Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins enter season with plenty of uncertainty

The most important game of this soon-forgotten preseason is over and now I can make this grand pronouncement about the 2016 Miami Dolphins:

We don't know.

Sorry, but that is simply the truth as I see it now.

I'm not going to tell you Adam Gase and his interesting roster have the makings of the most pleasantly surprising story of the looming NFL season. I cannot tell you the Dolphins are about to make a magical last-to-first vault that we've sometimes seen in past NFL years and even saw from the 2008 Dolphins.

I just haven't seen the makings of that team this training camp or in the first three preseason games.

Neither, however, am I going to tell you the Dolphins are a 2015 cellar dweller that renewed their lease at the bottom of the AFC East.

I am going to share with you that I've heard both affirmations from people within and without this team that know a lot about football and certainly a lot more than me. These people are former coaches, players, national pundits, players on other teams, and personnel people from around the league. These people also work within the Dolphins organization, are coaches and players for this team.

So this mix of bright NFL minds have told me …

The Dolphins are flawed in too many places, too old in too many places while too young in too many others to be a playoff team. I've been told the quarterback will never be the right answer. I've been told the defense -- with multiple castoffs from other teams -- is going to be a huge disappointment.

This mix of people have also said …

This team will surprise everyone. I've heard talk of Ryan Tannehill throwing over 50 TDs this season -- I am not kidding on this one. I've been told this team has designs on the playoffs.

So who to believe?

I find both camps are too certain about a team that is replete with uncertainty.

Come to think of it, that's what I am certain I see when I look at these Dolphins. I see uncertainty. Lots of it. Practically everywhere.

The epicenter of that uncertainty begins in the secondary. If you watched the Dolphins play the Atlanta Falcons in the so-called regular season dress rehearsal Thursday night, you know the secondary is troubled.

Starting cornerback Tony Lippett is not an NFL caliber starting cornerback. He is a college wide receiver who is working on becoming an NFL cornerback -- a three-year project only in its second year.

Lippett is not ready. You saw it when he gave up a long completion on a post in the first quarter. You saw it when he got beat deep in the second quarter. You saw it when he was removed from the game in the first quarter and replaced by Bobby McCain.

McCain, by the way, also isn't ready. He's a slot corner who is being asked this preseason to play outside and that simply is not going to work when the real games begin. You saw that on the pass interference play he was called for in the second quarter.

The Dolphins hope Xavien Howard will be ready to play in the opener, but based on their current situation, the rookie is going to have to be a really good starter to save this team because even veteran Byron Maxwell on the other side has had tough moments this preseason.

The lone exclamation point among a herd of question marks in the Dolphins secondary is Reshad Jones, who had a dozen or so impactful plays last season, and came up with another -- an interception -- against Atlanta.

The Dolphins say their secondary issues will be minimized because of their great pass rush.


If Cameron Wake, who played exclusively on third down Thursday, is his old self that will help. It seems Wake has not lost a step based on the sprinter's start he got against the Falcons. He looked sharp.

But the season is a marathon race not a sprint so we simply don't know if Wake, at 34 years old, will hold up. Having said that, he still seems the most impressive defensive end on the team -- again.

Mario Williams has been quiet in the preseason. Andre Branch and Jason Jones are solid but have never been stars and haven't exactly wowed anyone this preseason.

Maybe if Ndamukong Suh regains his former Pro Bowl form at the same time Wake and Williams regain theirs this front will be dominant. Maybe. But we haven't seen it yet.

The Dolphins offense promises to be interesting this season because when it's over we'll know if …

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is part of the solution or the problem.

Running back Arian Foster has regained his form following surgery to repair a torn Achilles and can stay healthy.

DeVante Parker can stay healthy (which he hasn't done yet in his career) and then meets his grand potential.

If the offensive line that is trying to convert two former left tackles -- Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod -- into the unit's starting guards can be a solid foundation.

If the Dolphins get good news on these issues, most importantly on the Tannehill issue, the offense is going to hum this season. But that's a lot of ifs.

That's a lot of uncertainty. How all that translates to strong declarative statements about the 2016 Miami Dolphins by football people I talk to, I do not know.

And I get the feeling neither do they.