Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Are Fins a better team?
Have Dolphins improved through free agency and draft, become a playoff contender?
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.”
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.