Mediocrity was just
one of the things that plagued the Miami Dolphins during the 2017 season. They
had bright spots here and there, but they were anything but the energy-filled
team we saw in 2016. It seemed Miami’s players were demoralized before the season
even began. Some blamed Hurricane Irma for taking away the home opener and
replacing it with a week one bye. Others pointed to the fact that the team had
to travel a longer distance in its first few weeks than most NFL teams had to
travel all season. The bottom line is, they lost their starting QB way back in
early August, and it proved to be overwhelming for the team. Tannehill’s injury
was the reason the 2017 season was over before it began. 
   Losing a QB1 to a
season-ending injury is enough to demoralize most teams, but Miami took a $10
million fully guaranteed shot on Jay Cutler, hoping he would ride into the
sunset as a savior. At first, it seemed like a lateral move. Adam Gase had
worked with him in Chicago, producing one of Cutler’s better years in the
league. There was no good reason they couldn’t have continued that shared
success. For a moment, it looked like everything might be okay. Armed with
hindsight, that obviously wasn’t the case. Smokin’ Jay is better than some
critics will give him credit for, but he’s not exactly the type of guy that
players will rally around.
   Fast forward to
June 2018, Tannehill is back, and the future is hopeful once again. Week 1 is a
few months away and already you can see a difference in energy and intensity.
Rookies and veterans alike were thrilled to see Tannehill out there on the
practice field slinging the ball as he does so well. Having him back is huge.
It’s not exaggerating to say the success of the entire 2018 season rests solely
on his level of play. If he goes down for a significant amount of time, you can
guarantee it will be a repeat of last year, or worse.

   If Tannehill does
go down, a” Nick Foles situation” is unlikely for the Dolphins this year, as
they no longer have a quality backup on the roster. After losing both Jay
Cutler and Matt Moore, the organization has done very little to insure the QB
position. They decided to skip selecting a QB in the 2018 draft and instead
signed Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty. When you add in David Fales fresh off
his loss against Buffalo, this group looks a little concerning, to say the
least. This all just puts more emphasis on Tannehill’s health. If he can stay
healthy, the sky is the limit. If not, Dolphins fans might be in for another
long season.

   It’s obvious that
Tannehill staying healthy is imperative to a successful 2018 season, but
Tannehill isn’t the only player Miami can’t afford to lose to injury if they
hope to reach the postseason. Raekwon McMillan, above any other defensive
player, will absolutely need to stay healthy. McMillan, much like Tannehill,
lost his entire 2017 season before it even began. In fact, he went down on the
very first snap of preseason. This, of course, devastated Miami’s defensive
coaches as they were expecting a stellar rookie campaign from him. Now,
everyone in the organization is counting on him to be a leader and have a very
productive sophomore year. 
   The coaches having
such high expectations for Raekwon comes as no surprise. Only 21 years old when
he was drafted, Raekwon had an impressive and decorated collegiate career at
Ohio State, finishing there as a team captain. If he’s to continue his
impressive career and make the transition to the NFL, he’ll need to be 100%
this season. Not playing a single snap in over a year can be extremely
detrimental to one’s career, so it’s crucial that McMillan gets as many snaps
as he can handle. With youth on his side, McMillan still has plenty of
opportunities to grow into his role, but he’ll need to do so quickly. Penciled
in as the starting middle linebacker, McMillan plays arguably the most
important role on that side of the ball. 

progression is essential for this defense not only for the sole purpose of
growth, but because it’s Miami’s second weakest position when it comes to
depth. If he were to go down, Miami won’t have a whole lot of options behind
him. Kiko would most likely be the guy to move inside, leaving Stephone Anthony
and Jerome Baker to presumably take over the outside spots. That linebacking
core wouldn’t necessarily strike fear into any opponent. The Dolphins could
always go get a free agent, but we all know how that story goes thanks to
Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga. 

Image result for raekwon mcmillan dolphins

 When all is said and done, Miami needs
to recognize the importance of keeping these two players healthy. The goal is
to keep everyone healthy, but the NFL season is a long one and things barely
ever go according to plan. However, if these two stay upright all year, Miami
should be in good hands. The 2017 season was riddled with key injuries, but the
2018 season is almost upon us and the organization is hopeful that having these
two guys back will make all the difference.