Beat writer Hal Habib: 10-6
They’re definitely better. But better than the Ravens, Bengals or Steelers? If the Dolphins can’t finish ahead of two of those three, forget the playoffs.
The Texans or Colts will claim one AFC wild card. That leaves the Dolphins in the mix for the other provided they don’t leapfrog the Patriots for the East, which isn’t a nutty notion.
Ryan Tannehill will be fine and I like Miami’s upgrades at receiver, linebacker and defensive back. Love the picks of CB Will Davis and K Caleb Sturgis. The offensive line is the question, and outstanding teams with questionable OLs are rare.
Columnist Dave George: 9-7
Miami looks a little better and the rest of the AFC East looks a little worse, which means there ought to be a shot at playoff contention by accident alone. With such inexperience at quarterback and running back, however, it’s tough to get completely behind this team until the offense starts coming around.
If Mike Wallace is really going to make a difference for Ryan Tannehill, we’ll know it by the bye week. A string of games with Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore in Weeks 3-5 are the reason. Stand up to those teams and coach Joe Philbin may be off and running in his second season.
Miami could split with New England and Buffalo and sweep the Jets to earn a divisional base of four victories. After that it’s a simple matter of playing .500 against the rest of the schedule and it’s a winning record for the first time in five years. That, of course, is borderline production for a wild-card spot.
Beat writer Brian Biggane: 9-7
The Dolphins have come a long way from their rough run through “Hard Knocks” last summer. While they were never close to being a playoff contender, putting up a 7-9 record with a new coach, two new coordinators and a rookie quarterback was a step in the right direction.
The next step is to contend for the playoffs. A weapon that was missing last year — the deep threat Mike Wallace provides — is there now. The offensive line will likely be a work in progress all season, but Jim Turner is an excellent coach and it won’t be an overwhelming problem.
With the defense looking improved at cornerback and linebacker, it all comes down to Ryan Tannehill. If he’s really good, the sky is the limit, but with his relative lack of experience, expect another year of gradual improvement.
Columnist Greg Stoda: 8-8
The Dolphins made a whole bunch of fancy offseason moves in seeking improvement in several areas — pick a unit — but nothing will be as important to the team’s development than progress made by Ryan Tannehill.
Nothing. And it’s not even close.
Tannehill was serviceable as a rookie starter last season, and the value of that experience will be determined by how well he handles things this season. It shouldn’t take long to find out with the first five games being at Cleveland, at Indianapolis, Atlanta, at New Orleans and Baltimore. That looks like a load of trouble to me.
Miami has emerged as something of a trendy pick as a possible playoff qualifier, but there are lots of questions — start with the offensive line, yet again — to answer.
Beat writer Andrew Abramson: 7-9
After almost constant frustration for more than a decade, the last thing Dolphins fans want to hear is that the team is a year away from competing. But even after handing out more than $100 million in guaranteed contracts this offseason, don’t expect Miami to really reap the benefits until 2014.
The Dolphins might improve in some statistical categories, but with a lot of new parts to blend in and a brutal early-season schedule, expect Miami to finish 7-9, just as it did last year.
I originally had the Dolphins at 8-8, but that was with tight end Dustin Keller making the difference in at least one close game.
Miami will look a lot better late in the season and make the playoffs next year.
Andrew Abramson (who replaced Ben Vollin) says it best when he explains that Dolphins fans don't want to hear about this team being "one year away."
For both, the reason appears to lay in Ryan Tannehill's development. Overall, the prevailing theme from the writers who cover the Dolphins every day is that as Tannehill goes, so goes the Dolphins.