The Miami Dolphins open training camp today, with players reporting, getting into meetings, and taking physicals. Tomorrow, the team will hit the practice field for the first time. As we get read for training camp, here are five questions about the team that still need to be answered:
1. Can Ryan Tannehill take the next step?
This is going to be the season long question for the Dolphins, and it will absolutely determine how the season progresses. The front office has done a lot this year to add weapons to the offense, and it's now going to be up to Tannehill to use them. If he can progress as the team, and a lot of experts, believe he will, Miami should have a solid season, fighting for a playoff berth. If not, it could be a long year.
2. Will the defense find the necessary chemistry?
The Dolphins made a massive overhaul to their defense this year, allowing starters like Sean Smith, Karlos Dansby, and Kevin Burnett leave, while signing Brent Grimes, Dannell Ellerbe, and Philip Wheeler in their places. But, will the defense be able to add the chemistry needed for success? The players need to know who will be where, when in order to be able to cover effectively, as well as stop the run. The team has five preseason games this year; hopefully the team will be ready when the regular season starts - and that includes a defense that has the chemistry to be successful.
3. Can Lamar Miller carry the load?
This offseason has seen repeated comparisons of Miller to Clinton Portis. If the Dolphins have found a Portis like running back, they are going to have yet another weapon for the offense. However, Miller only has 51 carries at the NFL level. He did carry the ball over 200 times in 2011 for the Miami Hurricanes, which is likely how many carries he could see this year with the Dolphins, so he has the ability to be a feature back. He just has to hold up to the pounding that comes with that role in the NFL.
4. Will the offensive line be able to protect Tannehill?
The answer to question number one is very much dependent on this answer. The Dolphins' 2012 starting offensive line was Jonathan Martin, John Jerry, Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, and Jake Long. This year, Martin is now the left tackle, Tyson Clab was signed to man the hole Martin left on the right side, and the team has added Lance Louis with the intent he will challenge Jerry for the starting right guard position. The offensive line, much like the defense, needs time to build chemistry. They have to decide on the five starters early in camp so that the preseason games will give the line a chance to gel.
5. Who will be the team's kicker?
The Dolphins have a veteran kicker in Dan Carpenter and a rookie fifth round draft pick in Caleb Sturgis. It's the one real training camp battle right now, and it's one that will likely go through all of camp. In the end, unless he completely falls apart, the position should be Sturgis' to lose. Teams typically do not draft a kicker in the fifth round if they do not plan to keep him. Add in the fact that Carpenter's salary cap number ($3.02 million) is more than the value of all four years of Sturgis' rookie deal ($2.3 million), and the writing on the wall is there. Now, it's just a matter of watching to see if Sturgis is able to perform this preseason.
What else needs to be answered in training camp this year? Give us your top questions surrounding the Dolphins in the comments below.