Joe Philbin (above) has high hopes for this Dolphins team.
The Miami Dolphins have been hard to predict in recent seasons.
It looked like they might be built for success in 2008, but three sub-.500 seasons came and went before the Dolphins had to move on to a new coaching staff.
It looked like they had turned things around at an early stage last season, with a 4-3 record keeping them in the hunt for a playoff spot headed into the midway point. It didn't take long for things to come unraveled, though. The Dolphins lost three straight in the blink of an eye.
A fourth consecutive sub-.500 season, along with a ton of cap space, led to them spending more money than any other team this offseason.
Now, the Dolphins figure to be even more unpredictable than in years past. Will the pieces come together quickly, or will it take awhile for the team to jell?
Here's my best stab at some predictions for the Dolphins' upcoming season.
Cameron Wake (above) is ready to pounce on opposing QBs.
Cameron Wake has finally begun to earn the national attention he's deserved for quite some time.
He earned his first selection to the AP All-Pro team in 2012 after putting up 15 sacks, but something tells me Wake could bring down the quarterback more often than that in 2013.
Beyond simple sacks, Wake was the most productive pass-rusher on a per-snap basis according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) among all edge-rushers, be they 3-4 outside linebackers or 4-3 defensive ends.
His ability to consistently get pressure on his own will only be magnified with the presence of another standout pass-rusher opposite Wake.
The Dolphins added Dion Jordan with the third overall pick, and while he could contribute to the Dolphins' pass rush, so could defensive end Derrick Shelby. Add in Jared Odrick moving to the inside, and the Dolphins' defensive line as a group should put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
With a pass rush that figures to work more as a unit than simply a product of one good player, the unit's best pass-rusher could reap the benefits.
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson just finished putting together a 1,964-yard receiving season in 2012. Thus, 1,300 yards may not seem very bold at all.
Wallace averages 17.2 yards per reception in his career, and that's with a pair of down years in 2011 and 2012. If he can return to form and go for 18 yards per reception, he only has to catch 72 passes to set this mark.
As the only big-play threat in the passing game for the Dolphins, their offense may struggle if he's unable to hit this mark.
The Dolphins ranked 27th against the pass in 2012, compared to 13th against the run.
Most of their offseason moves on defense, however, have been geared toward improving their pass defense. They made a concerted effort to get lighter on the defensive line by drafting Dion Jordan, and moving Jared Odrick to the inside only magnifies that effort.
They decided to move on from the solid run-defending linebacker duo of Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby and to move forward with a more athletic duo of Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, two players who can blitz and cover over the middle.
This might come as a surprise to some because of all the new faces in the secondary. The Dolphins will be starting a brand new set of cornerbacks in Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Will Davis (and Jamar Taylor, when he's healthy).
Perhaps a new-look secondary is exactly what the Dolphins needed, however, after grabbing just 10 interceptions in 2012 and finishing with a mediocre 83.4 passer rating against.
Ryan Tannehill lost two of his top targets from last year in Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano, but Brian Hartline led all Dolphins receivers in 2012, and he'll probably do it again.
Since he was the receiver Tannehill trusted the most last season, it wasn't a surprise that the Dolphins brought him back. That trust also means that Tannehill might look in Hartline's direction on a regular basis while he continues to build chemistry with all the new receivers around him.
For all the new players brought to the fold, re-signing Hartline has the potential to be the best decision the Dolphins made this offseason.
Reshad Jones had four interceptions in 2012. He would had to have picked off four more passes to even tie Giants safety Stevie Brown's total of eight interceptions, the most by a safety last season.
Jones forced four incompletions and had another four passes defensed while allowing just 48.7 percent completions (19-of-39).
As a result of the aforementioned changes in the secondary, the Dolphins will likely be spending less time in a straight-up Cover 2 shell with man coverage underneath. They'll disguise coverages more and let Jones do different things to give their best defensive back more opportunities to make plays on the ball.
The pass-happy NFL has made passing for 4,000 yards seem like it's par for the course.
On the contrary, only 10 quarterbacks hit 4,000 passing yards last year.
To beat that total, Tannehill has to throw for 706 more yards on the season—or 44.1 more yards per game—than he threw for in 2012.
Those yards can come any number of ways, whether it's from a higher completion percentage or an increase in big plays. The Dolphins are expecting both of those things in 2013, so 4,000 yards seems within reach for Tannehill.
The Dolphins currently hold the dubious title of the longest winning drought against the Patriots in the AFC East. The Bills beat the Patriots in 2011, and the Jets last beat the Patriots in the 2010 playoffs.
It's been three years and nine months almost to the day since the Dolphins last beat the Patriots. They won by one point at home on December 6, 2009.
In that time, however, the Dolphins have kept it close with the Patriots on several occasions. Most recently, they lost two of their past three games to New England by one possession.
The Dolphins will find a way to snap their losing streak to the Patriots at some point this season.
The Dolphins made a bold move in moving on from former Pro Bowl kicker Dan Carpenter and rolling with rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis from Florida.
Carpenter's been solid over the years, but his wheels fell off for a three-game stretch in 2012, when he hit just five of nine field-goal attempts (55.6 percent). College kickers are not always known for their accuracy, but Sturgis hit a solid 85.2 percent of his field goals over the past two years.
Only nine kickers hit more than 90 percent of their field goals in 2012, and two of them attempted fewer than 20 field goals. If Sturgis continues to improve, as he did throughout his college career, he could land in good company.
There are few punters in the league with the leg Brandon Fields has. The seventh-year punter edged on historic status in 2012 with an average of 50.2 yards per punt.
That average put him at fifth all-time for a single season.
But if he keeps up his preseason average of 53.1 yards per punt, he'll shatter the old record set by Sammy Baugh, which has stood since 1940.
So, even if the Dolphins offense has a little trouble moving the ball, they can still win the battle of field position with one of the rare weapons at punter in the NFL.
The Dolphins, like every team in the AFC East, have a pretty brutal schedule this year. They face the NFC South (Falcons, at Saints, at Buccaneers, Panthers) and the AFC North (at Browns, Ravens, Bengals, at Steelers).
If they split those games and go 4-4, that puts them in good position to earn a playoff spot. A 4-2 record in the AFC East is not out of the question, and then they just have to win one of two games against the Chargers and Colts to finish above .500 and potentially in the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.