In the wake of coach Adam Gase ripping his “awful” offense, Dolphins executive vice president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum struck a more optimistic tone, noting reasons to feel good about the team’s outlook.
Among them: the November return of receiver DeVante Parker, guard Ted Larsen and safety T.J. McDonald. Parker has missed three games with an ankle injury but the Dolphins are optimistic he can play on Sunday night against visiting Oakland.
Larsen will begin practicing this week with the hope of being ready by the Nov. 13 Carolina game if not this Sunday. And McDonald comes off an eight-game NFL suspension in time to play in that game in Charlotte.
Asked by WFOR’s Kim Bokamper if he feels optimism about the team’s future this season, Tannebaum said: “I do, because I believe in the character of our guys. I go out to practice every day. I see our staff. I see our players really engaged and involved and over 16 games, they are all going to have to contribute.... There are going to be three or four guys that have menaingful contributions that aren't even on the radar yet. It's about opportunities and which players make the most of those opportunities.
“We're 4-3. That's far from perfect and there are some things we wish we had different. But with that said, we still have opportunities to accomplish any goals we want this year and that's really a tribute to Adam and the coaching staff to already have had three quarterbacks contribute.”
Tannenbaum, who was filling in for Gase on Gase’s weekly TV coach’s show, said Larsen and McDonald will help.
“Larsen will start practicing this week,” Tannenbaum said. “We want to be smart about that. Ted's a veteran player. He's tough, he's smart. We think he can give us a good injection at the guard position as soon as he's ready to go.
“With TJ, we were really excited when we signed him. We knew it was going to be an eight-game suspension. We studied him based on how well he had played for the Rams. Coach Gase played against him. He came in and really exceeded our expectations as a player, as a person. He did everything we asked of him. He played well in the preseason. One thing Adam and [general manager] Chris Grier and I talk about - we want to develop and keep as many of our own guys as possible.”
Tannenbaum also is pleased that four rookies are contributing on defense.
“Chris Grier has done a great job,” he said. “There are four rookies that are playing a lot. [Cornerback] Cordrea Tankersley and up front between Vincent Taylor, Davon Godchaux, Charles Harris. They've all done a nice job. We see Charles as a three-down player. We just don't see him as a pass rush specialist.
“Cordrea has length. He has really good ball skills. He anticipates well. He's really competitive. Even though we weren't seeing it on the field the first couple of weeks, we were seeing it at practice and if you look a the last year and a half, one of the things Adam always talks about is practices will be competitive and the best players will play.”
Tannenbaum said the organization is trying to “win for today - and Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga do that - but you're also trying to develop for tomorrow, and between the Chase Allens and those draft choices, we're encouraged by what's happening on defense. And Matt Burke, our defensive coordinator, has done a nice job.”
Though Gase calls plays for the league’s worst offense, Tannenbaum praised his work.
“Adam has done a great job of showing leadership and resiliency through a lot of unexpected events that have happened, but we are sitting here 4-3,” Tannenbaum said. “Obviously, Thursday night [the 40-0 loss to Baltimore] did not go anywhere close to the way we had hoped. With that said, we still have nine games and we are playing meaningful games and that's where you really want to be heading into November.”
And even though the team was embarrassed on national television, Tannenbaum said: “You lose by one, you lose by 40, at the end of the day it's still a loss, so you're never going to be happy about that.”
Tannenbaum sees a roster that has more depth at multiple positions: “Guys like Anthony Steen have had to play a lot. Jake Brendel had to go in a week ago. Jesse Davis played last Thursday night against the Ravens. So the versatility and the depth is important, a little bit like the linebacker position, where guys were playing. Chase Allen, Mike Hull played until other guys came back in, That hopefully will give us more depth.... [And] you go back to adding William Hayes with Cam Wake, Andre Branch, Terrence Fede, Charles Harris, we feel we have a lot more depth now at the defensive end position.”
The Dolphins, in the midst of three consecutive prime time games for the first time in franchise history, are 1-7 in nationally televised games since the start of the 2015 season.
“Those are prime time games we earned from being a playoff team a year ago,” Tannenbaum said.