SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN
What should we expect from the Dolphins this season? I asked nine network analysts to weigh in:
### ESPN’s Jon Gruden: “This is the year of the Dolphins, I think, in the AFC East… I like this team a lot because of the development of Ryan Tannehill. He has taken a real positive turn. I like watching him play the position. He takes care of the ball. He’s a threat to run a number of different kinds of plays. He’s not just a bubble screen, read option quarterback. He can drop back to pass. He can function in the pocket. He’s accurate. He’s gotten better throwing the football.
“The arsenal around him has improved. Not a lot of people know that Lamar Miller is a 1000 yard rusher. If Branden Albert can come back and Ja’Wuan James can continue to develop on the other side, with Mike Pouncey in the middle, this is a good offensive team. It’s balanced.
“[Defensively], this front four can rock you, man. These guys are really good rushing the passer. I just watched them against Atlanta and they can create a lot of problems with their schemes, with their energy. It’s going to come down to the secondary; how deep are they? Can they hold up?”
### CBS’ Phil Simms: “It’s hard to determine if they’re great or not. From watching their preseason games, it looks like about everything they’ve done is going to pay off – from [Ndamukong] Suh to the tight end. The draft turned out well. The offensive line looks better. Ryan Tannehill looks sharp. He looks more mature. He truly has gotten better every year. He’s physically throwing the ball better – more power; the accuracy was there.
“I think they’ll be part of this whole thing. I wasn’t sure, but I’ve been watching the preseason. I think the Miami Dolphins have a chance to be a pretty strong team this year.”
### CBS’ Bill Cowher: “For Miami, one of the greatest things is they’ve had a quiet preseason – no controversies whatsoever. DeVante Parker is going to be a very special receiver for them. Lamar Miller gives them some balance. Defensively, they have a chance to be very special. The last two years, December has been [a problem]. They are going to have to prove they can finish the deal.”
### NBC’s Cris Collinsworth: “They better be a fringe playoff team. It's time. They've got experience now with their quarterback position. They've added receivers assuming they're all healthy. I like their style of play. I like their offense. They have a certain bit of that Philadelphia edge to them.
“I can't wait to watch what Cameron Wake does with Ndamukong Suh on the inside and being able to attract blockers as well. DeVante Parker I thought was tremendous coming out. Lamar Miller is a fine player.
“Getting Branden Albert back will make a huge difference. They've got their offensive line back to the way it should be. They've got the players, but you still have to go beat New England. It's a defensive-loaded division. The pressure is on. This is it. No excuses. It's time. Joe Philbin - this is the team he put together. This is his quarterback. They're good enough to win right now.”
### Fox’s Jimmy Johnson: “They’re going to be better, but the Jets and Bills are going to get better, too. The four [AFC East] teams, it’s going to be a dog fight.”
“The thing I like about Tannehill is he’s very intelligent, very athletic and he gets better every year. I’ve always said give me smart players that are athletic, and they can improve. Obviously, people are concerned about the deep ball with him, but that can be worked on [and it has improved]. DeVante Parker is a big-play guy. In the NFL, you need big plays. You can’t dink and dunk. I like Jordan Cameron; health is the concern.
“Suh with Wake and the people they have; they will be disruptive defensively. Suh will make every player around him better. It’s going to be an interesting team.”
### NFL Net analyst and former NFL general manager Charley Casserly: “This is a playoff contender, better than the last two years. They still need Albert to solidify that offensive line; if he’s not healthy, they will struggle.
“The quarterback is in rhythm with what they’re doing offensively. I still don’t see him as a great deep passer. When I watched Tannehill last year, I saw a guy that had to make quicker decisions. They are getting the ball out of his hands quickly and the tempo is up; his decisions and accuracy are better.”
“Parker was a top 10 pick talent-wise; Amari Cooper was the smoothest receiver in the draft but I saw enough tape of Parker and Parker might pass him. This is a potential Pro Bowl guy. Greg Jennings looked fresher and better to me than I remember a year ago. We know what Jarvis Landry can do.
“The defensive line can be really good, but I’m still concerned about corner and safety. You have one real good corner, two good outside rushers and an inside rusher. They’ll be OK at linebacker; I like Koa Misi. I like Lamar Miller, but I don’t know if he can do it by himself.
“They have the ability to beat New England, which a lot of teams can’t say. They’re in that range of the [second] echelon; they have to learn to play consistently at the end of the season.”
### ESPN analyst and former NFL GM Bill Polian: “A wild card is realistic, but I don’t know about challenging New England. They have been a fringe playoff team for three years but they now have the same quarterback in the same system for a second year, and I’ve been a Tannehill fan since day one.
“There’s real talent offensively. I like Jordan Cameron, if healthy, and Landry. Suh is enough to elevate them significantly, and those three rushers are a very good group.”
### CBS’ Steve Beuerlein (who works Miami’s Week 2 game at Jacksonville): “They made the most significant improvement of any team in the offseason, and they’re a legitimate playoff team if they stay healthy and if Tannehill keeps improving. Not saying they’re a Super Bowl team, but they match up with any team in the AFC.”
### NFL Net’s Brian Billick: “They better be a playoff team, and they should be good enough to be one. It seems time for them. Remember, they are in a division with Geno Smith and uncertainty at quarterback in Buffalo. Looking at the way they have progressed, I don’t know how they would think of themselves as anything other than a playoff team.
“Tannehill is better than I thought he would be. It’s time for him to show he can throw a team on his back for the three or four games a year that a team needs its quarterback to do that.”
The good news: The first six quarterbacks the Dolphins will potentially face (Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Marcus Mariota and Brian Hoyer) are a combined 48-79.
The bad news: The last five they face (Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Tom Brady) are 495-263.
### Privately, several Marlins players have been very vocal --- with friends, teammates and others --- expressing displeasure with several factors: a belief, as two expressed, that the team still prioritizes saving money over winning (they cite the Marlins leaving Marcell Ozuna in the minors for nearly six weeks); disenchantment with Dan Jennings’ in-game decisions (lots of complaining about this); and trading veterans for Single A prospects (though that's understandable considering the Marlins' record).
One player said it’s time for Jeffrey Loria to sell; another loudly blasted management, using obscenities within earshot of reporters (and yes, management is aware of this). One former player threatened to sound a horn every time someone from Marlins management walked into the clubhouse. The irony is that Loria believed this would be one of the Marlins’ best clubhouses ever. But losing can sour a group.
### One might think that Jennings would be relieved after being told he wouldn’t remain as manager, considering it wasn’t his idea and considering the 40-58 record under his direction. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. He has spoken in recent weeks about how much he loves managing, how several opposing managers --- including the Cubs’ Joe Maddon and the Mets’ Terry Collins --- “shared some things to help me because they understand I’m a rookie.”
### One problem for Jennings in a potential return to GM: He has Loria’s ear less than he used to. According to a Marlins person, Loria is now listening to director of pro scouting Jeff McAvoy and assistant GM Mike Berger among others.
### Couple thoughts from UM's thoroughly predictable, lightning-delayed 45-0 blowout win against Bethune Cookman tonight, which featured 10-minute third and fourth quarters: We mentioned last week that UM planned to spread the field more, to get its weapons open in space, and to do that, the Hurricanes had Brad Kaaya operate out of the shotgun throughout the first half, usually with just one back behind him. Sometimes, UM went with an empty backfield.
UM put Kaaya under center for a couple plays in the second half, with two backs behind him, but it's clear Miami is incorporating more spread elements this season. This is how college football is played today, and credit Canes coaches for adapting... In 2 1/2 quarters, Kaaya closed 16 for 27 for 173 yards and TD throws to Rashawn Scott and Standish Dobard...
Mark Walton (10 carries, 85 yards so far) was terrific in his Canes debut... Good to see Scott come back strong (six catches, 100 years) after most of two seasons were wiped out by injury and off-field issues... Trayone Gray ran hard (eight carries, 77 yards).
Lots of defensive standouts: Rayshawn Jenkins and Artie Burns had interceptions; Marques Gayot had 1 1/2 sacks; Kendrick Norton and Corn Elder had one sack apiece, while Ufomba Kamalu and Trent Harris (who played very well) and Tyriq McCord each had half a sack. Elder, who said he has ruled out playing basketball at UM, had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown and a sack.
### Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, perhaps UM’s most coveted 2016 recruit, said he’s “really solid” to UM and threw up a “U” at a recent high school game. But he adds that he will visit Ohio State, Florida, FSU and Auburn “just to see my options. If anything looks better, than Miami then I’ll have to make a decision.” He also made clear he wants UM to keep Al Golden.
### Barring trades involving Mario Chalmers or Chris Andersen, forward James Ennis appears the only incumbent Heat player at risk of being cut, with his $845,059 salary becoming fully guaranteed on Oct. 28. Ennis, who disappointed the Heat in summer league, is fortunate that the Heat hasn’t used its roster spots on an established veteran who wants to be here (such as Rasual Butler, who expressed interest).
The Heat players who have been signed to spots 16 through 19 are viewed as D-League players, though forward Greg Whittington could challenge Ennis. If Ennis struggles in camp, the Heat will consider keeping the 15th roster spot open until something intriguing comes along. Former Georgetown center Joshua Smith, who has lost 20 pounds to get below 345, will audition for Miami this week.
The list of remaining veteran free agents includes Butler, Will Bynum, Carlos Boozer, Ben Gordon, Willie Green, Jordan Hamilton and Luke Ridnour.
### Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Micky Arison and Samuel L. Jackson celebrated Riley’s 20th Heat anniversary over dinner in Italy on Wednesday, and then Johnson declared on social media that the Heat has “put together a championship caliber team.”
### Please join me on Twitter (@flasportsbuzz), where we posted all Dolphins cuts today before they were announced.