WELCOME BACK: The tight end threat. Coach ADAM GASE hasn't had a quality pass-catching tight end since Julius Thomas in Denver, and that has hindered his "speed trips" designs, in which all three wideouts line up on one side and the tight end on the other. That's why the Dolphins used a second-round pick on 6'6", 249-pound Penn State tight end MIKE GESICKI. If he delivers on his promise as a receiver, Miami's wideouts will become much more dangerous—especially KENNY STILLS, who's lethal on deep shots out of the slot closest to the quarterback.
The Dolphins' biggest problem last year was that Gase couldn't trust his offensive line. Every third-and-long became a checkdown drill. Quick screens to receivers were too frequent and predictable. The ground game was an afterthought. Dumping center Mike Pouncey and guard Jermon Bushrod and adding replacements DANIEL KILGORE and guard JOSH SITTON will make the front five less athletic but more reliable. But the big improvement will come when young tackles LAREMY TUNSIL and JA'WUAN JAMES start playing up to their physical abilities.
Even with questions along the offensive line, it's important that Gase not abandon his running game. Quarterback RYAN TANNEHILL, who is returning after missing all of 2017 with a torn ACL is his left knee, is more effective in a complementary role. And the Dolphins' backs can make plays in Gase's outside zone scheme. Third-year pro KENYAN DRAKE flashed outstanding improvisational ability late last season, and no one in the 2010s has been better at maximizing his blocks than FRANK GORE, the 35-year-old free-agent pickup from Indianapolis.
Shedding Ndamukong Suh (who signed with the Rams) helps the salary cap but hurts the defensive line. With no overpowering tackle, veteran edge rushers ROBERT QUINN (acquired from the Rams) and CAMERON WAKE (still flourishing at 36) will have a harder time closing the pocket. It helps, though, that backup ends ANDRE BRANCH and CHARLES HARRIS can also play inside. That can expand the designer four-man rushes Miami will need for generating pressure.
2017 RECORD 6W 10L
SI'S 2018 PREDICTION 7W 9L
25th @TEXANS [Thursday]
23rd JAGUARS [Flex/Saturday]
MIAMI ESSENTIALLY swapped out Jarvis Landry, now with Cleveland, for free agents DANNY AMENDOLA and ALBERT WILSON—a loss in talent but an upgrade in reliability. Coach ADAM GASE wants receivers who get to their spots on time.