Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Are Fins a bet­ter team?

Have Dol­phins im­proved through free agency and draft, be­come a play­off con­tender?

- Omar Kelly

Any­one who has tack­led a re­mod­el­ing project re­al­izes there’s a pe­riod of dis­com­fort, a mo­ment in the process where doubt be­gins to creep in.

It’s that point where you see the stripped walls, bare floor and gut­ted space and begin to won­der if the plans you had drawn up will be ex­e­cuted to per­fec­tion.

It is the fear of the un­known, the mo­ment we sec­ond-guess whether or not a mis­take was made.

The Miami Dol­phins front of­fice is likely in that mo­ment right now.

The Dol­phins have of­fi­cially con­cluded the over­haul of last year’s un­der­achiev­ing 8-8 team.

Free agency is all but com­plete, and the NFL draft has come and gone.

The 53-man ros­ter hasn’t been fi­nal­ized yet, but Mike Tan­nen­baum, Den­nis Hickey and Joe Philbin have put to­gether the foun­da­tion of the Dol­phins’ 2015 team.

The team takes to the field this week for Week 3 of OTA work and rookie mini­camp, and based on the play­ers cut, free agents signed, and the seven play­ers drafted this is clearly a dif­fer­ent Dol­phins team.

Ryan Tan­nehill’s weapons are new and dif­fer­ent, more fit­ting to his skill set as a passer ac­cord­ing to the team’s ex­ec­u­tives and Philbin.

If two of eight op­tions step up and so­lid­ify the va­cant of­fen­sive guard spots the of­fen­sive line will be for­ti­fied.

The sign­ing of Ndamukong Suh and devel­op­ment of young­sters like Jor­dan Phillips, the Dol­phins’ sec­ond-round pick, A.J. Fran­cis, An­thony John­son, De­an­dre

“That was our mes­sage to them at the end of the sea­son. That was our mes­sage to them at the start of this off­sea­son. Take the next step.”

Den­nis Hickey,

Dol­phins GM

Cole­man and Ka­mal John­son should help Miami patch up a de­fense that strug­gled against the run, and sunk last year’s team in the fi­nal stretch of the sea­son.

The ad­di­tion of Jay Ajayi should pro­vide a much needed in­gre­di­ent to Miami’s ef­fi­cient, but not com­pletely ef­fec­tive run­ning game, which lacked a power run­ner and couldn’t run when teams stacked the box.

“He’s a sec­ond-round tal­ent they got in the fifth be­cause of med­i­cal con­cerns,” one NFC ex­ec­u­tive said. “Good pick!”

And the Dol­phins are younger, and hope­fully more tal­ented in the sec­ondary cour­tesy of Brice McCain and Zack Bow­man’s sign­ing, and the ad­di­tions of rook­ies Bobby McCain, Tony Lip­pett and Cedric Thomp­son, who were all late draft picks.

All those moves make the Dol­phins a dif­fer­ent team. But the ques­tion we should all be ask­ing is if they are a bet­ter one?

Has this fran­chise, which has an­nu­ally hov­ered around 8-8, taken that next step that can fi­nally pro­duce the team’s first win­ning sea­son since 2008?

“It all comes down to one or two plays. Last year, count­ing the Detroit game and when we had Green Bay, those two games came down to the last play of the game. If we win those games we’re in the play­offs and ev­ery­one is talk­ing about how good the Dol­phins are, and how bet­ter we’ve got­ten,” said safety Re­shad Jones, who was the de­fender scored on in the fi­nal sec­onds of the 20-16 loss to the Li­ons. “Ev­ery­one’s just got to be on the same page and know what we’re fight­ing for.”

The goal should be to pro­duce 10 wins, and to do that Miami must weather the storm of early road games, and fi­nally fin­ish out the sea­son strong while play­ing five of the sea­son’s fi­nal seven games in­side Sun Life Sta­dium.

“That’s our goal,” Hickey said of get­ting to the play­offs.

But Hickey openly ad­mit­ted the Dol­phins young play­ers — re­turn­ing vet­er­ans like Ja­mar Tay­lor, Will Davis, Chris McCain, Jor­dan Tripp, Billy Turner, Damien Wil­liams, A.J Fran­cis, An­thony John­son, Dal­las Thomas, Dion Sims, Arthur Lynch and Ter­rence Fede — must take the next step in their devel­op­ment for Miami to reach the post­sea­son.

“That was our mes­sage to them at the end of the sea­son. That was our mes­sage to them at the start of this off­sea­son. Take the next step,” Hickey con­tin­ued. “Our coaches do a great job, and that’s the mind­set, de­vel­op­ing our guys and get­ting them to take the next step.” But what if they don’t? What if Suh and Jor­dan Cameron aren’t the Pro Bowl tal­ents they were for their for­mer teams?

What if Miami’s been cat fished by Kenny Stills, Brice McCain and Spencer Paysinger?

What if Ajayi’s knee is as bad as some team’s be­lieved, and his ca­reer is over be­fore it even starts?

What if Philbin and his staff can’t get the best out of this young team? Just like he couldn’t max­i­mize the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of his squads in 2013, when Miami should have been in the play­offs if they had beat the Jets in the sea­son fi­nale, or ’14, when the Dol­phins could have pro­duced nine wins if Miami had beaten the Jets.

The ros­ter might be as­sem­bled, but th­ese Dol­phins still have plenty of work to do be­fore they can call them­selves a win­ner in 2015.

Re­build­ing, re­mod­el­ing — what­ever you want to call what took place this off­sea­son — is cool. But ev­ery­one needs to re­mem­ber this fran­chise’s ul­ti­mate goal, and that’s to be­come a peren­nial win­ner.

If that jour­ney doesn’t begin this sea­son with a win­ning record the Dol­phins will have wasted yet an­other off­sea­son be­cause of a bad blue­print.

 ?? J PAT CARTER/AP ?? DeVante Parker, the Dol­phins’ first-round draft pick, talks with team owner Steve Ross on Fri­day. With the NFL draft over and free agency all but com­plete, the Dol­phins have con­cluded their over­haul of last year’s un­der­achiev­ing 8-8 team.
J PAT CARTER/AP DeVante Parker, the Dol­phins’ first-round draft pick, talks with team owner Steve Ross on Fri­day. With the NFL draft over and free agency all but com­plete, the Dol­phins have con­cluded their over­haul of last year’s un­der­achiev­ing 8-8 team.
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 ?? JOE CAVARETTA/STAFF FILE PHOTO ?? Philip Wheeler watches as Green Bay’s An­drew Quar­less cel­e­brates a game-win­ning TD last sea­son. “Last year, count­ing the Detroit game and when we had Green Bay, those two games came down to the last play of the game. If we win those games we’re in the...
JOE CAVARETTA/STAFF FILE PHOTO Philip Wheeler watches as Green Bay’s An­drew Quar­less cel­e­brates a game-win­ning TD last sea­son. “Last year, count­ing the Detroit game and when we had Green Bay, those two games came down to the last play of the game. If we win those games we’re in the...

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