The season doesn’t start for another four months. The Dolphins’ self-confidence already is operating at a championship level.
Team leaders have turned heads this spring with a string of bold proclamations. At a community appearance Tuesday morning, they didn’t back down.
• Mike Pouncey, on whether this is a playoff team: “I think so. I think it takes a lot of chemistry, takes a lot of hard work, on and off the field, in the film room. We have the right pieces. I believe we’re going to do some great things this year.”
• Brian Hartline, on whether the Dolphins have the best group of receivers in the AFC East: “On paper, we do. If not, who’s better in the AFC East than us, on paper? I don’t think anybody’s better than us.”
• Even Ryan Tannehill, usually one of the team’s most cautious players, said this team has what it takes to make the postseason. (“We all realize we have a long way to go,” he said.)
A disclaimer: It’s May, when bold words and 99 cents are enough to buy a greasy burger.
But the confidence raises eyebrows for two reasons: 1. The Dolphins haven’t had a winning season since 2008; and 2. Joe Philbin appreciates trash talk about as much as interceptions thrown into triple coverage.
Like it or not, expectations for the 2013 season — which includes six games against playoff teams — now have been raised. But in truth, that happened when the Dolphins dangled tens of millions of dollars in guarantees in front of a slew of big-name free agents.
Mostly all of the new pieces were in attendance Tuesday at an event promoting youth fitness, a party with local elementary school kids that was as much about giving back as it was team-building.
“We did this by design early in the offseason program to get [the rookies] acclimated to what we think is important,” Philbin said. “Obviously, playing well on the field is important, being a good citizen is important as well.”
Learning each others’ names is a good start.
“That’s what this part of the year is for,” Dolphins guard Richie Incognito said. “New faces, new guys, coming together as one. This is when the foundation is laid, in the offseason.”
The Dolphins are a month into their offseason workout program. They can go through individual drills, but contact is prohibited. Organized team activities begin next week, and the team’s mandatory minicamp is in late June.
They will use that time improving timing and chemistry. They’re trying to create a cohesive team from a group of 90 players — about half of whom played elsewhere in 2012. Miami will have at least eight new starters this fall, with competition at every position, save for quarterback and defensive tackle.
Success isn’t guaranteed, even with the spending spree. There is a long list of teams that opened the purse strings in free agency, only to falter when the games began to count. The Washington Redskins, with just one playoff win in the past 13 years, could build an entire wing to house their offseason championship trophies. Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels put together an All-Star team, but have been putrid.
“There’s plenty of time,” Hartline said. “In the NFL, you learn new offenses in a year. You learn new playbooks basically every week. Having four or five months is plenty of time.”
Cornerback Brent Grimes, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, said he’s “feeling good” and has not been limited in the offseason workouts. The former Atlanta Falcon wouldn’t put a percentage on his health, but said he’s “being smart” in his rehab.
• Charles Clay, who underwent surgery for an injured meniscus on Dec. 26, was cleared to work fully a couple of weeks ago.
“I’m good and ready to go,” the third-year tight end said.
• The Dolphins signed the first of their draft picks Tuesday, announcing deals with rookies Jelani Jenkins, Caleb Sturgis and Don Jones. Six draft picks remain unsigned, including No. 3 overall selection Dion Jordan.
• The NFL announced the starting times for all preseason games Tuesday. The Dolphins will kick off at 8 p.m. in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys on Aug. 4 and their Aug. 17 visit to Houston. Exhibition games against the Jaguars (Aug. 9), Buccaneers (Aug.24) and Saints (Aug. 29) will begin at 7:30 p.m.