Things you do not typically see around the Miami Dolphins happened this year, as General Manager Jeff Ireland and Head Coach Joe Philbin aggressively attacked the roster this offseason to completely overhaul the look of the team. Gone are former starters like Karlos Dansby, Jake Long, Davone Bess, and Sean Smith. Now, the team has names like Dannell Ellerbe, Tyson Clabo, Mike Wallace, and Jamar Taylor, having gotten younger and faster all over the field.
They also identified their needs, better pressure on opposing quarterbacks, fill the holes on the offensive line, add coverage in the secondary, and give second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill an upgraded arsenal. Then, they went out and filled those holes.
But, that does not mean the team is question mark free. Danny Tuccitto of Football Outsiders recently took a look at the AFC East for ESPN, determining the biggest remaining need for each team. Not surprisingly, Tuccitto pointed to the left side of the offensive line as the weakest area on Miami's roster. The team is starting second year tackle Jonathan Martin on the left this year, hoping he can grow into the position previously held by four time Pro Bowler Long. Martin took over the left side last season when Long was injured, and he played decently.
Of course, "decently" is not going to cut it when you are manning the position for the entire season, trying to protect the blind side of your quarterback. Martin is going to have to be good at least. He's moving back to the position he played throughout college, and will have an offseason training program for the first time in his NFL career (he was ineligible to participate in last year's program or OTAs because Stanford had not completed classes), so the ability to reach "good" should be there.
But, is the left side of the line the biggest question mark surrounding the Dolphins this year? Are there other areas that could rival Martin's ability at left tackle?
Of course there are.
Miami's offensive backfield clearly has questions. You could argue that Ryan Tannehill is the biggest question mark coming into his second season. However, the team is set with him as their starter, for better or worse, at this point, and most people seem to think it is going to be for the better.
Behind Tannehill, there are question marks as well. Will some combination of Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Gillislee, Jonas Gray, and Marcus Thigpen be able to replace Reggie Bush, who left this year for the Detroit Lions via free agency? Bush averaged over 1,000 yards rushing per year in his two seasons in Miami. Thomas, the most experienced of the rushers remaining on the Dolphins roster, has 906 yards total in his two seasons. Miller, the presumed front runner to start this season, has 250 yards on just 51 carries. That is an obvious question mark.
The defense is not immune to the questions, either. With Sean Smith leaving for the Kansas City Chiefs this year, Miami will likely have two new starting cornerbacks, one of them a rookie, in 2013. Brent Grimes, signed in free agency from the Atlanta Falcons, and Jamar Taylor, a second round pick in last month's draft, seem to be the front runners. Richard Marshall, who was a starting cornerback prior to being placed on injured reserve last year, is in the mix as well, with Nolan Carroll, Dimitri Patterson, Will Davis, Don Jones, RJ Stanford, DeAndre Presley, and Julian Posey all looking for roster spots. But, is that enough to shut down some of the prolific passers, like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the team will face this season?
Do any of those weigh higher in your mind than Martin on the left side? Vote and let us know your thoughts in the comments.