Ryan Tannehill’s job is to learn, mature, improve and if in doing that he can actually help the Dolphins win games, that’s gravy. As long as he’s not part of the problem, he’s promising to be part of the solution in future seasons. The only concern is whether the Dolphins are setting Tannehill up to fail because there are very few playmakers surrounding him. Matt Moore is potentially an excellent backup QB. He’s loose, experienced, a great mentor and team player. He knows his role, and that would be to save the day of something terrible happens with Tannehill. PROJECTED GRADE: C.
Reggie Bush promises to be a key cog in the Miami offense considering he eclipsed 1,000 yards last year while averaging 5 yards per carry. The Dolphins hope to use his considerable skills more often in the passing game this year, so it might be wise to expect a drop in rushing production. Whatever. As long as Bush is healthy, not always the case in his career, he is a major plus for the team. Daniel Thomas is in his second year and should start to push Bush for carries because, well, that’s his job. He’s a bigger back, but the question is whether he’s more physical. Lamar Miller has promise, but he has to learn to block on passing downs to earn snaps. He’s developing. PROJECTED GRADE: B
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The Dolphins have a good slot receiver in Davone Bess but their lack of WR talent might force the team to ask Bess to do more than simply be the slot guy. That approach hasn’t worked in the past. The Dolphins have no proven deep threats. They have no one who stepped forward in the preseason and demanded attention. They have no one who, seeing an opportunity to impress, did exactly that. Add to that a tight end corps that has shown inconsistent hands throughout and poor blocking if you do not include Anthony Fasano and there are serious issues here. PROJECTED GRADE: D.
As long as Jake Long, Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey are healthy, all is well for the Miami line stretching from left tackle to the center position. The question comes on the other side of the line. Can John Jerry or Artis Hicks stabilize the right guard spot? Can rookie Jonathan Martin grow (quickly) into the right tackle spot? Josh Samuda is a promising interior lineman, and Nate Garner is experienced and has position flexibility. The depth at tackle as well as Miami’s proficiency at run blocking, meanwhile, is unproven. PROJECTED GRADE: C-plus.
With the departure of Kendall Langford, the cutting of Phillip Merling and switch to the 4-3, questions abound. The most profound question is whether Cameron Wake, extremely productive as an outside linebacker, will continue to be that with his hand on the ground as a defensive end. It’s impossible to know if he’s really suited for the spot. Similarly, we’ll find out if Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick — both drafted with the 3-4 in mind — can transition to their 4-3 roles. The Dolphins believe their front to be a team strength. With veteran Tony McDaniel and high-round draft pick Olivier Vernon providing depth, one would expect they will be correct. PROJECTED GRADE: B.
Karlos Dansby is chasing a triple-figure tackle season and why not? He’s playing in the middle of the defense, where everything is happening. He’s the focal point of the defense. Players such as Zach Thomas had 100-tackle seasons without much effort. Kevin Burnett came into his own late last season after struggling early in the season, so the expectation is he can pick up where he left off despite his preseason bout with injuries. Koa Misi on the other side is the weak link. Can he be a playmaker? Can he cause fumbles or collect tackles behind the line of scrimmage? Miami wants more of that from him. PROJECTED GRADE: B.
Before the Vontae Davis trade, the Dolphins had three starting-caliber cornerbacks. It was a team strength as well as a necessity in today’s NFL. The trade, however, has turned an exclamation point into a question mark. And now backup players such as Nolan Carroll must play significant snaps every game. Sean Smith is trim and says he’s ready for a big year. Richard Marshall has been an excellent veteran addition. The Dolphins aren’t great, but they have two good corners. In the back end, Reshad Jones is expected to have a big season and give Miami game-changing plays that have been lacking from the safety position. Such plays were defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s trademark in Cincinnati. PROJECTED GRADE: B.
Brandon Fields has been and likely will continue to be as close to a team strength as a punter can be. Dan Carpenter similarly is expected to be so solid that the team didn’t even bother to sign a young kicker to compete with him. The Dolphins hope someone can finally step forward as a returner and provide explosive plays at least on occasions. We’ll see. PROJECTED GRADE: B.