The NFL preseason can be a scary time for teams as there are a lot of unknowns heading into a new year of football. Between not being quite sure of how the team will perform, plus the risk of losing a key player to injury, reaching the regular season firing on all cylinders is no easy task.
With three preseason games now in the books for the Miami Dolphins, it appears that they will reach the season opener with their starting unit intact, for the most part. Miami lost starting free safety Louis Delmas to a season-ending knee injury and now the team hopes that second-year safety Walk Aikens can fill his spot.
Aside from that, it appears that the Dolphins are heading into the 2015 season as a team that could not only make the playoffs, but also do some damage once they get there. While there is still one preseason game to go, it's highly unlikely that any of Miami's main starters will see much game action, if any.
Now that September has arrived, the new season is only days away. Hopes are high that the Dolphins will end their long playoff drought and become a perennial championship contender and based on how the starters have played throughout training camp and the preseason, the idea doesn't seem all that far-fetched. Here are the top positives to take away from the Dolphins preseason.
Ryan Tannehill's Continued Improvement
Miami's starting quarterback has gotten better in each of his three NFL seasons which was a big reason why the team gave him a $96 million contract extension that will take him through the 2020 season earlier this year. The Dolphins front office and coaching staff surely saw Tannehill as a talented QB that will continue to ascend but few people could've expected him to be as improved as he has been so far this season.
Tannehill has grown in several areas and has coaches and media raving about the possibilities for the Dolphins offense. From his leadership and command of the huddle to his sharper accuracy, it appears that Miami's fourth-year quarterback is proving his worth as a former first round pick. Through three preseason games Tannehill has completed 80.4% of his passes (33 of 41) for 303 yards and three touchdowns, which is good for a passer rating of 121.8.
Ndamukong Suh And The Defensive Line
The Dolphins had plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball in 2014 but something happened during the second half of the season that caused the unit to falter and crack. Looking to fortify the defense for the upcoming season, Miami made the biggest splash of the offseason by signing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a 6-year contract worth $114 million.
Suh has brought an intense work ethic to Dolphins practice and his addition raised the bar for the entire defense, and so far they're answering the bell with authority. It's been clear while watching practices and preseason games that opposing teams are going to have a real hard time containing Miami's defensive front. It's going to be a lot of fun for Dolphins fans to watch this defense dominate.
Injured Players Getting Healthier
As training camp got underway the Dolphins had several of their potential starters dealing with an array of injuries. Left tackle Branden Albert was working his way back from major knee surgery and wide receiver and first round pick DeVante Parker was still recovering from foot surgery in June. Linebacker Koa Misi and receiver Kenny Stills were both nursing calf injuries as well during the first week or so of camp.
But as the team worked its way through the preseason it was clear that players were getting healthier. Albert began practicing with the team in mid-August while Parker got back on the field towards the end of the month and both are hoping to be in uniform when the Dolphins open the season against Washington on September 13th. Misi and Stills have been back at practice for a couple weeks now and haven't had any setbacks.
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 Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday at 7 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!
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