Miami Dolphins: 6 Areas That Still Have Questions Despite Changes

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Miami Dolphins: Six Areas That Still Have Questions Despite Changes

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Most everyone that follows football knows that the Miami Dolphins have been busy this offseason. From NFL Free Agency to the 2013 NFL Draft, the Dolphins have been taking advantage of every opportunity, adding as much talent to their roster as they possibly can.

Miami finished the 2012 season with glaring holes at several key positions on the field, and while the Dolphins have addressed several concerns, there are still a few areas of doubt for the team as they prepare for the new season.

Because it is the Dolphins, doubt surrounds their ability to rise above mediocrity, despite the over $200 million that was spent this offseason. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is entering his second year under center, and although he has been getting an abundance of offseason endorsements, his development will be a critical component in the Dolphins’ success, or failure.

Miami’s wide receivers were considered a weakness during the 2012 season, and were an area of immediate concern heading into the offseason. Now with a fresh stable of receiving talent, the Dolphins may boast the best receiving corps in the AFC East.

Bringing Mike Wallace into the fold gives Tannehill the weapon he was missing last season, and his presence is sure to help Brian Hartline reach his maximum potential as the second option. With Brandon Gibson in place to gouge defenses from the slot, and Armon Binns pushing to do damage from the same position, the wide outs are no longer a weakness in South Florida, but they were just part of the problem that needed attention.

Here are six other positions that underwent some kind of change this offseason, and the questions that still surround them. Click through and see what you think, and use the comment section below to add your thoughts!

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6. Tight On Talent

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time when tight ends were more lineman than an offensive weapon, but in today’s league, the tight end can be just as dangerous as a No. 1 wide out. This is exactly what Dustin Keller is hoping to achieve this season. Keller showed flashes of promise while he was with the New York Jets, but was never able to take it to the next level. How much of this was Keller and how much was quarterback Mark Sanchez is debatable, but he will get plenty of chances to prove his worth in Miami.

Keller is joined at the position by half back/tight end hybrid Charles Clay, who had 212 yards and two touchdowns last season. Depending on how he has recovered from meniscus surgery, Clay could be a big part of the Dolphins’ red-zone offense. He will be fighting with last season’s rookie disappointment, Michael Agnew, and this season’s rookie Dion Simms.

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5. Head Hunters

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins defense has seen several changes as well. Miami was able to keep their defensive line intact, but they will switching players around a bit to make room for their first-round draft pick, Dion Jordan. The line will also be bolstered by Olivier Vernon who had impressive moments during his rookie season and caught the eye of the coaching staff during Miami’s OTAs and mini-camp.

Where Jarod Odrick will line up, and how Randy Starks and Paul Soliai handle the uncertainty of their contracts are big questions, but how Jordan will impact this group is the one on everyone’s mind. How Jordan will fit into defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s hybrid scheme is yet unknown, and it is a question that carries quite a bit of weight considering where they took him in the draft.

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4. Linebacker Shuffle

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s defensive line may be returning all of its key personnel, but the group backing them up will have an entirely different look in 2013. Instead of Karlos Dansby and Keith Burnett, Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler will lead the Dolphins from the center of the field. Dansby may have been coming off of the best statistical year of his career, but Coyle’s defense needs speed and athleticism to be at its most efficient, and the tandem of Ellerbe and Wheeler should fit into that role perfectly. Still, it is a major change to a defensive front seven that was among the best in the league last season.

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3. Unproven Horses

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Who will be carrying the ball for the Dolphins is another question that will need answering. To take it a bit further, one should ask if any of the options are truly viable. Third-year back Daniel Thomas will still be in the backfield, but it will be the sophomore Lamar Miller that will likely be filling the starting spot left vacant by Reggie Bush. Rookie Mike Gillislee is looking to steal snaps from Miller and Thomas, but will have to have an incredible training camp to take over either’s spot on the depth chart. Miller has looked good during OTAs and the Dolphins’ mini camp, but the true story will not be known until the season gets underway and he is tested by NFL defenses looking to take his head off.

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2. The Big Fellas

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miller’s biggest concern could be the offensive line that will be leading the way for him. The team opted to let Jake Long, their four-time Pro Bowl left tackle, leave through free agency, and have elected trust second-year tackle, Jonathan Martin, with Tannehill’s blindside. Richie Incognito made it to the Pro Bowl last season, and along with Mike Pouncey, will be the heart of the Dolphins’ line. The addition of Tyson Clabo at right tackle will go a long way towards solidifying the Miami front, but again, until they are faced with live fire from opposing defenses, predicting how they will hold up is pure speculation.

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1. Cornerback Conundrum

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The secondary was another area of great concern heading into the offseason, and while there has been plenty of action at that position, there are still several questions heading into camp. The biggest move the Dolphins made (besides letting Sean Smith walk) was signing Brent Grimes. Based on Grimes’ last season of action (2011), this is a definite upgrade, but he missed all of last season to injury, and until he faces the rigors of four quarters, there are going to be doubts about his physical ability.

Even with Grimes at the No. 1, there are still questions about who will be the No. 2, nickel and dime backs. Richard Marshall may be penciled in at the No. 2, but he will have to fight Will Davis, Jamar Taylor, Nolan Carroll and Dimitri Patterson over the next month and a half. Even when the dust settles on these positions, it will take in-game action to determine whether or not they are the answer at their position.

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Miami Dolphins: Six Areas That Still Have Questions Despite Changes

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the questions surrounding the Dolphins, it is hard to imagine them being any better than they have over the past several years. The thing is, these are just questions, and the answers may be favorable. That is what the front office, and the players, have been working for this offseason.

What do you think? Which is the most serious question, and are there any that you feel are more pressing? Use the comment section below to add questions, predict answers or otherwise add to the conversation. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #RML to talk and gripe about all things sports.

Jeff Everette covers the NFL, specifically the Miami Dolphins, for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jeverettesports, “like” his page on Facebook, “Trust” him on Sulia, or join his circles on Google+.


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