Five Ways the Miami Dolphins Improved This Offseason
Photo by Morgan Coleman
Hey, remember the Miami Dolphins? The greatest football team? The one that takes the ball from goal to goal like no one has ever seen? The one that's in the air, on the ground, and always in control?
No? OK, how about the team that last won a playoff game when Ryan Tannehill was 13 years old? Yes! That's them! Well, while for the past few months our attention has been diverted toward the Miami Heat and that team's excruciating drunken-blindfolded-one-legged-hopping playoff run, the Dolphins have done some textbook Dolphins renovations.
New coach. New regime structure. Probably new paint in the weight room. Most likely some new battle cry that's already printed on a T-shirt you'll get free at the stadium, wear once, realize it's shrunk four sizes, then use to wash your car. They've even improved the stadium this time, so you know they're serious.
Other than those usual cosmetic changes, here are the most impressive parts of the Fins' offseason Flip This Team effort.
1. New Dolphins coach Adam Gase actually seems qualified.
What a crazy idea. The Miami Dolphins hired a coach who actually seems to be ready to be an NFL coach. Like, other people thought this, not only the Dolphins. Gase wasn't a nobody offensive-line guru like Tony Sparano or an offensive coordinator who didn't actually call plays but was universally loved like Joe Philbin. Gase actually has solid experience building, installing, and adjusting offensives to match up with defensive strategies used in 2016, not 1996. It's a wild concept. The Miami Dolphins hired a guy who might just be qualified for the job.
2. The Dolphins O-line might finally be a strength.
With the addition of Laremy Tunsil in the draft, the Dolphins now have four former first-round picks on their offensive line. So it would seem it's a fair assessment that this shouldn't be among the team's strengths. Tunsil should slide into a guard spot until Branden Albert is past his prime; then he easily transitions back to left tackle. Mike Pouncey might be the best center in the game. Ja'Wuan James might be the forgotten man on this offensive line, and the Dolphins picked him in the first round like four minutes ago.
The Fins should have plenty of talent on the line to start this season, but whether the team ends it that way is a different story.
3. Ryan Tannehill should be the best version of Ryan Tannehill yet.
So if the Dolphins are going to have their best offensive line they've had in years, it would make sense that this would be the season Ryan Tannehill looks like a better version of himself. At this point, if you're expecting Tannehill to be Aaron Rodgers or lead a team to the Super Bowl you're just a homer, but he's more than capable of showing some flashes during a game if he's not asked to be the entire offense.
Tannehill got a revamped line and a quarterback whisperer coach this offseason. If not now, then never.
4. The Dolphins may have stolen a playmaking linebacker from the Philadelphia Eagles.
While the Eagles were busy trying to claw their way up to the second pick in the NFL draft, they made a stop at the Dolphins' eighth pick, trading the Fins' the 13th pick and cornerback Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso in return. The Dolphins have been plagued with sleep-inducing linebacker play for years, so grabbing a guy like Alonso for next to nothing is pretty exciting.
Alonso had 159 tackles during his rookie season with the Buffalo Bills and then was lost in 2014 because of a knee injury. Last season, he showed signs of a return to his rookie form but wasn't the same dynamic player. So which player did the Dolphins get? If he's anything close to the Kiko Alonso who played in Buffalo, the Dolphins defense just found something they haven't had in years.
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5. The Dolphins already added to what was already an elite defensive line 2015.
What do you do when something is a strength? You solidify it and make it stronger. The Dolphins did just that this offseason when they added defensive linemen Mario Williams, Jason Jones, and Andre Branch — all starter-quality players. Add that to the fact that Cameron Wake looks ready to go following knee surgery that cost him some time last season, plus the lottery ticket that is the possible return of ex-first-round pick Dion Jordan, and you have the makings of a unit that should make life a living hell for quarterbacks all season.
With questions at cornerback, the Dolphins did well by ensuring they will have ample players to rush opposing signal callers into decisions they don't want to make. That, and other improvements the team has made, coupled with a new coach and streamlined front office direction, make for a team that has plenty of reasons to be excited about itself in 2016.