The Miami Dolphins are coming off a rather successful season in 2016. The franchise ended with a 10-6 record, and seem to be on the verge of breaking out with Adam Gase as their head coach leading the way.

With quality additions during both the free agency and the Draft. the Dolphins target the playoffs as a minimum expectation. But if Miami wants to become a legit threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC East, then one player needs to show the way and lead the team. We are talking about their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

Tannehill is coming off a season in which he threw for 2.995 yards with 19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and a 93.5 passer rating in 13 games. It was the first time in his career that he missed time due to injuries, and the Dolphins felt his absence. But Tannehill recovered, and he will lead a talented Dolphins team into the playoff picture in the AFC.

What’s clear is that the Dolphins do have a talented roster. Tannehill called it “the best offense he’s ever played in”, and he is not exaggerating. Tannehill kept most of this offensive line, which is obviously a plus. And Laremy Tunsil will return to his natural role, so that will allow him to perform better than last year. Jay Ajayi also returns to lead the running game, and the tight-end duo of Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano could be huge.

As if that wasn’t enough, Tannehill has three dynamic receivers to throw the ball to. DaVante Parker impressed everyone with his play during OTAs this year. And Kenny Stills is one of the best deep receivers in the league. Same with Jarvis Landry, who is one of the top wideouts in the AFC. The stage is set for Miami to battle for, at least, one of the Wild Card spots. Because topping the Patriots might be too much to ask to them.

But who knows what will happen once the season starts? After all, Miami maintained most of last season’s roster. And they could see some substantial upgrades thanks to the offseason signings. But nothing will matter if Tannehill is not on a high level. As it happens with most quarterbacks, their play is key for their franchises to be successful.

Tannehill does have some stretches where his play is inconsistent. But he seems to be on the way up over the past three seasons. He posted career-high marks in several categories in 2015, and it’s fair to say he would have established others in 2016 hadn’t he missed three games. But that’s in the past, and 2017 will be his chance to show he belongs in the elite.

If he does it, then the Dolphins will be almost unstoppable and could even become a dark horse team for a deep playoff run in the AFC. They certainly have enough talent to keep them a close eye during the upcoming campaign.

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