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ESPN pundits chime in on the Dolphins

The experts are chiming in on the Dolphins before the season begins. Las Vegas thinks the Dolphins over-under victory total this year is a pedestrian 8.5.

Other pundits, thankfully, have a bit higher opinion.

ESPN's Trent Dilfer is generally on board with the idea the Dolphins will be relevent as the season progresses into the early-January chase for playoff berths.

"I think they’re going to be pretty good," he said Wednesday. "I think they’re very well coached. I think the quarterback will play well – maybe not great – but he’ll play well. I think he’ll be manageable. I think the one thing the Dolphins will do nice with – especially with a veteran coaching staff – is they’ll manage the offense and personnel very well. They won’t give [Chad Henne] too much to handle. They obviously added a dynamic weapon on the outside with Brandon Marshall.

"Defensively, talking to some people there last year, they like the foundation of their defense. I think they know how to stop some of the big boys in that division and in that conference. I think the Dolphins are going to be one of those teams that’ll be in the mix the entire way. It’s really going to come down to they lost a couple close games last year and they’ll have to find out a way to win those tight games. All those teams that are kind of in the middle of the league and are borderline playoff teams, it’s going to come down to learning how to win. First you have to learn how not to lose. I think they’ve made that jump, and now it’s learning how to win these close games. If the Dolphins can do that – and they’re going to need a bunch of them – I can see them competing for the second spot in that division."

Tom Jackson is the elder statesmen of the ESPN analysts, as he's been at the network the longest. He also believes the Dolphins' success or failure will be tied to how they come out of close games.

"Well any team that’s fortunate to have [Bill Parcells] understands that you’re going to be a pretty sound football team. Everything right now has pretty much gone as planned. Chad may have been thrown in a little sooner than expected with Pennington’s injury but the plan was for him to come in and be the starter. I think they have an outstanding running game. I’m still old school enough to believe in that, so Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams with the Wildcat. I think they’re the only team that – they run the Wildcat differently than everybody else. You only need to look at the numbers t understand how effective and efficient they are with it. I actually had coach Parcells draw this thing up week in and week out when he was with us, and I would tell him it wouldn’t work and he would tell me it would. And when it was finally unleashed, I saw that he might know a little more about 1930s single wing and double wing than I did.

"They do have a dynamic weapon. I think they have some secondary weapons as well, but might be in as tough a division as there is in football. They lost a couple outstanding pass rushers on the outside. They got to figure out how to get in and get after the quarterback. It is key for them. Chad Henne has to come along. He has to develop a little quicker than he’d like to. But I will say this, he will be helped along by coach [Tony] Sparano and a very sound game plan at running the football. Any team that has Parcells even as a consultant will do the small things well. They’re not going to shoot themselves in the foot that much. At the end of those games – down by 2, up by 3, and chance to win – I don’t have every answer, but I’ll be very interested to see how many of those games they can walk away with."

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