1. The Dolphins are sticking with Ryan Tannehill another year. There’s a saying, “It’s never as good as it seems, nor as bad as it seems.” Is this the case with Ryan? Is he better than NFL fans know but a bit worse than Dolphins fans believe? How’s this situation panning out?
I almost feel like it is the other way around. Tannehill is not an elite level quarterback, but he is really a good one, which a lot of times it feels like people not near the Dolphins realize, but Dolphins fans do not. Now, that is generalizing from a probably very vocal, very minor group of Dolphins fans, but it seems like since 2012, there have always been Dolphins fans who wanted him replaced. I think Tannehill will be fine. He was playing his best football in 2016 just before the injury. The offense appeared to be on track and everyone was getting on the same page in Adam Gase’s offense. So far this summer, Tannehill has looked good - at times a little rusty but ready to look like he did in 2016 - and the offense is working to (finally) add the uptempo piece that has been talked about through the last two head coaches.
2. Looking over the draft for Miami, it’s hard not to be jealous. Mike Gesicki was a tight end on the Ravens radar and Minkah Fitzpatrick, an Alabama player, is always a possibility for the Ravens with Ozzie Newsome at the helm. Along with the full Dolphins 2018 draft class, how are these two playing in particular?
With Ozzie’s track record in drafts, that is a huge confidence boost for the fact that Miami may have drafted really well this year. Fitzpatrick has looked like exactly what he is, a defensive Swiss Army knife who can do just about anything asked of him. He started working primarily as a free safety, with some play in the box looking more like a linebacker/strong safety, but in the last couple of weeks, the Dolphins have moved him to the nickel cornerback position as Bobby McCain moved outside to try to find someone to take control of the position battle for the second starting corner. Fitzpatrick immediately seems to fit with whatever role Miami asks him to play. I would think the team will use him as a cornerback and in three-safety sets this year, getting him on the field as much as possible, even with safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald on the field at the same time.
Mike Gesicki has looked really good in practices so far, but he is without a catch in the two preseason games. He did not get targeted last week, but he is playing as the starting tight end, and likely will stay there all year. The Dolphins seem to be calling plays that keep Gesicki in to block more than they are worried about him being the primary receiving option right now. Adam Gase said after last week’s game that he is not calling some of the red zone plays we would expect to see with Gesicki (and the rest of the offense) simply because he does not want them on film yet. The catches for Gesicki will come, and they are coming in practice, including Thursday when Ryan Tannehill and Gesicki spent a segment of practice when the twos were getting work down by themselves just running play after play to work on timing.
As for the rest of the rookie class, third-round linebacker Jerome Baker looks like he will be starting outside next to his former Ohio State teammate Raekwon McMillan in the middle and Kiko Alonso at the other outside spot. Fourth-round picks, tight end Durham Smythe and running back Kalen Ballage, both should have impacts this year, with Ballage having had strong preseason performances. He will likely work as the third running back behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore, but he is also currently in the concussion protocol, so he likely will not play on Saturday. Sixth-round pick Cornell Armstrong and seventh-round pick Quentin Poling both could be depth or practice squad options, and seventh-round kicker Jason Sanders is currently about dead even with undrafted kicker Greg Joseph in a battle for that role.
3. Miami’s roster is looking sharp with household names such as Josh Sitton, Robert Quinn, and Danny Amendola all joining the Dolphins this offseason. Is this team capable of clinching a post-season berth?
The way I look at this season is, the Dolphins were 10-6 in 2016 with Ryan Tannehill then the Jay Cutler/Matt Moore debacle led the team to 6-10. Tannehill has to be two to three games better than that, so somewhere around 9-7 this year would make sense to me. Could they be better than that? Sure. Could they be worse than that? Sure. But, I think this team is a team making a push for a Wildcard berth at the end of the year. Unless something unforseen happens in New England, I do not think Miami is unseating the Patriots from that top spot in the AFC East, but I do think they are at least in the discussion for a Wildcard spot.
4. Once the starters exit the field, who are Dolphins fans watching for on offense? Defense?
On offense, hopefully one of the two competitors for the backup quarterback position steps up. This seems like it should be David Fales at this point, but he did not do anything last week to lock down the role, and Brock Osweiler seems to be doing just enough to keep himself in the competition. There is also an interest to see if a wide receiver not named DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, or Jakeem Grant can make an argument to stay on the roster in September. Isaiah Ford, Leonte Carroo, and Francis Owusu all could make a play, but right now, nothing is guaranteed for them.
On defense, the starters will be the main thing to watch. Who will be the second cornerback and how are the linebackers playing? Once they are out, the defensive tackles will be interesting to watch, especially as Kendall Langford returns to the Dolphins and some of the younger guys get some playing time.
5. Where is the weakness on this Dolphins team and are you worried it could withhold the team from a playoff game in 2018?
Those linebackers and defensive tackles right now. The run defense is not yet up to where it should be, and the team needs to figure that out. A lot of people point to the loss of Ndamukong Suh as to the reasoning behind the early preseason struggles, but it is not like Miami was great against the run with Suh, finishing 14th last year with 110.5 yards per game allowed. The middle of the defense has to find its groove - and when you are playing what are essentially two rookies (Baker and second-year-but-missed-all-of-his-true-rookie-season McMillan) at linebacker, there are going to be mistakes, but they have to fix them quickly.