Today we go 1 on 1 with Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. Andrew is one of the most respected and well liked Dolphins reporters in South Florida. For those of you in twitterland, be sure you are following him @AbramsonPBP for accurate information and respectful dialogue.
We want to give Andrew a big thanks for agreeing to give us his insight and also extend our most heart felt congratulations to him on becoming a new father.
1. What kind of impact have you seen Adam Gase and the new staff have on the team compared to years past?
From a motivational standpoint, you can already see the difference between Gase and former coach Joe Philbin. He’s a young guy, talking trash to players in practice. He brings an energy that Philbin didn’t have and the players are already relating to it. From a strategic standpoint, it’s too early to tell. Everyone who’s worked with Gase thinks he will develop an innovative offense in Miami. And new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has the potential to become a future NFL head coach. So this is a young, talented coaching staff that certainly has the ability to turn around the Dolphins.
2. Unlike years past, the Phins weren’t major spenders in free agency. Do you like the moves they have made so far?
I like that they’ve been smart with their money this offseason although I question them not resigning Olivier Vernon last year when he would have been much affordable. I don’t think he’s worth what the Giants paid him, but the Dolphins should have locked him up earlier before his value soared. We’ll see if they regret not resigning Lamar Miller, but I like the duo of Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster — at least for a year. I like the trade for cornerback Byron Maxwell. I think he’ll have a bounce back year under Joseph.
3. Ryan Tannehill is entering his 5th season with what should be the best offensive line he has had. Factoring that and the addition of Adam Gase, realistically what should we expect from him this year?
I expect Gase to try to take the pressure off of Tannehill with a more well-rounded offense and an improved offensive line. If Gase can help Tannehill get rid of the ball quicker when under pressure — and combine that with better line play — he should be a top 15 quarterback this season. If he’s not, that’s a problem. Gase doesn’t need Tannehill to make a ton of plays each game. He just needs him to be smart and efficient.
4. Defensive breakdowns have been an issue since the Philbin/Coyle era. Gase brought in Vance Joseph to be DC, who wants to attack. Where should we see the biggest improvement on defense?
Just like last year, the Dolphins enter the season over-reliant on the defensive line. It didn’t work out in 2015, but I like the addition of Jim Washburn as the team’s pass-rush specialist. Washburn’s Wide 9 technique could help improve the sack total of Cam Wake, Mario Williams and Ndamukong Suh. But if the Dolphins aging defensive ends don’t have stellar seasons, I still think they have too many questions at linebacker and in the defensive backfield. If Kiko Alonso can come close to replicating his rookie season, the linebackers could be vastly improved. But if not, it’s still a weak unit. I like Maxwell and Reshad Jones in the secondary, but the other cornerback and safety spots are big question marks right now.
5. What has been your perception of Adam Gase thus far?
Gase is a confident coach and the players believe in him. He has a certain aura about him. But it’s one thing to judge a first-year head coach in the offseason. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds in tough times, because I expect he’ll have his fair share of those this season. The front office really believes in him, so he should have ample time to build the team in his mold.
6. What grade would you give the Dolphins up to this point for their FA/draft moves?
I’ve never been in to grades, but it was clear to me after free agency and the draft that this is a two-year rebuild. I like some of the offensive playmakers the Dolphins selected in the draft — especially Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant. But unless Dion Jordan miraculously pans out, they still need a young pass rusher and other upgrades on defense. On offense, If Jay Ajayi fails to impress this season, running back could be a need next season. And quarterback remains the ultimate question for the Dolphins. It goes without saying this is a crucial year for Ryan Tannehill.
7. And finally. What’s your realistic expectations for the Dolphins this year?
It doesn’t help that three of the Dolphins first four games are on the road in Seattle, New England and Cincinnati. Facing the Patriots without Tom Brady obviously helps, but New England will still be tough to defeat on the road. The Bengals on a short turnaround Thursday night game is a huge challenge. I think this is probably a 6-to-8 win team. Anything beyond that would take a major development from Tannehill and a huge year from the Dolphins defensive line. It may take one more year of patience for a starving fan base.