Atlanta’s jaunt through the AFC East will bring a much-anticipated Super Bowl rematch, but before that, Atlanta gets a crack at the other teams in the division. I don’t anticipate it’ll be the cakewalk it would have been in years past, and a big part of that is because the Dolphins have improved.
While they lost some solid players this offseason, Miami’s got a capable quarterback, well-regarded young coach, and some offensive skill players who seem likely to bust out. If the defense shows up, they’ll be a genuine challenge. Luckily, Atlanta gets them off the Falcons’ bye week.
For a closer look at how the offseason went for the Dolphins, here’s a scouting report from The Phinsider.
Notable free agent additions: Lawrence Timmons, LB; Ted Larsen, G; Anthony Fasano, TE; Nate Allen, S; T.J. McDonald, S
Notable free agent departures: Dion Sims, TE (Chicago); Earl Mitchell, DT (San Francisco); Jelani Jenkins, LB (Oakland); Spencer Paysinger, LB (New York Jets); Jordan Cameron, TE (retired); Isa Abdul-Quddus, S (retired)
Vance Joseph, DC (Broncos head coach)
Trades: Branden Albert (LT) to Jacksonville for 2018 seventh round pick; Julius Thomas (TE) from Jacksonville for 2017 seventh round pick; William Hayes (DE) and 2017 seventh round pick from Los Angeles Rams for 2017 sixth round pick
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri - 1st Round - Harris will not be a starter this year, with Cameron Wake and Andre Branch holding the top two spots on the depth chart, and William Hayes’ role as a run-stopping defensive end giving him an advantage in obvious running situations. That does not mean Harris will not have a role, as he will likely rotate into the games to spell Wake and Branch, as well as play as a pass rush specialist - potentially with Wake and Branch on the field with him. He might not have a monster rookie season, but that is not what is needed from him right now - let Wake be the monster in the position group.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State - 2nd round - McMillan may be the biggest contributor this year for the Dolphins from the draft class. He has a chance at winning a starter’s role, but he will have to prove himself in training camp. The team has not told the linebackers where they will be playing this year, but the best guess is that free agent addition Lawrence Timmons plays in the middle, with Kiko Alonso on the outside and McMillan or Koa Misi (if he is cleared after fusion surgery in his neck) as the other outside backer. There are some other players in the mix as well, but it could be McMillan’s role if he comes out strong to start camp.
Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson - 3rd Round - The cornerback position is surprisingly deep for the Dolphins this year, so Tankersley will likely find himself buried on the depth chart, but he should be able to see some playing time throughout the year, which could be huge for his development and role in the future.
Isaac Asiata, G, Utah - 5th round - Miami has a hole at left guard still, with Asiata in the mix to fill it. Early OTA/minicamp indications are that he is probably not yet ready to start, but he is still in the competition and could end up in the lineup at some point.
Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU/Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State - 5th/6th rounds - The Dolphins have Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips as the starting defensive tackles, but behind them is a giant question mark. They really need one of these two to step up into the rotational defensive tackle role. Early reports are that they look like 5th/6th round draft picks who need to develop - but the Dolphins need one of them to do that developing quickly this summer.
Biggest offseason addition:
Reshad Jones, S - It is not technically an addition in the sense of a free agent or trade, but Jones coming back from a shoulder injury last year should be a HUGE addition for the defense this year. He is among the elite safeties in the league, and the defense clearly missed him last year. He signed a contract extension this offseason and should be in Miami for years to come. His being back on the defense gives the team back their defensive captain and the man who controls everything on that side of the ball.
As for true acquisitions, linebacker Lawrence Timmons to solidify the middle of the linebacker corps makes a lot of sense. A strange one may be safety T.J. McDonald could be a huge addition. I like the signing, even with an eight game suspension to be served to start the season. McDonald joining the team in the middle of the season could be a spark to strengthen the defense mid-year.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
Adam Gase/Ryan Tannehill in year two - Tannehill seemed to be progressing as the season developed last year, until his knee injury ended his season. Now, with some stability on the offense, the same weapons, and Gase’s system in place for a full year now, can the Gase/Tannehill tandem take the next step and turn into something special?
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:
DeVante Parker, WR - Dolphins fans know Parker appears to be ready to breakout and become a true number one receiver, but most fans around the league do not know who he is. Overshadowed - and rightfully so - by Jarvis Landry, Parker has struggled with injuries throughout his first two seasons. Now, heading into year three, Parker seems to have learned what it means to be a professional and is taking care of himself better, which should translate onto the field this year.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Ryan Tannehill, QB (knee) - he appears to be fully recovered from this season ending knee sprain last year, but it will still be something to watch until he is getting hit and using his full mobility.
Koa Misi, LB (neck) - has not been cleared following a spinal fusion procedure. Could be the starting strong-side linebacker or the top reserve if he is cleared, but no timetable has been determined.
Mike Pouncey, C (hip) - has not been cleared following multiple hip procedures this offseason. The hips have been a chronic issue for the Pro Bowl center, and the Dolphins are looking to find a way to finally get Pouncey fully healthy. He seems to be on track to be available for Week 1 of the regular season, but he likely will see little work this summer, to include in the preseason games.