AFC East: NFL

MOBILE, Ala. -- The 2015 Senior Bowl practices are in the books, and it’s time to review all of my notes on who shined and who struggled throughout the week.

Here are seven awards after watching a full week of practices:

Best overall player: Washington DT Danny Shelton

[+] EnlargeDanny Shelton
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsDefensive tackle Danny Shelton showed off a high motor and nimble feet at Senior Bowl practices.
Coming into the week, I marked Shelton as a player I closely wanted to monitor because I figured he would be a strong target for the Dolphins at No. 14 overall. Miami's run defense was 24th in the NFL and struggled mightily in the final six weeks of the season. However, after the strong week Shelton had at the Senior Bowl, I’m not confident Shelton makes it to No. 14. Shelton is a legit stud at defensive tackle. He’s a little short (6-foot-2) but carries his 342 pounds well. Shelton also said he wants to drop a few more pounds before the combine, most likely to do the drills in Indianapolis. But his motor is strong, and he has surprisingly nimble feet. I have a hard time seeing 13 teams passing Shelton over. But the Dolphins shouldn’t pass if Shelton is there at No. 14.

Breakout player: University of Miami WR Phillip Dorsett

Scouts were fully aware of Dorsett’s speed. He averaged 24.2 yards per reception last season but only caught 36 passes. What Dorsett had to prove is he was more than a one-trick pony. He did a stellar job this week by showing off multiple routes and making tough catches against top competition at the Senior Bowl. Dorsett definitely helped his stock and was recognized by the Senior Bowl committee as one of the top practice players throughout the week. He's also interested in playing for the hometown Dolphins.

Biggest surprise: (Tie) Yale FB Tyler Varga and Delaware TE Nick Boyle

The biggest surprises came from small schools. It was hard to separate Varga and Boyle since both consistently stood out. So I rated this category a tie. Varga showed some quickness and very good hands out of the backfield. He’s a combo fullback/part-time tailback who can also get yards on the ground. Fullbacks are dying breeds in the NFL, but Varga could bring some value as a late-round selection. Boyle entered the week as a relative unknown, but he was the second-best tight end in practices behind University of Miami’s Clive Walford. Boyle is a big body who blocked well and caught the ball well. He told me he molds his game after Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller.

Most improved: Utah OLB Nate Orchard

The Utes had a good defense last season, and Orchard was one of their top stars. But it took a little while for Orchard to warm up at the Senior Bowl. The college defensive end was asked to do a lot of new things as an outside linebacker, such as stand up and drop in coverage. But things began to click for Orchard in the second and third practice. Orchard made more plays and turned out to be one of the North’s better defensive players by the end of the week. Orchard projects to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he still needs time to learn the position.

Biggest disappointment: Quarterbacks

If you’re a team looking for a quarterback and don’t have a shot at drafting Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, good luck. The Senior Bowl proved there are slim pickings at quarterback this year. Alabama's Blake Sims, East Carolina’s Shane Carden, Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson and Baylor’s Bryce Petty all had shaky moments. I saw a lot of fumbled snaps, errant passes and interceptions on both teams this week. None of the quarterbacks was able to separate from the pack in what was a golden opportunity. Teams are looking for quarterbacks all the time, and one of these players could have drastically improved their stock behind the "big two." But questions remain with this group.

Second biggest disappointment: Notre Dame TE Ben Koyack

The Fighting Irish have a strong tradition for producing NFL tight ends, and Koyack is the latest to come down the pike. So I expected to see more from Koyack, but he mostly struggled in Senior Bowl practices. Koyack wasn’t dynamic enough in the passing game or physical enough as a blocker. Boyle was the best tight end on the South team during the week. Maybe Koyack simply had a shaky week in practice and will perform better in the game.

Safest pick: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett

Predicting the NFL future of college prospects can be a crapshoot. We also excluded Shelton since we made it clear that he was the best player at Senior Bowl practices. With that said, there’s something about Lockett that screams “NFL ready.” He’s smart, a good route runner, has dependable hands and great speed. These are all qualities you look for in a rookie. Therefore, Lockett is a safe pick to help some team as a slot receiver and in the return game immediately. He’s projected to go in the second or third round. The only concern is whether his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame can handle the physical pounding of the NFL. Lockett most likely will need to add at least 10 pounds of muscle.

That wraps up my 2015 Senior Bowl coverage. Check out the Dolphins blog for plenty of coverage of the draft and free agency this offseason. Also, follow me via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is unsure if receiver Mike Wallace -- the team's highest-paid player -- will return to the roster in 2015.

Wallace
Wallace
Ross was noncommittal Friday when asked about Wallace following the team's unveiling of upgrades made at Sun Life Stadium. Wallace was benched in the second half of a Week 17 loss to the New York Jets following a verbal altercation around halftime.

The situation -- and Wallace's high salary -- put his status with the Dolphins in question. Wallace is scheduled to make $9.9 million next season, and $3 million of it is guaranteed if he's still with the team in March.

"I don't think anybody really knows that," Ross said of Wallace's future. "They're looking and assessing the team and what we have to do to win next year. That's the most important thing. Next year we need to win."

Despite his issues in the finale, Wallace had a strong season in Miami. He led the team in receiving yards (862) and touchdowns (10). Wallace also was second on the team with 67 receptions.

The Dolphins finished 8-8 for the second straight season, but the coaching staff will remain. That includes defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who will return for 2015, according to a team source. Ownership believes the team is heading in the right direction.

"We were up and down like everybody else," Ross said. "I thought we were getting there, and we didn't make it. But I think there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic that we're on our way."
The New York Jets hired Todd Bowles as their new head coach on Tuesday night. This surely presents a storyline to keep an eye on with the rival Miami Dolphins.

Bowles has a unique history with Miami. He was the team's secondary coach from 2008-2011 and one of former head coach Tony Sparano's top and most trusted assistants. When Sparano was fired 13 games into the 2011 season, Bowles took over the team as interim head coach and went 2-1 in the final three games.

Bowles clearly had the attention and respect of the players, who kept playing during a lost 6-10 season. He was so impressive that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross twice interviewed Bowles for the head-coaching opening, and Bowles became a finalist along with current San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and current Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

And this is where it gets interesting for Miami. Ross chose Philbin over Bowles three years ago. Now, Bowles finally gets his chance to be a head coach -- but it's with the rival Jets who play Miami twice per year.

Meanwhile, Philbin enters the 2015 season on the hot seat. He has been unable to deliver on his promise to Ross to bring championship-caliber football team to Miami. Instead, Philbin is just 23-25 in three seasons and has yet to make the playoffs. He's also never had a winning season.

It is much too early to say whether Bowles is head-coaching material. But it is clear the Jets believe in his potential. If Bowles has a successful run in New York and the AFC East -- and Philbin continues to struggle -- it will put a bright spotlight on Miami's head-coaching decision in 2012.
Perhaps the most promising sign to emerge from the Miami Dolphins' 8-8 season was the progress of third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He set career highs in yards (4,045), touchdowns (27) and passer rating (92.8), as well as learned a new offensive system under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor.

But who will back up Tannehill in 2015? It's an important question the Dolphins must address this offseason.

Moore
Miami only carried two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster for most of last season, and respected veteran Matt Moore will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Moore, who made $4 million in 2014, should garner interest from quarterback-needy teams. He's a very good backup and a proven part-time starter over his eight-year career. The Dolphins need cap room and can't afford to pay Moore what he made the past two seasons.

I talked to Moore a couple of weeks ago and he was unsure of his return.

"If the situation is right, that will happen," Moore said. "If there's a situation elsewhere that is intriguing, it might also happen. ...I'm going to kind of feel my way through it."

Translation: If Moore gets an opportunity elsewhere to compete for a starting job and with a higher salary, he's most likely leaving Miami.

The Dolphins will explore cheaper alternatives at backup quarterback, especially now that Tannehill is a proven starter. The easiest route would be to draft an affordable, developmental quarterback in the middle or later rounds. They also could look for a veteran in free agency if they are willing to spend more.

Tannehill's durability has been stellar. He started 48 consecutive games since Miami drafted him No. 8 overall in 2012. But a backup quarterback is always one play away.

The Dolphins must find a decent player behind Tannehill who also fits within their budget.
The New York Jets were 57-55 in Mike Tannenbaum's seven years as general manager. There were some highs, such as back-to-back AFC title game appearances following the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and there were lows, such as trading for quarterback Tim Tebow and handing out a big contract extension to Mark Sanchez.

Tannenbaum's track record has come to the forefront in South Florida after the Miami Dolphins hired him as executive vice president of football operations this week to take over the front office. On Tuesday, Tannenbaum stood by his record in New York.

“When you look over the 16 years I was there and the seven years as GM, I am proud of our record,” Tannenbaum said on a conference call with the Miami media. “Not every pick worked out. It usually doesn’t. I go back to what I said earlier that I wouldn’t trade the last two years for anything. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really had a chance to reflect and spend time with college coaches, basketball coaches, player procurement, be it whatever sport. There are a lot of different things you can learn.”

Here are several hits and misses during Tannenbaum’s tenure as Jets’ general manager from 2006 to 2012:

  • Tannenbaum usually shines in the first round. He has a list of home runs with New York’s top pick, which includes cornerback Darrelle Revis, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson and D'Brickashaw Ferguson. Miami has a quality pick this year at No. 14 overall and needs to get this pick right.
  • [+] EnlargeStephen Hill
    AP Photo/Chris SzagolaThe Jets missed on several second-round picks under former GM Mike Tannenbaum, including WR Stephen Hill.
    On the flip side, Tannenbaum has a history of second-round busts. He drafted quarterback Kellen Clemons in the second round in 2006, offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse in 2010 and receiver Stephen Hill in 2012. All three were didn't work out. Tannenbaum’s only good second-round pick during his seven-year as general manager was linebacker David Harris in 2007.
  • Tannenbaum struck gold on several trades and free agents that led to New York’s playoff success. Veteran acquisitions such as cornerback Antonio Cromartie, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, linebacker Bart Scott and receivers Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards helped fuel New York’s playoff runs in 2009 and 2010.
  • As we mentioned early, Tannenbaum does not have a good history identifying quarterbacks. Clemons was a bust in 2006. The Tim Tebow trade was inexplicable. However, the Sanchez pick is debatable. New York traded up in the first round (No. 5 overall) to get him and he helped get the Jets twice to the AFC title game. Those are positives. But Sanchez clearly didn’t improve and New York signed him to a contract extension that signaled the beginning of the end for Tannenbaum. However, the Dolphins already have their quarterback in place for at least next season in Ryan Tannehill.
  • Finally, the Vernon Gholston pick at No. 6 overall in 2008 may be the biggest stain on Tannenbaum's résumé. Gholston remains one of the worst NFL selections in the past decade. He flamed out in three seasons and has been out of the league since 2010.

As with most personnel bosses, there are hits and misses. The goal for Miami is that Tannenbaum builds on his strengths and learns from prior mistakes.

Tannenbaum said Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey will retain control of the draft and personnel moves. But rest assured Tannenbaum will have his fingerprints on Miami's roster this upcoming season.

“Everybody’s going to have input, but ultimately who we pick and when we pick, the roster decision will rest with him,” Tannenbaum said of Hickey. “Again, I’ve seen him work. I know he’s a collaborative leader. That’s my belief.”
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The Miami Dolphins hired former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum to oversee the front office, the team announced Tuesday. His title will be vice president of football operations, and this is an interesting move for several reasons.

This move strengthens Miami's front office. Tannenbaum, whose Jets teams reached back-to-back AFC title games following the 2009 and 2010 seasons, has 16 years of front-office experience in the AFC East -- a division the Dolphins haven't won since 2008. Miami must close the gap with the New England Patriots, and Tannenbaum's knowledge certainly cannot hurt in that quest.

But this move makes you wonder: Did the Dolphins ever truly believe in first-year general manager Dennis Hickey?

Miami went through an extensive search last year, and Hickey was not its first choice. Multiple candidates turned down offers from the Dolphins or declined to be interviewed. Some candidates didn't like that they had to stick with head coach Joe Philbin, as opposed to bringing in their own coach. Others felt the organization setup wasn't right.

In the end, the Dolphins landed Hickey -- and essentially made him the boss for one year before hiring a new boss to watch over him. Hickey will report directly to Tannenbaum -- but not the coaching staff. Philbin, along with Tannenbaum, will report directly to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Hickey's first-year record (8-8) was not a bad one. He found productive rookies Ja'Wuan James and Jarvis Landry in the draft. He also signed left tackle Branden Albert and starting safety Louis Delmas in free agency. There were some misses, but no general manager in the NFL has a perfect record. According to Tannenbaum, Hickey will keep final say on draft picks and personnel, but it will be a "collaborative effort."

Hickey now has an added layer above him in the front office. The pressure is on the general manager -- and many within the Dolphins' organization -- to produce a playoff season in 2015.

Miami Dolphins season report card

December, 31, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins (8-8) had another roller-coaster season under third-year head coach Joe Philbin. The Dolphins handily beat the New England Patriots in Week 1 and were 2-0 in prime-time games. But then there were the three December losses -- including the season-ending defeat to the 4-12 New York Jets.

The Dolphins had an inconsistent and disappointing season, which will be reflected in many of the team's final grades.

Team MVP: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the biggest bright spot in Miami's up-and-down season. He eclipsed 4,000 passing yards in a season for the first time and is the first Dolphins quarterback since Hall of Famer Dan Marino to reach that mark. Tannehill set a franchise record for completions in a season (392), surpassing Marino. His 27 passing touchdowns set a career high as well. Tannehill's development offers the most hope for the Dolphins' future.

Best moment: Did the Dolphins peak too early? In hindsight, their best moment was defeating the Patriots 33-20 at home in Week 1. They trailed by 10 points at halftime and dominated in the third and fourth quarters. The Dolphins had opportunities for defining moments in last-minute losses to the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. Those could have saved Miami's season.

Worst moment: The Dolphins held the final AFC wild-card spot entering Week 15. All they had to do was beat the Baltimore Ravens at home to position themselves for a strong playoff push in the final weeks. Instead, Miami lost 28-13 at Sun Life Stadium. That game turned out to be the last realistic chance at making the postseason. Losses to the Patriots and Jets followed.

2015 Outlook: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross took the mystery out of the offseason when he announced after the Vikings game that Philbin would return for 2015. That was the biggest decision for Miami heading to the offseason. General manager Dennis Hickey also gets another year to make over the roster, and Tannehill earned his spot as the starting quarterback for 2015. The Dolphins are not far from becoming a contender. They're 16-16 the past two years and need tweaks and improvements only in certain areas. I would start by evaluating the defense -- from the players, scheme and possibly even the coaches. What Miami did defensively in the second half of the season didn't work.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Two years in, Dion Jordan of the Miami Dolphins remains a mystery. The coaching staff has not figured out the best way to use the former first-round pick. He began as a defensive end and the coaching staff even started him at outside linebacker in Sunday’s season finale against the New York Jets.

Joseph
Jordan
But according to Jordan, a position switch in 2015 isn’t necessary for him to reach his potential.

“I’m a defensive end, man,” Jordan said Monday as players cleaned out their lockers. “I will continue to do whatever they need me to do, whether it’s covering a special-teams kick or blocking on a kickoff return or covering guys in space.”

Dolphins’ coaches, including defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, said everything must be evaluated in the offseason for Jordan. Miami invested heavily in Jordan by trading up to the No. 3 overall pick to get him in 2013. Yet, Jordan only has three career sacks to go with 46 tackles in two seasons.

Jordan also had two suspensions this year that kept him out of the first six games. He violated the NFL’s substance abuse and performance-enhancing policies and didn’t return until mid-October.

It also doesn’t help Jordan that Miami also has two solid starters ahead of him at defensive end in Pro Bowler Cameron Wake and two-year starter Olivier Vernon. Linebacker is a bigger position of need and could help Jordan see the field faster next year.

“That’s certainly going to be one of the main topics. We have got to find ways to utilize him more," Coyle said of Jordan. "There were some extenuating circumstances both last year, him coming in having a shoulder issue and then again this year with the suspension and so forth. We have got to get him in the right spot and we’re going to evaluate that real closely and we’ll see what we determine to be the best fit for him."

Jordan has enough athleticism and size to play either position. Although Jordan’s preference is to remain at defensive end, he said he will keep his options open.

“I’m good with whatever they ask me to do, but at this moment I’m a defensive end,” Jordan said. “Going into my offseason I’m going to continue to work on little things as far as strength, just making sure my body is 100 percent and getting ready to go.”

2015 Miami Dolphins' draft order

December, 29, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins concluded their season Sunday with a 37-24 loss to the rival New York Jets. Miami has an 8-8 record for the second consecutive season, which is a disappointment.

It's time to turn the page to 2015 and focus on where the Dolphins must get better. Here is a first-look at Miami's top pick:

Pick: No. 14

Top needs: LB, G, TE, CB, S

Analysis: The Dolphins are in for a tricky offseason. They have a lot of talent, but some of that talent is overpaid and making it tough on the salary cap. Miami could have many cap casualties, particularly on defense. It also will be tough for the Dolphins to re-sign their top free agents such as defensive tackle Jared Odrick and tight end Charles Clay. Projecting key cuts such Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, linebacker will be Miami's biggest need. Clemson's Vic Beasley, Washington's Shaq Thompson and University of Miami's Denzel Perryman are among the top-rated linebackers, according to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. Those are some early names to keep an eye on. There certainly will be more names surface in the next few months.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 28, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 37-24 loss Sunday to the New York Jets:

What it means: The Dolphins were officially eliminated from playoff contention last week. So the loss didn't mean much in terms of the postseason. But Miami finished 8-8 for the second straight season, which is underachieving. The Dolphins failed to post their first winning season since 2008 and failed in an attempt at their first season sweep of the Jets since 2009.

Stock watch: Miami's defense continued its free fall in the final game. The Dolphins made Jets quarterback Geno Smith look like Joe Namath. Smith completed his first eight passes of the game and finished with a stellar 358 yards and three touchdowns. Jets receiver Eric Decker also had a huge game with 10 receptions for 221 yards. The Dolphins defense sprung major leaks in the second half of the season, and there's a need to re-evaluate everything. In terms of stock up, Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline was relatively phased out of the offense compared to previous seasons, but he was the most prolific option Sunday. He had five receptions and a season-high 94 yards. It is possible that this could be Hartline’s final game with the Dolphins. He is due a $5.95 million salary in 2015 and hasn't been an ideal fit most of the season in Miami's new offense under Bill Lazor.

Historic run: Miami running back Lamar Miller needed 79 rushing yards to get over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He did it in style with a team-record 97-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that electrified the crowd at Sun Life Stadium. Miller finished with a season-best 178 rushing yards Sunday and 1,099 rushing yards for the season.

Game ball: Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 259 yards and one touchdown Sunday, gets the MVP honor for 2014. He surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the first time and set a career high for touchdown passes with 27. Tannehill also set a franchise record, passing Hall of Famer Dan Marino, for the most completions (392) in a season. Tannehill was a bright spot and more than earned Miami’s starting quarterback job in 2015.

What’s next: The Dolphins' season is in the books. Owner Stephen Ross already has said there will be stability this season at head coach with Joe Philbin and in the front office with general manager Dennis Hickey. However, Philbin might have decisions to make about his staff, particularly defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle after such a poor second half to the season.

Miami Dolphins inactives

December, 28, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will host the rival New York Jets (3-12) at 1 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium.

Here are the Dolphins players you will not see in Sunday's game: Analysis: There are not any major surprises for Miami. Thomas injured his foot and will miss his second straight game, despite practicing throughout the week. This will give backup Jason Fox his second start and another audition before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Receiver Percy Harvin and center Nick Mangold are the biggest inactives Sunday for the Jets.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Ryan Tannehill solidified his standing as Miami Dolphins' starting quarterback for 2015 -- and possibly beyond. But the immediate future in Miami of backup quarterback Matt Moore remains up in the air.

Moore will become an unrestricted free agent in March. His final game under contract will be Sunday when the Dolphins (8-7) host the New York Jets (3-12) at Sun Life Stadium.

Moore
Moore has spent the past four seasons in Miami, including the last three years as Tannehill's backup. But Moore doesn't know if Sunday will be his final game with the Dolphins.

“I’ve enjoyed everything about my time here,” Moore said Friday. “I’m not sure if that’s going to end or if there’s a new chapter. I don’t know yet. When that time comes, I will figure it out then.”

Moore said he "absolutely" plans to play in 2015. He's just not sure of his destination. Moore, who made $4 million this season, is considered one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL.

But there could be several factors working against Moore returning to Miami. For starters, the Dolphins do not have a lot of cap space going into next season. That will make it challenging to re-sign key free agents such as Moore, starting defensive tackle Jared Odrick and starting tight end Charles Clay.

Miami also is further convinced Tannehill is the answer at quarterback than the team was two years ago when it last signed Moore as an insurance policy. The Dolphins may not want to spend a high amount again on a backup quarterback next season. Tannehill will have started all 16 games for the third straight season, while Moore has completed just 2 of 4 passes for 21 yards this year.

Moore said he understands the business and is “aware of possible change” with the Dolphins next season.

“If the situation is right, that will happen,” Moore said of coming back. “If there's a situation elsewhere that is intriguing, it might also happen. ... I’m going to kind of feel my way through it.”

Lastly, the Dolphins announced their team awards for 2014. Tannehill won the Dan Marino Award for the team’s MVP in 2014. Defensive end Cameron Wake earned the Don Shula Award for leadership and Jason Fox won the Nat Moore Community Service Award.

“It’s a huge honor for me and the guys around me,” Tannehill said of the award. “In order for the quarterback to play well, the guys around me have to be playing well also. I think it’s huge honor, and I love that I got it. But at the same time, you have to give a lot of credit to the guys around me.”

QB snapshot: Ryan Tannehill

December, 23, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and how he played in the Miami Dolphins' 37-35 win in Week 16:

Tannehill
Tannehill saved his best for one of the final games of the season. In Week 16, Tannehill threw for a season-high 396 yards and a career-high four touchdowns, and he had a 118.8 passer rating in Miami's victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

This was the kind of performance Dolphins fans have been waiting for. Tannehill made big plays and small plays and was a dominant player. Miami (8-7) had a franchise-record 36 first downs -- and 23 were via Tannehill and the passing game.

There also were subtle things Tannehill did well that didn't show up in the box score. He stood tall in the pocket, took some big shots from Vikings' defenders, and eluded pressure to keep the chains the moving.

Tannehill received praise Monday from offensive coordinator Bill Lazor for successfully executing the game-plan details against Minnesota (6-9).

"This guy is playing quarterback," Lazor said. "It's not just making the deep throws. It's not just getting some things out."

Tannehill solidified his case to be Miami's starter in 2015. This was a big third season for the quarterback and head coach Joe Philbin, who also is set to return for his fourth season.

With one game remaining, Tannehill already has set new career bests in touchdown passes (26) and passer rating (93.2) this season. He needs just 128 passing yards Sunday against the New York Jets to top his previous career mark of 3,913 yards. Tannehill needs 214 passing yards in the final game to reach 4,000 yards for the first time in his career.

Either way, it's been a successful season in which Tannehill made enough strides to provide optimism for 2015.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

December, 21, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 37-35 victory Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: The Dolphins needed a late comeback to pick up a much-needed win after two consecutive losses. Rookie defensive lineman Terrence Fede blocked a punt to give Miami a safety and a wild finish. It certainly wasn't pretty. But the victory gives the Dolphins (8-7) and head coach Joe Philbin a chance to finish with a winning season. However, Sunday's win by the Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5) eliminated the Dolphins from playoff contention.

Stock watch: Running back Lamar Miller was a threat on the ground and through the air. He finished with 92 rushing yards and 58 receiving yards. Miller is 79 rushing yards from his first 1,000-yard season. In terms of stock down, Miami's defense gave up a lot of points to Vikings rookie quarterback and Miami native Teddy Bridgewater (259 yards, two touchdowns). Minnesota's 35 points marked its second-highest output of the season.

Wake’s milestone: Cameron Wake recorded two sacks on Bridgewater to notch 11.5 on the season. This is the third time Wake has recorded double-digit sacks in his career. He also became the fourth Dolphin to accomplish the feat. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Wake's first sack of the day triggered a $750,000 bonus in the defensive end's contract.

Game ball: Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill had one of his best games of the season. He threw for 396 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Tannehill also showed toughness by absorbing some big shots and continuing to lead the offense to five touchdown drives.

What’s next: The Dolphins will wrap up their 2014 season the same way they did last year by hosting the rival New York Jets (3-12). Miami likely will be favored to win at home, but anything is possible in this AFC East matchup. The Dolphins won the first meeting 16-13 in Week 13.

Dolphins-Vikings inactives

December, 21, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Here are the players you won't see in Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings:

Dolphins (7-7)
Vikings (6-8)
Analysis: There are no surprises from Miami’s perspective. Dallas Thomas and Daniel Thomas were both listed doubtful during the week and will not play. Backup right tackle Jason Fox will make his first start of the season at right tackle. The Vikings have a good defensive line and will test Fox. Miami also is much healthier at linebacker. Starters Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are active after missing last week’s loss to the New England Patriots.

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