The Miami Dolphins had arguably the oddest season of any team in the NFL last year. The Dolphins started 3-0, then lost four straight, then won five of seven, and then – sitting at 8-6 with a chance to make the playoffs – lost their final two games of the regular season to the Bills and Jets by a combined score of 39-7.
What the heck happened?
“Well, I think it was a matter of not only closing out the season, but fourth quarters were a thing for us,” Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick said on The Morning Show. “That’s one thing that we’re definitely concentrating on this year. It’s something I think we’ve already improved on tremendously throughout camp so far. It’s something that’s definitely going to cross over and transfer over in terms of us practicing and closing out games and situations this season.”
While fourth quarters may have been an issue, there was also one of the greatest locker-room scandals in sports history, as Richie Incognito was at the center of a bullying campaign targeting Jonathan Martin. Neither player is with Miami this season; Incognito, 31, is a free agent, while Martin, 24, is playing for his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, in San Francisco.
What’s the feel in Miami now that those dark days, we hope, are over.
“I think it’s the feeling of being together as a team – not just coming into work and doing your job but being passionate about it and being passionate about one another and being a teammate,” Odrick said. “I think sometimes that’s a feeling that’s pretty fleeting in the NFL just because you realize how much and how big of a business it is. So I think that was one (a big) emphasis this offseason – being a teammate.”
The Dolphins, not surprisingly, used two of their first three draft picks this year on offensive linemen, taking Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee) and Billy Turner (North Dakota State). James and Turner will be asked to improve a unit that allowed a league-high 58 sacks last season.
“I think the O-line (is coming together),” Odrick said. “All the stuff that happened in the offseason with the new faces and the new personalities – being able to really emphasize being teammates – you get a better feel for that person. (You want) to play harder for that person playing next to you, so I think the development is going to come along good.”
The Dolphins used their second pick on LSU wide receiver prospect Jarvis Landry to give Ryan Tannehill another weapon. Tannehill’s top two targets last year were Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, who combined for 149 catches, 1,946 yards and nine touchdowns.
Wallace rebounded nicely after a slow start; he caught just one touchdown in his first 10 games but had four in his final six.
How will the aerial attack look in 2014?
“You guys don’t get to see Tannehill slinging the ball around every day,” Odrick said. “He’s been working his ass off and so is Mike. In order to have a successful season – both for themselves and for this team – they’re going to have to work really hard and they understand that. They’ve been doing a great job this preseason.”
But is Wallace happy? Because last year – especially when he had one catch for 15 yards in his Dolphins debut – he didn’t look happy.
“From my perspective, he looks like a happy Dolphin,” Odrick said. “Most of us are just because of the fact that we’re with our teammates and we’re getting closer and closer to (the season). I think Mike’s in a great spot, and he’s got a lot of reasons to be happy.”
The Dolphins open the season at home against the Patriots, who have won the AFC East 10 of the last 11 years.
“We’re not out to dethrone anybody,” Odrick said. “We’re here to play Dolphin football. We’re here to win one game at a time. If we can (beat New England), I think it’ll start off our season right. It’s a matter of continuing that attitude and that style of play.”
And yes, head coach Joe Philbin, if you’re curious, has complete control of the locker room.
Said Odrick, “Anybody who likes Seinfeld as much as he does is all right with me.”