1. Was 2016 a fluke?
The Dolphins bristle at any suggestion they were lucky to go 10-6 last season. The betting public and sports pundits think they’re due for a big fall. The truth might be in the middle.
2. Will the real Jay Cutler please stand up?
Is he the quarterback with a 92.3 passer rating in his lone year with coach Adam Gase as his offensive coordinator? Or the QB with a 84.9 passer rating in his other 10 seasons?
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3. Can Jay Ajayi handle 350 carries?
The league’s fourth-leading rusher in 2016 is going to get plenty of exercise in 2017. But injuries have always been a concern, and Ajayi has already sustained a concussion during training camp.
4. Is the defense really that much better?
The Dolphins allowed the most yards in team history last year and no doubt aggressively addressed that side of the ball in the offseason. But depth remains a concern because …
5. Can they overcome injuries at linebacker?
In May, this looked like a position of strength. But with Koa Misi and Raekwon McMillan both out for the season, the group is threadbare already.
6. Which Byron Maxwell will show up in 2017?
The one who was a star in Seattle and the last half in Miami of 2016? Or the one who struggled in Philadelphia and early with the Dolphins? The veteran corner is due $10 million next year. He will have to earn it.
7. Is Matt Burke ready to lead a defense?
The Dolphins replaced ex-defensive coordinator Vance Joseph with Burke, a career position coach. Burke is smart and has the respect of the locker room. But growing pains are inevitable.
8. Can Mike Pouncey stay healthy?
With center Pouncey, who missed most of last season with chronic hip issues, the line is above average. Without him, there’s no established great player. Cutler is hoping to have 51 out there for 16 or more games.
9. Are there enough footballs to go around?
Ajayi will get his touches. Jarvis Landry is in a contract year. They gave Kenny Stills big money. DeVante Parker is an ascending talent. Add Julius Thomas to the mix, and it’s a crowded huddle.
10. Will the Dolphins survive the middle part of their schedule?
The beginning and end of the season is, at least on paper, relatively easy. But between Oct. 1 and Dec. 11, they play the Patriots twice, the Saints in London, the Titans, Falcons, Ravens, Raiders, Panthers and Broncos. Whew!