Miami Dolphins

QB Ryan Tannehill's health tops list of stories to follow at Miami Dolphins OTAs

Dolphins fans have not seen Ryan Tannehill since the 2017 training camp.
Dolphins fans have not seen Ryan Tannehill since the 2017 training camp. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins on Tuesday began four weeks of spring practices that cap their offseason conditioning program.

Three of those four weeks are called organized team activities, which are voluntary. The week of June 4 is Miami's mandatory veteran minicamp. The practices are non-contact, but the team can run 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

On Wednesday, the team's practice will be open to the media, giving local reporters their first look at the 2018 Dolphins on the field. Following an offseason of great tumult, there are a ton of storylines to follow. Here are the top 5.

1. Is Ryan Tannehill finally back?

It's been nine months since the Dolphins quarterback has even spoken to reporters, let alone done football activities with them present. People who know best insist he is fully cleared after reconstructive surgery last August on his left knee, but even they do not know for sure how he will perform and hold up until the fall. Still, his mobility and level of participation this spring will provide a clue about his health and potential in 2018.

2. What about the other injured players from 2017?

Tannehill was just one of 12 Dolphins to finish last year on injured reserve. Six of them are back in 2018: Tannehill, receiver Isaiah Ford, cornerback Tony Lippett, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, tackle Ja'Wuan James and defensive end William Hayes.

Of that group, all but Ford are expected to play significant roles for the Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is excited about working with quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the upcoming season.

Lippett is probably the biggest question mark; he is just nine months removed from a torn Achilles. Tannehill and McMillan are both coming off reconstructive knee surgery. James missed the last half of the season with a significant hamstring injury.

McMillan's health will directly affect the defense's fortunes; he is projected to be the team's starting middle linebacker.

3. Who will be the Dolphins' No. 1 receiver?

Adam Gase hates that term — he'd rather have a bunch of receivers that can help in a bunch of ways — but the Dolphins must find a way to replace Jarvis Landry's 160 targets, 112 catches and nine touchdowns from a year ago.

The Dolphins don't know how this will play out, aside from Kenny Stills remaining their big-play threat. Will DeVante Parker finally put it together? How much does a 32-year-old Danny Amendola have left? Can Jakeem Grant make another leap? Will Albert Wilson live up to his $24 million contract? Will Leonte Carroo even make the team?

Miami Dolphins VP Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier, say they are happy with QB Ryan Tannehill as they talk to the media about the upcoming 2018 Draft Day.

This might be the Dolphins' deepest position. But it's also the one with the least amount of clarity.

4. What will the Dolphins' post-Suh defense look like?

The Ndamukong Suh experiment was a failure. The Dolphins made him the highest paid defensive player in league history three years ago, but their defense statistically got no better.

Based on his pedigree and contract, Suh had to play a bunch of downs. Matt Burke no longer has such constraints. Expect eight defensive linemen to be active on Sundays, and all eight to play roughly the same number of snaps.

But what eight? Barring injury, they seem to be: Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, William Hayes, Davon Godchaux, Jordan Phillips, Charles Harris, Andre Branch and Akeem Spence.

Could the Dolphins be tempted to keep more? Vincent Taylor, Cameron Malveaux and Gabe Wright all played from scrimmage for the Dolphins last year and will fight for roster spots.

5. Will the Dolphins have the will to win?

Starting Wednesday, we'll finally get to see that much-discussed culture change. Veterans like Amendola, Frank Gore and Josh Sitton have been brought in to turn a toxic locker room into a professional one.

Effort and chemistry will be as important as technique. Will Dolphins players take their work home with them? Will they buy into what the coaches want them to do?

"Talent is irrelevant," Gase famously said after a dreadful loss in 2016, and while that is not completely true, it is a window into his thinking of what has gone wrong over the past two seasons.

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