For the Miami Dolphins to contend for the playoffs this season, here are the five players who can help make that happen:
Ryan Tannehill, QB: There is little question about which player is No. 1 on this list. If the Dolphins’ disappointing 6-10 finish last season is to be written off as the product of losing Tannehill to a knee injury -- and not a greater problem -- then getting Tannehill back playing at a 2016 level will be of prime importance in 2018. Tannehill will not only have to readjust to playing this season after a major injury, but he must also deal with the loss of top receiver Jarvis Landry, who caught 400 passes for 4,038 yards his past four seasons in Miami. Helping Tannehill fill the void will be free-agent acquisitions Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson.
Kenyan Drake, RB: He started the final six games of last season and ran for 464 yards over that span, fifth-most in the NFL. Drake’s production justified the Dolphins’ decision to trade Jay Ajayi midseason, but he must carry that momentum into 2018. Drake should be the player carrying the load in the backfield, not 35-year-old Frank Gore or rookie Kalen Ballage. Drake bulked up this offseason to prepare for the added wear and tear he will face this season, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Robert Quinn, DE: The Dolphins know what they have in top pass-rusher Cameron Wake, so from the standpoint of adding to their roster and bolstering their chances for the playoffs, Quinn is important. The Dolphins acquired Quinn from the Rams for the relatively affordable price of a fourth-round pick and a swap of sixth-round picks, but his $11.4 million cap hit will be Miami’s highest this season. Their hope is Quinn can get back to being one of the league’s most productive pass-rushers after being somewhat miscast as a 3-4 outside linebacker in Los Angeles. With Wake having turned 36 this offseason and 2017 first-round pick Charles Harris yet to emerge, Quinn could anchor the defensive line for the foreseeable future.
Laremy Tunsil, LT: If left tackle is a premium position in the NFL, the Dolphins could use a step forward this season from the No. 13 overall pick in 2016. After moving from left guard after his rookie season, Tunsil finished 47th in 2017 among NFL offensive tackles in Pro Football Focus’ grading. Overall, the Dolphins’ offensive line ranked 26th in ESPN Stats & Information’s pass protection rate, a measure of the percentage of plays the offensive line controls the line of scrimmage on drop backs. The Dolphins signed guard Josh Sitton and traded for center Daniel Kilgore this offseason to fix their issues up front, but more will be needed from Tunsil.
Raekwon McMillan, LB: Sticking with the theme of players who could add something where the Dolphins lacked last season, McMillan figures to play an important role after missing his entire rookie season with a knee injury. The 2017 second-round pick will be tasked with starting at middle linebacker for a defense that was deficient at the position last season. “I’m the Mike, I’m the middle linebacker, the guy in the middle, the quarterback of the defense,” he told the Dolphins’ official website. "I’m trying to become a leader out there.”