The Miami Dolphins head into the 2015 NFL season with the best collection of players that the team has compiled in several years. There is talent across the board, all over the roster in fact. It's the main reason that expectations are so high for Joe Philbin and his Dolphins this season.
From the continued ascension of Ryan Tannehill to the addition of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Miami has given its fans a lot of reasons to expect a return to the playoffs.
Now that the regular season has arrived, expectations and speculation will take a back seat to the actual game results. The Dolphins first test comes against an opponent that they only play every four years, the Washington Redskins.
Miami heads into the game a 3½ point favorite and hopes to get their 2015 campaign off to a winning start for the second straight year.
There are several players on the Dolphins roster that will be watched closely by coaches and fans alike. From new starters to rookies to guys coming back from injury, Miami's talented pool of players comes with some question marks.
Those questions will begin to be answered on Sunday against the Redskins. Here are the top Dolphins players to watch during Week 1.
Miami's fourth year quarterback appears poised to have a big season and enter the top tier of NFL QBs. Tannehill has put in the work during the offseason but he's also earned the trust and respect of his teammates, now being viewed as the unquestioned leader of the team.
Suh was perhaps the most prized free agent in the NFL in 2015 and adds a dimension to Miami's defense that it has lacked for a long time. His presence should make things easier for the Dolphins main pass rushers, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon. It should be fun watching opposing offenses struggle with who to pay more attention to.
The Dolphins took a calculated risk when they decided to go into the season with a pair of undrafted rookies as their kicker and punter. Strong-legged Andrew Franks replaces inconsistent kicker Caleb Sturgis while Matt Darr steps into the punter job previously held by 2013 Pro Bowler Brandon Fields. Both players will be under the microscope until they prove that they can handle the stress and pressure of playing in the NFL.
Following the season-ending injury to free safety Louis Delmas last month, Aikens steps into his first starting job in just his second year in the league. Miami's coaching staff has liked what they've seen from Aikens throughout the summer and have expressed confidence that he'll play well in Delmas' spot.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Dolphins throughout the preseason was who would end up being the starting guards. That question has since been answered as Miami will go with 2013 3rd round pick Dallas Thomas at left guard and 2015 4th round pick Jamil Douglas at right guard.
The Injured Guys
Two of the Dolphins players that are expected to play major roles on the offense this season, left tackle Branden Albert and wide receiver DeVante Parker, have been working their way back from injuries for the past several months. Now it appears that both players will be good to go for Week 1 against Washington and it will be interesting to see how they do in their first full game action.
Brice McCain and Jamar Taylor
There was no doubt that Brent Grimes would be Miami's top cornerback heading into the season but the battle for who would start opposite him was one that was watched closely throughout training camp. For a while it appeared that third-year corner Jamar Taylor would win the job but a late-August quad injury kept him sidelined for a couple weeks, allowing free agent pickup Brice McCain the opportunity to leapfrog him and step into the starter's role. Both players should play important parts in the success of the Dolphins defense as the season progresses.
Coming off of his first 1,000 yard season in the NFL, Miller has looked even better during training camp and the preseason than he did last year. He could be poised for a true breakout season and become one of the top running backs in the league if he continues to look as good as he has for the past six weeks.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Watch Miami take on the Washington Redskins this Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
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