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Dolphins offseason goal: Get stronger, tougher, to play in AFC East

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Miami Dolphins braintrust has spent much time grinding on tape and discussing what went wrong in 2015 so that it can be corrected for 2016. And club executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum, at the Super Bowl for a couple of days on business, discussed with me where the organization sees itself and how to fix what is broken.

It starts at quarterback. I reported last week that new coach Adam Gase and his coaching staff were convinced Ryan Tannehill is their quarterback and are comfortable with him going forward. Tannenbaum confirmed that publicly, saying that is indeed the case.

"Yes, it is," Tannenbaum said. "It's good to get a fresh set of eyes on guys and the new staff, Clyde Christenson, Adam Gase are excited to work with Ryan and believe he has the attributes we've talked about: He's tough, he's smart, he can make all the throws. Obviously we hope he plays better as well as the whole team. As a team we were 6-10. But I think we're all excited about the future with Ryan."

Tannenbaum is at the Super Bowl but he recognizes his team is not. I asked him how close the Dolphins are to playing in one of these games and he quickly said the Dolphins' focus is on more immediate issues. Like getting better within the division.

"From where I see the world, I'm much more concerned about us making progress and going from there," Tannenbaum said. "I know this from all my years in the league, the difference between winning and losing is so small. With that said, we have a fresh start, a fresh opportunity, and we have to get better. It starts with our own guys. We have to get our guys better. We have to get stronger. We have to be better in the AFC East. We have to be more physical on both sides of the ball. But to say we're a year away or two years away from the Super Bowl, I can't control that. But what I can control is that we start getting better as soon as our players get players."

If the future is to get better, the Dolphins simply have to change their results in the AFC East. That is a major focus this offseason. Miami was 1-5 in games against division rivals New England, Buffalo and the New York Jets, having been swept by the Bills and Jets.

And so the team is about to undertake the assignment of changing those results by trying to get players who are stronger and tougher -- attributes.

I asked Tannenbaum if the Dolphins are going to be big players, small players or no players in free agency when it starts in March.

"I would say we're trying to be appropriate players," he said. "We're trying to get our own house in order. We have flexibility. Dawn Aponte who is negotiating most of the contracts, has done a good job of giving us flexibility. So we'll be appropriate. If there's the right opportunity to improve, I'm sure we'll be aggressive. But it'll be measured and it's about getting our own house in order first."

So what is Miami's philosophy going to be on the kind of players it will sign and draft this offseason?

"I think what [general manager] Chris [Grier], Adam and I have talked about is we want guys who are smart and tough," Tannenbaum said. "How do they help us in the division? Again, to go back, we were 1-5 in the division. We'll never get to where we want to go being 1-5. So we spend a lot of time talking about that.

And part of that discussion is how to fashion the Dolphins to beat New England, Buffalo and the Jets.

"It has to be a big part of the discussion, without question," Tannenbaum said. "Those teams are all big and physical. They all live, breathe and eat in the Northeast. They're tough. We have to start preparing for that right now. We have to get stronger. We have to be able to move people off the line of scrimmage. We have to pass protect much more consistently. If we don't do those things, we can't expect to have a different result."

If the Dolphins don't fix the defense, they cannot have a different result. The Dolphins D finished the season 19th in the NFL in points allowed. The 389 points Miami allowed in 2015 was the fifth most allowed by any defense in franchise history.

So it is pretty certain defense will addressed this offseason.

"We're going to have an opportunity to address some areas we feel need to be addressed and we're going to get some players back that were hurt last year and hopefully we're going to add to it and I think we can turn things around pretty quick," Tannenbaum said.