The Miami Dolphins are finished with OTAs and will not take the practice field until training camp begins in late July.
There is a certain buzz around this organization that hasn't been felt for some time, and it has everyone talking. Miami had a decent season last year, which was better than what many experts believed. Ryan Tannehill showed upside, and the Dolphins are now being tagged as one of the surprise teams for the upcoming season.
The Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since they won the division in 2008 and lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round. The talent is there, now they have to translate it to the field on Sundays. It's an exciting time be a Dolphins fan.
Let's take a look at the latest buzz surrounding the Dolphins.
It's no secret that this Dolphins team appears to be much improved. Ryan Tannehill will have a year under his belt, he will have much better targets, and the defense is flying around the field.
Over the past few seasons, Miami's biggest offensive threat has been field goals. The Dolphins have struggled to score touchdowns while they're in the red zone and often settle for the three points. I still have nightmares about Tony Sparano fist pumping and screaming at the top of his lungs after a field goal.
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino believes things will change this season:
“I think that they are going to be better offensively,” Marino said. “You need that person, inside, inside that 10-yard line, inside the 20, that’s going to make that play for you and not get field goals—(get) touchdowns. Let’s be honest, that’s what it’s all about.”
Marino went on to say that "it’s going to be about Ryan Tannehill and does he take that jump and can he get them to being a playoff-caliber football team." Marino certainly is not the only who believes the Dolphins success this season lies in the hands of the young quarterback. Tannehill proved last year that he has the talent to compete in the NFL and has now been given the weapons to succeed.
There's a lot of buzz around the Dolphins organization that hasn't been heard for some time. There are high expectations for this team, and Marino believes that a playoff appearance is very well attainable. "I'm excited about South Florida getting a team back that they're going to be very proud of," he said. "And a team that, in my mind, is going to have a chance to make the playoffs."
If Marino is happy, everybody is happy.
Speaking of Ryan Tannehill, he has really been sharp through OTAs and has shown his growth this offseason. He was very inexperienced at the quarterback position coming out of college, but after spending his last season at Texas A&M and his first season with the Dolphins learning from the same coach in Mike Sherman, he is ready to kick it into the next gear.
Every report about Tannehill coming out of Miami's camp seems to be positive, which is a good sign. John Congemi of The Finsiders has been impressed with Tannehill's improvement and the leadership he has shown thus far:
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed the three-day mini-camp looking sharp and in charge of the offense. He started out the day finding tight end Charles Clay for a nine-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone. Ryan also is developing chemistry with Rishard Matthews, finding him down the seam for a 40-yard completion and on the sideline for an 18-yard reception on a comeback route. Tannehill also engineered a two-minute drive at the end of the workout.
A lot of the Dolphins' success this year relies on how well Tannehill plays. The excuse last year was that he was inexperienced and had no weapons. Those no longer apply. If he keeps improving like he has, Miami will definitely be vying for a playoff spot.
Miami's strength last year was its run defense. The defensive line is the Dolphins' most talented group, and it got more talented when they added Dion Jordan with the third pick in the draft.
Their secondary struggled last season, however. Not only did they give up a lot of big plays through the air, but they failed to force turnovers. With the additions Jeff Ireland made this offseason, the defense is now faster and flying around the field. Most importantly, the defense has been generating turnovers:
John Congemi of The Finsiders wrote this:
The defense looked fast and aggressive using multiple looks and getting their hands in the passing lanes. Defensive Ends Olivier Vernon and Vaughn Martin were able to get their hands in the throwing lanes tipping passes and making it difficult on the passing game. The defense forced two interceptions on the afternoon. The highlight of the day came from cornerback Nolan Carroll when he stepped in front of a pass and took the interception down the sidelines for a defensive score.
If Miami is able to maintain the same ability to stop the run (which it will), and the secondary begins generating turnovers and doesn't allow a lot of big plays, this defense will be scary-good this season.
James Walker of ESPN has also been impressed with Miami's improved defense:
It was evident in minicamp this week that this is an improved defense with much more speed and the ability to force turnovers. For example, Miami’s defense had four interceptions on Wednesday, including two against Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
When Miami gave Mike Wallace a 5-year, $60 million contract in free agency, many believed the Dolphins overpaid to acquire the services of the talented receiver.
However, reports have now emerged that the Minnesota Vikings offered $76 million for Wallace, but he turned it down.
So why did Wallace turn down the chance at more money?
"In free agency, with so many great guys, when you get the prize deal, it's always a good feeling,'' Wallace told USA TODAY Sports. "I just wanted to be happy. Money isn't everything. A lot of people last year, when I held out in Pittsburgh, took it the wrong way, felt like I was just being greedy."
When free agency began, Percy Harvin was still a part of the Vikings organization. If Wallace chose Miami, he would be the undisputed top receiver.
Wallace struggled last season amid contract disputes, but his talent is undeniable. He brings a new dynamic to the Miami offense and will allow Mike Sherman to get a lot more creative with his play calling.
When Miami added Mike Wallace during free agency, most people believed that was the only addition they would make at wide receiver. Shortly after, however, the Dolphins signed Brandon Gibson in what was a surprise signing.
James Walker of ESPN believes Gibson has improved after a slow start to his OTAs:
About a month ago when organized team activities began, Gibson looked like a receiver unsure of himself and his role as a slot receiver. But several weeks later, Gibson looks smooth and confident. Due to need, Gibson is playing inside full-time for the first time in his career after Miami traded Davone Bess to the Cleveland Browns. He made numerous explosive plays this week in Miami’s minicamp, displaying good hands and good routes. Gibson had a solid week, which should provide momentum heading into training camp.
Gibson will play a key role for the Dolphins offense. Bess was one of Tannehill's favorite targets and was extremely reliable, especially on third downs. If Gibson is able to continue developing in the slot, Miami will be able to become the passing offense Joe Philbin is looking for.
Miami's fullback position is not one of dire need. Jorvorskie Lane proved to be valuable running the ball last year, and Charles Clay, who is used more as an H-back, is capable of catching the ball and producing big plays.
However, Miami's brass is looking at other options. This doesn't mean Lane or Clay are currently in danger of losing their job, but they must have a strong training camp in order to prove to the coaching staff that they belong.
The Dolphins are reportedly interested in signing former Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach. Leach already visited with the Dolphins but did not come out of South Florida with a contract.
Leach is a proven player and can challenge both Lane and Clay for a starting spot. Clay has spent a lot of time with the first team offense, which means Lane would be the one in trouble if Leach decides to sign with Miami.
Even if Leach does sign, it doesn't guarantee him a roster spot, but it would make one heck of a battle at fullback.
When the Dolphins drafted Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round, everyone knew Dan Carpenter's job was in jeopardy. After a lackluster season in which Carpenter cost the Dolphins two victories, Miami felt the need to bring someone else in.
Sturgis was considered by many to be the top kicker in the draft along with Florida State's Dustin Hopkins. Sturgis has a strong leg and has shown it during OTAs:
Sturgis and Carpenter kicked well, but the strength of Sturgis’ right leg was hard to ignore. He booted a 58-yard field goal that split the uprights from the left hash mark, and also converted from 36 yards out.
With Carpenter's contract being so high, he has to really out-perform Sturgis and prove to the Dolphins that he can be a reliable kicker.
This battle is just beginning and should just get better as the season gets closer. None of these players can afford to miss kicks, especially Carpenter.
It may be true that offense sells seats and defense wins championships, but everybody's eyes are always on the offense. This won't be any different for Dolphins fans this season. With the additions Miami made on offense this year, many expect the Dolphins to be a lot more explosive.
Brian Hartline recently sat down with Jesse Aggler of The Finsiders and chimed in on what he's seen from the offense so far during the offseason:
"We have all the basics down. We are doing things that take advantage of the defense. We are expanding our horizons. We have a lot of smart guys on our end in the receiver room. The cohesiveness has definitely grown in. Ryan has done is great job leading us that way."
The fact that receivers are on the same page, given the fact that there are a couple of new faces, is encouraging news. What's also encouraging is the fact that Ryan Tannehill is really taking command of the offense in his second season.
Hartline also talked about what the fans might see when training camp begins and they are able watch the team practice:
"We have some guys that can run, we have got some fast guys, and it’s going to be fun to see and fun to watch. We’re throwing that ball around, and the running backs are running well. Fans come to see the offense so we’re really happy with where we’re at. It’s high-flying right now, but the defense is playing good too, so if you’re going to come to a practice you’re going to see a lot of good competition."
Offensively, it appears that Joe Philbin has finally been able to instill his fast-paced West Coast offense.
The season can't get here fast enough.