Today is the day! Game day! The Miami Dolphins will take the field in Cleveland versus the Browns in the first game of the season.
However, as the speculation continues on what type of season the Dolphins will have, writers, bloggers, and local beat reporters continue to bang the proverbial drum that is: are the Dolphins a changed team from the year before?Surely there are more than five questions, but these are questions the Dolphins need to have answers for in the coming weeks to prove they are the team to beat in the AFC East.
Here are five question, that could be answered today or in the coming weeks and all about the Dolphins:
1. Will Mike Wallace be a threat to any team's secondary?
This question stems from the notion that Wallace was brought in to bring an extra element to the Dolphins offense and a weapon to Ryan Tannehill. However, by bringing in Wallace, this doesn't make Ryan Tannehill, Dan Marino overnight. What could happen with Wallace, is while he could put up 8 TD, he might be used sparingly in the nine-route that he was accustomed to running in Pittsburgh and used as a redzone, third down, and on endless comeback routes featured in the Dolphins offense. Look for Brian Hartline to have more catches than Wallace, but for Wallace to be that threat in the redzone. Likewise, do not discount Brandon Gibson as his signing was done more to eventually phase out Davone Bess.
2. How will Dion Jordan be used?
With Jordan mainly shut down for three weeks of the preseason and most of training camp with a shoulder injury, fans have clamored to see how he will be used. Pundits and naysayers of Jeff Ireland's draft strategy are quick to point out that Jordan doesn't fit this defense because he is a linebacker for a 3-4 and not an exact fit as a 4-3 defensive end. However, even though Jordan didn't win the starting job out of camp and the preseason, he clearly has a chance to be a difference maker on Sundays on third down. In just reading Armando Salguero's article this morning about Dion Jordan, what Salguero mentioned is that the Dolphins plan to use Olivier Vernon, Jordan, and Cameron Wake on the field at the same time. While this seems like a strange pairing given that it's risky if they are all blitzing, it appears that Coyle will show blitz with two of the three players and that Coyle plans to rotate Cam Wake and not Jordan to have him stand up and put his hand in the ground just like Nick Saban did with Jason Taylor. For sure, this trifecta arrangement will be interesting to watch.
3. Is the Dolphins secondary missing key depth?
With the Dolphins release of Richard Marshall before the cut down to 75 players, some Dolfans were scratching their heads. However, looking inside the numbers, he played four games and got paid handsomely not to play as he was out with an injury. The main nucleus of the cornerback postion comes down to Brent Grimes and Dmitri Patterson. The major question is can both play the position to force turnovers? Forcing turnovers and getting their hands on the ball will show whether the small upgrades and draft strategy were dead on for the Dolphins. With two rookies Will Davis and Jamar Taylor not playing because of injury to start the season, can Patterson and Grimes hold down the position and play sound and smart defensive football. Today should give fan's a serious glimpse of how much or how little this unit has improved.
4. On the play calling side of things, can Mike Sherman trust Ryan Tannehill?
We all know that Mike Sherman has been in mad-scientist mode with the new aquisitions to his offense, but will this be the same thing a year later with the Dolphins? Clearly, the Dolphins offense led by Ryan Tannehill played better each week during the pre-season, but the numbers in the redzone have to improve. Mike Sherman as the offensive coordinator last season was compared a bit to Dan Henning of the Sparano era for his vanilla play calls. Sherman was blamed constantly for not taking the reigns off of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and just letting him play. However, this season, Sherman must do two things really well, make the right play calls when Tannehill has a hot hand, which means pass, pass, pass, and then call the run plays at the appropriate time. This is not an easy task for Sherman who tends to run things conservatively, but if he does not make the calls to make big plays, fans will call for his head. Frankly, the sentiment around Dolphins fans are that they are tired of seeing AFC foes sprint down the field in three to four plays when it takes the Dolphins 10-12 plays before they kick a field goal. Fans want to see Sherman take some risks early with some long throws and see Ryan Tannehill connect.
5. Will Ryan Tannehill trust his line enough to make quick reads and step-up on throws?
We know that the Dolphins have had a creaky line all preseason long. After witnessing Jonathan Martin have trouble with Olivier Vernon and Dion Jordan in practice, Martin seemed to settle down in each preseason game. After the second preseason game, Ryan Tannehill sensed pressure and took a sack up the middle, something that has been a weakeness for him thus far. Most fans know that Tannehill is better on the run, but his line needs to provide the blocking to do so. The biggest test for Ryan Tannehill comes today as the Browns feature a fast and quick Barkevious Mingo, who loves to get to the quarterback. The goal for Tannehill is to step up in the pocket and make throws in the face of defenders. As a fan, I need to see that, but as the Dolphins go, the line needs to become a strength rather than a weakness and only Tannehill can make the plays, but he has to trust in this line for the Dolphins to take the next step this season. That next step is being the franchise quarterback that leads the Dolphins to the playoffs!
While there are plenty of questions, the Dolphins can provide fans and writers a preview today and in the coming weeks of how the Dolphins have changed for the better.