This Season's Five Most Important Miami Dolphins

This Season's Five Most Important Miami DolphinsEXPAND
Courtesy of Miami Dolphins

Not only are the Miami Dolphins in the thick of training camp, but their first preseason game is just over a week away; life comes at you fast. After another off-season, there's a new coaching staff and roster. You can't quite call them the new-look Miami Dolphins — the refurbished Miami Dolphins sounds about right. 

Every year, you can point to five players who were most important to a Super Bowl playoff run — the core group on defense, offense, and special teams that make the biggest difference. 

Who will that core be this season? As the first preseason game nears, let's take a look at our best guesses.

5. DeVante Parker, WR  

The Dolphins and their fans know what they will get from Jarvis Landry at this point: a dependable, sure-handed, consistent number two wideout. What no one can be sure of is what the team has in DeVante Parker. The Dolphins didn't take Parker fourteenth overall in the 2015 NFL draft just to be another piece of the puzzle. They took him to be the last piece of the puzzle. 

Every offense that wins a championship has a dynamic playmaker, someone who instills fear in opposing defenses and makes defensive coordinators lose sleep. Who is that guy for the Miami Dolphins? It has to be Parker. He possesses the sort of Randy Moss-esque skill set that could explode on the NFL scene this season and make the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender. 

4. Ndamukong Suh, DT 

When the Dolphins signed Suh to a deal last March that will pay him approximately $114 million, they envisioned him wrecking asses in late January, not just in October. If the Dolphins' defense is going to be a Super Bowl-caliber unit, Suh will have to be more like the player he was at the end of last season, and less like the nonexistent talent he was early in the year. 

The Dolphins will need Suh to be all-pro if they have visions of continuing deep into the playoffs this year; that's the sort of player they signed up for when they paid him all that money last season. This would also greatly help an inexperienced and undertalented secondary. 
 

3. Byron Maxwell, CB 

Speaking of a weak secondary: Meet Bryon Maxwell, possibly the most important Miami Dolphins player you wouldn't be able to spot if he was standing right in front of you at Publix. The Dolphins traded for the Eagles cornerback and linebacker Kiko Alonso this off-season in an attempt to shore up two spots on the defense that have been notoriously weak the last few seasons. Maxwell, however, is a much more important piece of the trade. 

With the annexation of Brent Grimes, the Dolphins need a stud number one corner in 2016 — they sure are paying Maxwell like that guy. The Dolphins took over a six-year, $63 million dollar contract Maxwell signed with the Eagles after leaving the Seattle Seahawks, so they've put a lot of trust and resources into him. If they are to win anything substantial this season, they'll need him to be the player he was with Seattle, not the one that got kicked out of Philly. 

2. Arian Foster, RB

You thought the signing of Arian Foster a few weeks ago was going to be a throwaway transaction that meant little to the team moving forward? You thought wrong. Sophomore tailback Jay Ajayi is not only unproven but already banged up (left knee), so there Foster sits, taking the reps with the first team. When the Dolphins signed Foster to a team-friendly prove-it contract in mid-July, most figured it was insurance behind the Dolphins' other tailbacks. But Ajayi, who has a history of knee injuries, is already down for the count. So that notion has changed. 

If the Dolphins can squeeze out even 75 percent of the back that Foster once was, they will have gotten a steal late in the off-season. Veteran leadership at tailback is important if the Dolphins plan on making a run. 

1. Ryan Tannehill, QB

No crap, right? Not every team can win a Super Bowl with the corpse of Peyton Manning under center like the Denver Broncos did last year; most need a leader and elite signal caller to win a title. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill hasn't been that. The hope is that new head coach Adam Gase can flip Tannehill into something that resembles a championship quarterback. The Dolphins are a refurbished team with lots of moving parts this season, so they will need Tannehill to play more like he did in 2014 than he did in 2015.

Tannehill is the glue that keeps the Miami Dolphins together. Without his leadership and strong play, the performance of the other four players on this list will likely mean very little. Tannehill has the talent, and all the excuses are out the window this year. It's time for him to lead the Dolphins on a long playoff run in 2016, or the team will soon be looking for someone else to give it a try. 


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