Three NFL analysts weighed in by phone on the Dolphins over the past two days. And all agree with Las Vegas oddsmakers: This is not a playoff team.
Rounding up their opinions, from my queries to them on NFL conference calls:
▪ NBC studio analyst and former two-time All Pro safety Rodney Harrison: “I get a lot of flak because I am a big fan of Ryan Tannehill, and I know he’s been kind of up and down. He’s struggled with injury, but I do believe he’s a talented quarterback.
“I don’t look at the Dolphins as being a playoff contender. I look at them as being more of an 8-8, 7-9 team. But if he can get on a roll, if he can get hot and build his confidence, then this is a team that definitely can play that spoiler-type role. But I don’t look at the Dolphins as being that playoff team yet.”
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▪ NBC studio analyst and former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy: “I agree with Rodney. But I don’t see them as being the worst in the league, either. It’s too early to tell. They’ve got a talent base where they can win games. I think they’ll be a middle-of-the pack team.”
▪ ESPN commentator and former Redskins and Eagles pro personnel director Louis Riddick: “I don’t think they’re the worst team in the league, Obviously, they are not winning their division but you look at the rest of the AFC, the South could have a division winner and maybe two wild cards could come out of the South. Baltimore is in the hunt for a wild card spot.
“Do not discount the Cincinnati Bengals. Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, possibly Denver also could contend for a playoff berth. Miami has an uphill road to climb. No doubt about it.
“I don’t think they’re the worst team. I know I have always been hard on them and I know the Dolphin fan base thinks I’m unfairly critical. But I don’t think they are a playoff team. No, I don’t. There are a lot of question marks.”
Riddick’s offensive assessment: “Let’s see how this offensive line plays, whether one, they can protect Ryan Tannehill well enough, whether Ryan can stay healthy, whether Ryan can realize all the potential Adam Gase says he has.
“Is the backfield going to be as dynamic as maybe Adam Gase thinks it could be with the combination of [Frank] Gore and Kenyan [Drake] and [Kalen] Ballage? We’ll see. Do they have enough firepower at wide receiver to really get the job done week in and week out, not just a game here and there but to a level to compete with the other high powered offenses in the AFC?
“Because make no mistake, you know Pittsburgh is going to put up points, you know New England is going to put up points. [Kansas City quarterback] Pat Mahomes is going to light the league on fire. Philip Rivers is going to put up points, Deshaun Watson will put up points. Can Miami score points at that kind of pace or clip? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Defensively, Riddick said: “I know people are fired up on the defensive side to see how Robert Quinn plays. Just talked to [Rams defensive end] Aaron Donald a week ago. He loves [his former Rams teammate] Robert Quinn, thinks Quinn is as talented as any edge rusher in the NFL. We’ll just see if he can get it done over 16 weeks. We’ll see. The linebackers have to be better. They should be healthier this year.
“In the secondary, they have guys who showed last year they can play in a way, a style, that can give teams, basically their arch nemesis [New England], fits. Guys who can line up and literally get up in your face and play man to man, which is exactly what New England doesn’t want, and give you fits. Can they do that enough over the course of 16 weeks is the thing. That’s what the NFL is all about. It’s not about one performance. It’s can you do it over 16 weeks. They haven’t proved that they can. We’ll see.”
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