Miami Dolphins

Projection: Grading the 2018 Dolphins by position group

Miami Dolphin Quarterback Ryan Tannehill talks being back

Miami Dolphin Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was on the field for the first day of training.
Up Next
Miami Dolphin Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was on the field for the first day of training.

Quarterbacks

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is excited about runningback Kenyan Drake's explosive playmaking during the preseason.

Ryan Tannehill is back after missing 21 months because of his ACL injury ( or injuries). And so the Dolphins are confident they will have a significant upgrade at quarterback. But what about rustiness? He showed some in the preseason. And what about durability? And what do we know about the player Tannehill has become after nearly two years? Those answers are unknown. This is known: If Tannehill gets hurt again, or plays poorly, the season will be a disaster because there is no savior as a backup quarterback on the roster. Grade: C-plus

Running backs

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore is happy to be home and playing for the Fins in his final years in the NFL and watching his son play football in high school.

Regardless of who starts, the plan is to give Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake a lot of work and likely an even distribution of the work initially. Drake is fast. Gore is fluid. Drake can attack the edges and erase tackle angles. Gore shifts well but also runs with power. It seems like a good combination. If the duo stay healthy, you won’t see much of either Kalen Ballage or Senorise Perry but the team is confident those two are improving, capable talents. GRADE: B

Wide receivers

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson talks in the locker room about offense and how the preseason is going at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University on Sunday, August. 19, 2018, in Davie.

This could be the most diverse and well balanced corps the team has had in a while. There’s speed to burn with Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills and even DeVante Parker. Parker offers rare size. Stills is a fine technician as well as a burner. And Danny Amendola is a reliable outlet to move the chains consistently from the slot. If everyone stays healthy, this group has great promise. GRADE: B-plus

Tight ends

Miami Dolphins rookie TE Mike Gesicki catches a rezone touchdown off his helmet from QB Tannehill at practice. He likes that Tannehill has confidence in him, August 22, 2018.

Rookies Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe will be the guys by season’s end if the everything goes according to plan. Gesicki is the pass-catcher. Smythe is the run-blocker. The two need to develop other tools -- Gesicki his blocking and Smythe his receiving -- to be more complete and not tip the offense’s intentions so clearly to the defense. Veteran MarQueis Gray is a hold-the-fort guy. GRADE: C, until the rookies show what they really are

Offensive line

Miami Dolphins tackle Laremy Tunsil confident O-Line with help running game after coach Adam Gase said he wants to run the ball more this season.

So there was not one offensive line struggling story early in training camp. There was not any wringing of hands about how the personnel department was going to fill an obvious need. That means if the starters -- Laremy Tunsil, Josh Sitton, Daniel Kilgore, Jesse Davis and Ja’Wuan James -- stay healthy and the group is intact, this is going to be a team strength. Even if that doesn’t happen, the availability of backups Sam Young and Ted Larsen suggest solid options. GRADE: A

Defensive line

Miami Dolphins Laremy Tunsil and MarQueis Gray talk about teammate Robert Quinn and his bend.

This group successfully performed the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick on us last year when they promised amazing. But they did not deliver amazing. They were bad. So bad the line coach got fired. So bad Ndamukong Suh got released. So bad the team felt the need to trade for defensive end Robert Quinn despite drafting defensive end Charles Harris No. 1. This year’s group would have to work to be worse. But will it be better? There are questions. Can Quinn stay healthy despite a questionable health history? Can Harris break through in his second year? Is Cameron Wake the same explosive player at age 36? How much will the team miss Suh’s presence? GRADE: C-plus (Not falling for the banana in the tailpipe this year)

Linebackers

Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan glad to be back on theHard Rock Stadium field after a season-ending injury in preseason last year.

The Dolphins are relying on youth and betting inexperience won’t matter. Starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, injured as a rookie, gets his first chance to play. Outside linebacker Jerome Baker is a ball-chaser but he’s a rookie. The only experience and proven ability this group boasts is from veteran Kiko Alonso. The Dolphins aren’t worried about him. The depth? Chase Allen had a nice training camp. Stephone Anthony is a backup. Terence Garvin might factor if he makes the team. Lots of questions here, folks. GRADE: C

Secondary

Cordrea Tankersley, Miami Dolphins cornerback, talks to the media about settling into his Sunrise apartment and buying a Mercedes-Benz "G-Wagen", $120,000 plus.

There is a glaring, obvious problem for this group and that is finding a good, reliable starting outside cornerback opposite Xavien Howard. It could be Bobby McCain. it could be Cordrea Tankersley, who started 13 games last season. It could be someone else. The point is this area glows in neon as a need. The rest of the secondary enjoys good play and even potential for excellence with both Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald having had great training camps, Howard been excellent in practice and rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick showed signs he’ll be an outstanding player. But, still, that other cornerback spot .... GRADE: B

Special teams

Why Matt Haack instead of Matt Darr? Darren Rizzi said Darr won the job "fair and square."

The Dolphins are expected to go with a rookie kicker at this stage. That’s hard to do and offers many opportunities for disappointment. Second-year punter Matt Haack is not a worry if he can improve on last year’s good season. Long snapper John Denney is a franchise treasure. Still. In his 14th NFL season. Assistant head coach Darren Rizzi has had his choice of multiple experienced and explosive punt returners. He has plenty of speed on his return and coverage teams. He gets a lot of practice time allotted to special teams. The group should be good. GRADE: B

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

NOTE: The Miami Herald is now offering a digital sports-only subscription for $30 per year. This is unlimited access to all Herald sports and sports stories, thus allowing you to comment in the section below as many times as you wish. Click right here to get started immediately.

  Comments