The meaty part of free agency ended over a month ago and the draft is also in the rear-view mirror so, barring an unexpected signing or trade, the Miami Dolphins’ 2017 roster is basically complete.
These are your Dolphins now.
And because practically all the talent additions that could cause goose bumps are complete, now is a fair time to ask the simple question that goes to the heart of what an NFL offseason is about: Did the team improve?
Are the Dolphins better now than they were at the end of a successful 2016 season?
Do the Dolphins have more talent?
“I don’t know if I would say talent-wise …,” head coach Adam Gase began Friday during his first meeting with media since the draft delivered seven hopeful picks. “Anytime we get a chance to add more players, younger players that we feel really good about, that’s a good thing for us as coaches.
“But I think the different feel for myself and a lot of the guys in the building — even the players — is you know our routine a little bit. And there’s a little different swagger about what our guys have right now in a positive way. There’s no indecision about what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it, what they’re responsible for. Guys can get from Point A to Point B kind of quick. There’s no issue with gray in our building right now. Guys are wired in to what we want to do. That’s not what you want to hear, but there’s a different feel with what we’ve got going on right now, day in and day out.”
Well, no that isn’t what I expected to hear. But this is by no means disappointing to hear.
What Gase is basically telling everyone is that his team, infused with new players and younger players, may or may not be more talented. But it’s nonetheless better because folks know what they’re doing.
And that’s a good thing because that helps close part of that huge gap between the Dolphins and the division and conference and Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Forget how the Patriots were head and shoulders better than Miami last year because that is a settled fact. What’s important is the Patriots had a two-fold advantage over Miami.
The Patriots had better players. And the Patriots had more experienced, more settled, more comfortable players and coaches because they had been together for years — over a decade in some cases. And that time together was an obvious advantage over the Dolphins, who were figuring out their schemes, and coaches were learning players, and everyone was seemingly something of a stranger.
Gase privately talked about this fact when playing teams such as the Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those teams have been together and enjoyed success together for years while the Dolphins were trying to find the formula to get to some success.
That formula is in place in Miami now. And Gase believes that makes his team better.
“I think it does,” he said. “Because you know what you’re supposed to do. You know your responsibility. You know how things are supposed to be done around here. I look at it as it allows us to play faster, make less mistakes. We had a lot of guys get so much experience last year that you never thought would get experience. When you look at our depth chart right now, you see that a lot of guys played last year. That’s a good thing for us.”
Here’s another good thing: The more experienced and comfortable-with-each-other Dolphins might be poised to play smarter in 2017.
One of the frustrating things about the 2016 team is it didn’t have an abundance of football smarts. No, the players were not dumb. But on the field, sometimes dumb things happened. There were penalties that wiped out touchdowns. There were assignments blown after those assignments were covered in practices time and time again.
It got to the point where Gase trimmed the offense while defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, for example, had to explain to his linemen that when he said, “Go get the quarterback,” he was also implying, “But tackle the ball carrier if it’s a run play, too.”
Mark those failings down as growing pains. This year those pains must fade if not disappear because when the head coach is asked about having more talent and he answers his team has more experience and smarts and more guys plugged in, that part of the equation has to deliver in a big way.
Because the point of the offseason is to get better any way you can.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero