Be honest with yourselves, Dolphins fans: After watching two straight ticker-tape parades down Biscayne Boulevard by that other pro team in town, it's gotten harder and harder to get jazzed up for preseason Fins games that basically amount to flag football contests. But this is 2013, and for the first time in a long time, expectations are high. As training camp opens to the public this weekend, and a lot of new and exciting faces will suit up in aqua and orange -- which also means the team has a boatload of questions to answer about itself before the real contests begin.
So with so many new moving parts, what should fans watch for? Here are five questions whose answers could make or break this Fins season.
5. Who the hell are these cornerbacks?
Long gone are the "best cornerback duo in the league" in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, enter uh, ummmm, enter, huh. OK, let's start off with what we know here, the Dolphins signing of ex-Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes is already sounding like a great move, as he has impressed early in his return from an Achilles tear. If Grimes is able to bounce back and stay healthy, he should be a significant upgrade over my-hands-are-covered-in-motor-oil Sean Smith. Beyond Grimes, it's anybody's guess as to who takes hold of the second spot. Richard Marshall would seem to be the leader, but his inaugural season with the team was riddled with injury and an overall super bust. Rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor provide lots of speed and promise beyond the two veterans, but it's unknown what they will be able to contribute early on in their career.
4. Will Dion Jordan make an impact?
The majority of Dolphins fans aren't really sure what they have in Dion Jordan; they just hear it's AWESOME. The duo of Wake and Jordan could make for one of the most dynamic pass-rushing duos in the league. Couple their talents with the rest of the Dolphins' solid defensive line and you have the makings for something special. A lot of people compare his physique to Jason Taylor's, tall and lengthy, quick and fast, but the kid has a lot to show before anyone can mention him in the same sentence as Taylor beyond looks.
3. Is Jonathan Martin a thing that we won't hate?
Free of the Dumpster fire of an experiment that was Jonathan Martin at right tackle, the Miami Dolphins will now see what Martin can provide on the left side. For the better part of the past decade, the Fins have had number-one-overall-pick Jake Long protecting their crappy quarterbacks' backsides; now they have Jonathan Martin guarding Tannehill's. Will Martin bounce back now, or will he continue to run around in circles like post-car accident Ricky Bobby when the ball snaps? A lot is riding on Martin's big ol' shoulders, first and foremost the health of their franchise quarterback. If Martin fails to impress and needs to be yanked, it could make for another one of those wonderful offensive line musical-chairs seasons Dolphins fans loathe. Passing up on retaining Jake Long will either look super-duper smart or like one of the dumber things Jeff Ireland has ever done, and that would be saying something.
2. Lamar Miller: contender or pretender?
We are about to find out. When the Dolphins decided to let Reggie Bush walk in free agency, it became apparent Miami felt like Lamar Miller was ready to take on the role of lead back in the NFL. Miller ran for just 250 yards in his rookie season in limited action but averaged a girthy 4.9 yards a carry. The consensus is Miller's pick-a-gap-and-hit-it style is tailor-made for Joe Philbin's attacking style offense. Many are comparing Miller to another former Canes running back, Clinton Portis. If Miller is anywhere near the back Portis was, Miami has itself a serious weapon going forward.
1. Will Ryan Tannehill take the next step?
The NFL is a quarterbacks' league at the moment, and it just so happens that Ryan Tannehill is a quarterback, so it's his baby in 2013. Although he showed promise in his rookie season, he finished with just 12 touchdowns, so many are looking for him to take a huge leap in 2013. Priority number one this offseason was to surround him with better weapons, and it seems that's exactly what Ireland accomplished by adding guys like Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller. How Lamar Miller blossoms should have a pretty large effect on how tough life is for Tannehill this year, but regardless of outside factors, it's squarely on his shoulders to prove he belongs in the top half of quarterbacks in this league.
One thing that seems certain about this Miami Dolphins team is that it should be much more fun to watch than recent squads. Gone are the days when the Dolphins rely on field positions and field goals to stay with a much more talented quick-strike team. This team should be a threat to score a lot of points every week. Hey, at least that's what it looks like, but I've been fooled before by the Fins. At the very least, this team will be interesting and make for solid Sunday entertainment, which would be a refreshing return to the Miami Dolphins most of us grew up with.
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