Barry Jackson

Dolphins offense rounding into form; Dolphins expecting big things from Thomas

dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

INDIANAPOLIS -

A six pack of Dolphins notes on a Sunday:

• While the Dolphins’ defense still needs a handful of pieces, consider this: Every offensive player on the Dolphins’ opening day roster this season might be on the team now, with the exception of one or two guards.

And that’s pretty unusual to be able to say on March 12.

Quarterback is set with Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore, and Brandon Doughty and this spring’s newest draft/post-draft project competing for the No. 3 job, or more likely, a practice squad position.

Running back is set with Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake (Adam Gase wants to increase his role) and Damien Williams (the Dolphins tendered him at $1.8 million).

Receiver is set with Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and probably Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant, though Miami wants to see more growth from Carroo and Grant and it’s not entirely out of the question that a cheap veteran or rookie could push one of them for a roster spot.

Tight end is set with Julius Thomas, Anthony Fasano and very likely MarQueis Gray.

The Dolphins know Laremy Tunsil, Ja’Wuan James, Mike Pouncey, Ted Larsen and very likely Kraig Urbik will be on the team, and Anthony Steen and Sam Young have a good shot to stick, too. So that leaves one or two more linemen to add, including a guard who’s starter worthy, and that’s it.

There’s your Dolphins offense and with Ryan Tannehill in his second year in Adam Gase’s system and all the receivers and running backs returning, and clear progress made after the first six games last season, it’s very reasonable to expect the Dolphins’ offense to improve from 17th in points (22.7 per game) and 24th in yards.

And it’s not only having a second year in Gase’s system that should help all the offensive returnees.

James, after struggling early in the season, graded out as well or better as any Dolphins’ lineman over the final eight games.

And James, while not making excuses, told me one reason he struggled early was that the technique taught by offensive line coach Chris Foerster was so different from that taught by his predecessor, John Benton.

Once James got that down, he was a clearly above-average right tackle. And that should continue in a second season with the same o-line coach.

• Though nothing has been confirmed, CBS’ Jason LaCanfora reports Chiefs free agent defensive tackle Dontari Poe plans to visit Atlanta, Miami and Oakland after visiting with the Colts.

Poe, a well-regarded starter for five years in Kansas City, surprisingly was rated by Pro Football Focus only 59th overall among all defensive tackles for the 2016 season and 90th against the run.

• Because they agreed to take low base salaries for 2017, and because signing bonuses are prorated, the ’17 cap hits for Andre Branch ($5 million) and Kenny Stills ($3.7 million) are reasonable, according to overthecap.com.

• Ted Larsen’s three-year deal was for $5.65 million, according to The National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson. His cap number is a reasonable $1.4 million.

Dolphins executives and coaches haven’t commented on their roster moves last week aside from a couple comments from Mike Tannenbaum on his regular segment with Jeremy Marks Peltz on ESPN Radio West Palm.

On the Reshad Jones extension, Tannenbaum said: "Someone of Reshad’s ability, a playmaker with speed and athleticism that can cover a tight end, that’s really important to have in the way pro football is played."

And on Julius Thomas: Tannenbaum said: "Julius is a guy who has played in Adam’s offense before, very good pass receiver, good catch radius, should help in the red zone. I think he’ll be an impactful player."

• For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus had mixed views on what the Dolphins did at defensive end.

PFF loved the William Hayes pickup: “William Hayes may be most famous for believing in mermaids but not dinosaurs, but he has also been a quality player on the field for the past five years or so, and instantly solves a problem the Dolphins have had at DE opposite Cameron Wake for several seasons. To acquire him for the price of moving 17 spots at the back end of the draft is a steal.”

But PFF wasn’t so thrilled with Branch’s new contract. “2016 may have been the best year of Andre Branch’s career, and there was little there to suggest he was worth this kind of contract. He did notch [5.5] sacks, but rushed the passer 467 times to get them. His pass-rushing grade (67.9) ranked 61st among edge defenders.”

Here are 12 more thoughts on the Dolphins’ moves, if you missed this.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier discusses Kenny Stills' contract, Ryan Tannehill's knee and more at the NFL Scouting Combine.

  Comments