A couple of weeks ago, amid the feel-good reflections of the offseason, guard Richie Incognito said the Dolphins had no questions. No, he wasn't suggesting the team is winning a championship in 2013. He was making the point he sees no obvious weaknesses or holes.
I suppose that could be fair.
Last year at this time, for example, we already knew the receiver corps was a problem. We already wondered about a rookie quarterback. We wondered where the sacks would come from if not from Cameron Wake.
Some of those issues have been addressed.
But are the Dolphins free of issues?
I'm not certain. (And neither can you be, by the way, because only a season of games will tell).
I can, however, present to you questions that will have to answered somehow in 2013. I'm not saying they're going to be problems. I'm simply marking them down in the uncertainty file.
Here we go:
Uncertainty 1: Will Ryan Tannehill be the QB everyone expects? Will he be a much-improved player from Year 1 to Year 2 or will the improvement -- assuming he makes some -- be more gradual? This is a big deal, by the way, because as Tannehill goes so will the Dolphins.
There's no doubt Tannehill is growing into his job.
"Last year at this time my head was spinning," he said. "I was just trying to figure out how things worked. I didn’t really know how the day went, how the offseason went, how practices went. So being in it a year, I am completely comfortable. Now I can go out and focus on all the little things that go into the game."
Now the question is will his play reflect his greater comfort level?
Uncertainty 2: Who is going to carry the running game? The question is obvious because Reggie Bush is gone and everyone who is left is unproven. The Dolphins love Lamar Miller. As I've written before, he is the heir apparent and is so talked within the team, owner Stephen Ross has mentioned him as a big playmaker for 2013. It's obvious someone internally has been telling Ross to expect big things from Miller.
But the Dolphins do have other choices. Daniel Thomas is a former second-round pick and he sees himself as the successor to Bush. He'll have to prove it. And he intends to prove it. So we have a competition building.
The darkhorse here is rookie Mike Gillislee. I keep hearing his name from club sources. There is an internal excitement about him. There is hope he can factor and perhaps even surprise everyone -- except you, of course, because I just told you what might occur.
Uncertainty 3: Health. Let's face it, the Dolphins are a skyscrapper of cards. Yes, they are looking like they can reach into the heavens. But they have a lot of fragile pieces. Brent Grimes, Richard Marshall, and Dustin Keller all had season-derailing injuries last season and are trying to stay healthy now. Can they? Rookies Dion Jordan (shoulder), Jamar Taylor (hernia), and Dallas Thomas (shoulder) all have injuries that are keeping them on the shelf until training camp the earliest. This issue deserves attention.
Uncertainty 4: Jonathan Martin as a left tackle. Yes, it's his job now. He succeeds Jake Long. And while Martin is expected to be healthier than Long, it is anyone's guess if he'll be any better. Indeed, Martin was no better in his stint as a left tackle last year toward the end of the year than Long was previously even though the veteran was constantly nicked. Perhaps that's the reason the team tried to re-sign Long and then flirted with both Brandon Albert and Bryant McKinnie as left tackle answers ahead of Martin.
This raises the question, 'How confident were the Dolphins in Martin?' Martin is a natural left tackle. He likes the position much more than he does the right side. Let's see if he plays like it.
Uncertainty 5: Can Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler live up to the hype? Both players have performed well as complementary players, players signed on the cheap, players stepping in for stars, players without any pressure.
But now both these guys are very, very, very highly paid. They were brought in to not only start but make big plays. They were brought in as upgrades. That's a far cry from what they're used to.
Wheeler, you'll remember, played for Oakland on a one-year, $700,000 contract last year. He signed a $26 million deal with Miami. He played well last year. Will be play 40 times better for the Dolphins now that he's making nearly 40 times the money?
Ellerbe was supposed to be the heir apparent for Ray Lewis in Baltimore. But the Ravens couldn't afford to keep him. He had very good moments in Baltimore. He had some bad moments in Baltimore, particularly earlier in his career. Will he be the playmaker that Karlos Dansby was supposed to be but really wasn't? Or instead of another Ray Lewis, will Ellerbe be more like Dansby?
Prove it time begins in a couple of months.