Mike Tannenbaum’s win-now — and win-more-later — philosophy is reflected in most every move he has made.
Ditch three of your top four receivers to simultaneously get your books and your locker room in order? Only if you believe their young replacements — Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron — will have an immediate impact.
Part ways with veterans Jared Odrick and Randy Starks to sign Ndamukong Suh? There had better be a belief that Derrick Shelby, Anthony Johnson and A.J. Francis can consistently produce.
“Fins counting on lots of young and inexperienced players to start or be key backups in 2015,” broadcaster and former Dolphins tight end Joe Rose wrote on Twitter last week. “Most I can ever remember in my 35 yrs #noexcuses.”
Certainly not for coach Joe Philbin, whose one-year contract extension provides him only the security of a golden parachute if the team doesn’t meet owner Stephen Ross’ expectations.
Here’s a look at some of the team’s biggest question marks a month shy of the NFL Draft:
The Dolphins have the youngest group of receivers in the NFL — by far.
The six wideouts on the roster — Stills, Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Matt Hazel, Tyler McDonald and Michael Preston — are an average of 23.3 years old. The league’s next-youngest group of receivers belong to the Saints (24).
The most seasoned collection of pass-catchers? The Falcons, whose eight players average 27 years old.
And the Dolphins could conceivably get even younger before they get older. The team seems poised to target a receiver in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft, and then sign a veteran or two — perhaps Michael Crabtree or Greg Jennings — at a discount.
There’s a spirited debate within the organization about who should do what at this position, according to a source familiar with the situation. The coaching staff — namely Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle — wants Koa Misi to remain the middle linebacker.
Philbin said at the NFL owners meetings last week that “as of right now” Misi will play on the inside.
However, Tannenbaum’s personnel department is said to view Misi as a better fit on the outside, and wants Kelvin Sheppard — who re-signed with the team in recent weeks — to get a shot at the middle.
That conversation might continue through the spring and influence whom the team targets in the early rounds of next month’s draft.
Dallas Thomas wasn’t just the Dolphins’ lowest-graded offensive lineman in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus. He was the team’s worst player — at any position.
And among NFL tackles who were on the field for at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, Thomas was second-worst to only Tampa Bay’s Oniel Cousins in terms of pass-block efficiency. Thomas allowed a sack, quarterback hit or hurry on more than 10 percent of his team’s drop-backs while lined up at tackle.
And although Thomas was better at guard — he started on the left and right sides before Branden Albert’s season-ending injury shifted him to tackle — he still wasn’t great.
Billy Turner is an enigma. The third-round pick had the fewest offensive snaps of any Dolphins lineman to see the field in 2014.
Based on Philbin’s remarks in Arizona last week, the Dolphins envision Thomas playing on the left side and Turner on the right.
This looks to be the offseason the Dolphins finally decide what they have in Jamar Taylor. They appear ready to give the third-year player (and former second-round pick) a chance to start opposite Brent Grimes.
Will Davis would presumably compete against him in camp — if healthy. But there are serious concerns about Davis’ availability after he sustained an ACL injury late last year.
And although the team did sign Brice McCain early in free agency, they envision him more as a slot corner — which suggests they see Taylor as an every-down player on the outside. (This plan could change if the Dolphins draft a defensive back in the first round.)
Taylor has the speed and range to be an effective corner in this league. He just needs to stay healthy. A sports hernia limited him in 2013, and a shoulder injury ended his 2014 season.