Despite playoff breakthrough, Dolphins have much work to do
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Even as the Miami Dolphins' offseason begins, they're still chasing the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins made the playoffs for the first time in eight years but failed to gain much ground on their AFC East nemesis. While the Patriots (14-2) won their eighth consecutive division title and are still playing, Miami (10-7) was one-and-done in the postseason, which left the team's leadership reflecting Wednesday on progress made and yet to be made.
''We're heading in the right direction,'' said Mike Tannenbaum, executive vice president for football operations. ''I'm really happy we made the playoffs and won 10 games. That's a great accomplishment. I'm really excited about the future, but we have a lot of work to do.''
Issues to be addressed include quarterback Ryan Tannehill's health, the vacant defensive coordinator's job and how to upgrade the roster.
There's lingering uncertainty about Tannehill's recovery from a left knee injury that forced him to miss the final four games, including Sunday's 30-12 playoff loss at Pittsburgh. Tannehill returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but the Dolphins haven't ruled out surgery.
''We're still going through that process right now with the trainers with what our next step is, where his health is, how strong is his knee,'' coach Adam Gase said. ''We're still collecting information.''
When asked if reconstructive surgery is a possibility, Gase said, ''That hasn't been a question that really we've dove into quite yet.''
At the top of Gase's to-do list is replacing defensive coordinator Vance Joseph , who was hired Wednesday as the Denver Broncos' head coach. The front-runner to replace him is linebackers coach Matt Burke, who has 13 years of experience as an NFL assistant.
Gase said he anticipates no other changes in his staff.
Tannenbaum and Gase offered few hints about potential offseason personnel moves , but said the process will start with a thorough assessment of the roster that will take a couple of weeks.
''We're going to go into this with a very honest, sober evaluation of where we are with our players,'' Tannenbaum said. ''I think that's really a critical aspect to building a team for the long term.''
Receiver Kenny Stills and defensive end Andre Branch are among players who will become free agents this offseason. Receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones are among those hoping for contract extensions.
''To have sustainability, we want to take care our own,'' Tannenbaum said. ''We want to look at to try to keep some of our own. In addition, we want to extend players. One of the factors is it's not a one-year view. So who is up in 2018? 2019? Adam rolls his eyes, but I always say, `Our plan is firmly etched in pencil.' Because things are going to change. We're going to acquire players, and there are going to be unexpected opportunities.''
Tannenbaum praised the work of first-year coach Gase, who established a no-nonsense approach by releasing or demoting several players early in the season.
''Sometimes you reflect back and wonder if that's the right decision that you should make,'' Gase said. ''In the next couple of weeks I'll probably go back and wonder if some of those decisions were right, wrong or indifferent. That's part of the offseason evaluation. I know there are a few things I wish I would've done different. That's the good part about going into the offseason - you learn everything you can from the previous season.''
For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve-Wine. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine