Note that the first word in the title of this article is expectorations, not expectations - a subtle difference that may very well only be truly defined by the most discernable Miami Dolphins fan.
And on that note, here is one man’s opinion on how the Dolphins 2017 season could play out. I offer this service in hopes of putting fan expectations squarely in the “yeah, totally saw that coming” bin (you’ll find that bin next to the 75% off clearance bin at Walmart, by the way).
As the regular season approaches, fans throughout Dolphinsland are desperately trying to decide if this team is going to be amazingly awesome and good, or putridly pathetic and poor. Obviously the answer lies somewhere in the middle because, well, the Jets and Browns exist.
But before we get to that, let’s look at some pretty solid factoids that almost all fans, diehard or jaded, would agree upon.
First, this team’s defense starts with a line containing two top-notch All-Pros, with the jury still out on the complementary parts. Not a lot has changed on a unit that was pretty bad against the run last year, and it seems they’ve spent the preseason striving to be exactly the same.
The linebacker corps (some would say corpses thanks to some injury attrition) has a couple of good players and a whole mess of young unproven talent that just screams “we’re gonna be adequate, dammit!”
And in the secondary, we sport a highly skilled, yet frustratingly inconsistent group (tackling, anyone?) that is often left with the brunt of the blame when the units in front of them miss assignments.
A harsh assessment? Yes, but until proven otherwise, I am going to continue to experience a feeling of dread each time this unit trots onto the field. And to their credit, they were bad enough last year that they really have nowhere to go but up, so improvement is imminent. Just how much improvement remains to be seen, but I can’t ignore the fact that some key injuries (Tony Lippett and Raekwon McMillan) will likely offset the additions made to this side of the ball.
But it’s not all bad.
On offense, the Dolphins have a top-10 stud running back in Jay Ajayi, who will run behind an improved - if remarkably less-than-stellar - offensive line. The team itself doesn’t yet know who the starting five will be, and will very likely spend the early part of the season rotating parts at the guard position.
The brightest spot on this side of the ball is the receiving corps, which sports a three man group that arguably ranks among the best in the league, plus a newly signed and hopefully rejuvenated tight end (Julius Thomas) who was a weapon of mass destruction in Denver before physically self-destructing in Jacksonville.
And throwing the ball to all of them is a Pro Bowl quarterback (2008) who could care less what you think of him.
Throw that all together and you have the makings of a surefire Super Bowl team, right?
Yeah, no. We can all hope, but, well yeah, just no.
What we can expect is a team that, for better or worse, will spend each week of the season trying to outshoot their opponents, and causing about 47 heart attacks per possession for couch potatos across the land.
Jay Cutler, whom we all know had his best season in 2015 under the guidance of Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, is a gunslinging quarterback who can wow you with his arm, and then just as easily sour your bean dip with an ill-advised throw into traffic. But that’s part of Cutler’s appeal: he’s never seen a throw he didn’t think he could make.
As fans of the Broncos and Bears can attest, Dolphins fans will need to learn to take the good with the bad, as Cutler has the ability to make throws not seen in South Florida since that one Hall of Fame guy retired at the end of the last century, but Cutler also brings the moxie to break your heart.
Gase reigned Cutler in just enough to produce Cutler’s highest-rated season of his career in 2015, and he has gushed about what Cutler brings to this Dolphins offense, even stating that he can count on Cutler to bail him out of a bad play call. That comment alone tells you all you need to know about Gase’s faith in his new signalcaller.
So what will we see in 2017? This writer donned his rose-colored glasses and weirdly thinks Cutler will produce some very good, if not great numbers. Cutler’s job is to get the ball to his playmakers, and this team has a bunch of them. If he’s successful, this offense has top-8 potential.
Let’s call it 30 touchdowns (which would be a career high) along with a dozen interceptions for Cutler. And let’s add in 1,200 yards, 10 touchdowns, and another Pro Bowl nod for Ajayi.
Those numbers alone would translate to top-10 offense and a playoff-worthy record.
But alas, that drastic and dreadfully deplorable Dolphins defense resembles a sieve (okay, they probably won’t be that bad, but it was still pretty cool to type). Because of that, it’s pretty much a given that unless the Dolphins score at least, let’s say 25 points, they probably aren’t winning that game. In fact, I dare predict that the Dolphins lose any game that they score less than 24 points.
Bottom line, the Dolphins will be entertaining to watch this year. There should be a lot of fireworks on offense leading to cheers from fans everywhere, offset by plenty of points being given up, which will cause some groaning and gnashing of teeth across the Dolphinsphere. Or drinking. Probably lots of drinking.
All of this points to a season that could end with the Dolphins sitting at 8-8.
But before you tweet bashful things to me (and by bashful I mean figuratively bashing my head in), let’s not forget our super deluxe special edition secret weapon: Adam Gase. He really is the real deal. The not-so-ol’ ball coach will pull a few rabbits out of his old-logo-style ball cap, and make some key moves that translate to a couple more wins.
And in the end, although it’ll be anything but pretty, I think we’ll see a team with 10 wins and a great shot at a second consecutive playoff berth. So stock up the beer fridge, buckle up, and please keep your hands inside the ride at all times.
This story was written by Eldon Jenson. Follow him on Twitter @EJFootball
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