LAST YEAR: Rookie coach Adam Gase led turnaround from 1-4 start and earned raves from players as he helped Dolphins make postseason for first time since 2008. They earned AFC wild-card berth and then lost in first round at Pittsburgh, 30-12; they still haven’t won postseason game since 2000. Progress came even though Miami allowed franchise-worst 6,122 yards. RB Jay Ajayi’s breakout year included consecutive 200-yard games, and QB Ryan Tannehill had career-high passer rating of 93.5 before knee injury in Week 14 ended his season. Dolphins lost final two games to Patriots and Steelers by combined score of 65-26, which showed gap remaining between Gase’s team and AFC’s best.
Article continues below ...
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: TE Julius Thomas, LB Lawrence Timmons, TE Anthony Fasano, rookie DE Charles Harris, DE William Hayes, G Ted Larsen, S Nate Allen, S T.J. McDonald.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, LT Branden Albert, TE Dion Sims, S Isa Abdul-Quddus, DE Mario Williams, DT Earl Mitchell.
CAMP NEEDS: Tannehill will be closely monitored after recovering from sprained left ACL and MCL that did not require surgery. Says he’s 100 percent and took part in offseason workouts. C Mike Pouncey, who played only five games last year because of recurring hip issues, will see little if any action until season starts. Laremy Tunsil, first-round pick in 2016, will continue transition from LG to LT. New defensive coordinator Matt Burke has important newcomers to evaluate after Dolphins devoted top three draft choices to defense for first time in franchise history.
EXPECTATIONS: Last year Dolphins ranked in bottom half of league in both offense and defense and were outscored by 35 points, which suggests they overachieved in reaching 10 victories. They did it by winning final eight games that were decided by touchdown or less. Schedule looks tougher, so even if roster is more talented, Miami might be hard-pressed to match last year’s record.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL