but I definitely trust the coaching staff and the training staff to direct me in the right path and make sure I’m 100 (percent) come gameday.”
Miami's defense was considered elite when Delmas was on the field, being ranked third against the pass, sixth in yards allowed and seventh in scoring defense before his injury.
If he has the same effect in 2015 and can stay healthy all year long, he'll edge out Branden Albert for the comeback player of the year award.
Most Improved Player: Billy Turner
Much like with comeback player of the year, there are plenty of candidates for most improved player.
Cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, linebacker Chris McCain and even kicker Caleb Sturgis are all likely nominees, but my pick is guard Billy Turner.
Turner took 19 snaps in 2014, grading out at 0.4 in those snaps.
As long as Turner plays better than what we saw from Dallas Thomas and Daryn Colledge in 2014, the Dolphins will have an upgrade at guard. If he exceeds that (which he should be able to), he'll be the most improved player.
Rookie of the Year: Jay Ajayi
Why not DeVante Parker?
That's your thought right now as you see my selection of Jay Ajayi as Miami's offensive rookie of the year. Parker will have the better career long-term, but for 2015, Ajayi is the more important player.
Ajayi will give Miami a true third-down back for the first time in years thanks to his pass-catching ability and blocking, making him the perfect complement to Lamar Miller while further unlocking the potential of this offense.
As for Parker, his ascent will be slower this season thanks to the surgery he had, but in the long run he'll be in good shape.
Game of the Year: Week 12 vs. Baltimore
For game of the year, I went with the game that should be looked at as the benchmark game.
It's not the two games against New England, or any of Miami's divisional games. While ideally they'll be 4-2 or better vs. the AFC East, the most important game on the schedule is against a non-AFC East foe.
The Baltimore Ravens, a team Miami hasn't beaten since Cleo Lemon found Greg Camarillo, are the measuring stick for the Dolphins and the most important game of the year.
The Ravens play the type of game the Dolphins will encounter in the playoffs, and in the last two years they have done a horrible job of keeping up with them.
Last season's matchup was worse than the 2013 matchup, as the Dolphins led at one point 10-0 and were in complete control of the game. The Ravens then outscored the Dolphins 28-3, effectively ending Miami's playoff hopes.
The Dolphins will be playing the Ravens at the same time of the year, and how well they do in this game will tell you how much they have improved.
Defensive Player of the Year: Ndamukong Suh
For this award, I'm looking at the player most likely to make a big impact and not just based off of what box scores will say.
That player is Ndamukong Suh, a game-changing defensive tackle signed by the Dolphins this offseason to help fix many of the ills that brought down Miami's defense in 2014.
Suh taking up double-teams will make Olivier Vernon a rich man, while Cameron Wake will amass double-digit sacks once again. Both players faltered down the stretch in 2014, but Suh's presence should negate that.
Expect the linebackers, right now a very inexperienced group, to see gains from Suh's presence.
A tougher pass rush and run defense will result from this signing, making Suh the defensive player of the year.
Offensive Player of the Year and MVP: Ryan Tannehill
Since the same man is getting both offensive player of the year and MVP, I'll use one slide to explain why.
Ryan Tannehill is going to break through in 2015, and I'm not afraid to say he'll inch his way into the top 10.
He'll be playing with his best wide receiver team of his career, an improved offensive line and a second year under Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator.
The tools are all there; it's up to Tannehill to put it all together. If he succeeds in doing so, he should win 10 games while throwing for more than 4,000 yards for the second consecutive year, and for the first time in his career, breaking the 30-touchdown mark.
Those are the expectations for Tannehill, and based off of what he has done so far, he should meet them, making him the offensive player of the year and the team's MVP.
Advanced Statistics provided by Pro Football Focus.