Well, folks, in just nine days the regular season begins, and somehow there is a different feel to this team, a different tone than we've seen in years past. All of Dolphin Nation awaits the September 10 regular season opener, at home against Tampa Bay, with an odd mixture of anticipation and trepidation.
Will the patchwork offensive line hold up well enough to keep Jay Cutler in the starting lineup all season? Will the defense be able to stop anybody? Will the team stay healthy enough to avoid having to sign guys off the street at mid season? We don't know. Here's what we do know, however: this is going to be an exciting team to watch, and at the end of the day, this is still entertainment, or is supposed to be. The Dolphins' cardinal sin under Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin was not necessarily that they didn't win. It was that they didn't win and also were a boring team to watch. We can laugh about it now, but go to YouTube and look for an entry entitled 'Tony Sparano Loves Field Goals'. It's hilarious; the special teams unit scores three points from inside the fifteen yard line and he's exhorting the players as if they'd just scored a touchdown from eighty yards away.
We won't be seeing much of that from this year’s edition of the Dolphins; the team has the makings of what could potentially be an offensive team that ranks in the top six or seven in the league at the end of the year. I'll probably take some heat from the 'Ryan-Tannehill-Can-Do-No-Wrong' crowd, but I'm excited about what Cutler might be able to do with the arsenal he has to work with at the skill positions. Preseason or not, that 72 yard catch and run by DeVante Parker against the Eagles was a thing of beauty. Two things impressed me about that play. Number one, no knock against Tannehill, but Jay is going rifle the ball in there whether the receiver is covered or not. It's what he did in Denver and Chicago and it's what he'll do here. He threw it out there and let Parker simply out jump the defensive back for the ball. Did you see the way he spun around in the air as he made the catch, landing on his feet already facing the goal line, so that he could take off immediately and run an extra thirty yards or so before finally being dragged down inside the five? That midair pirouette he pulled off would have made Baryshnikov proud. There aren't too many receivers I've seen in the past twenty years or so, who've made a move like that one, other than Jerry Rice in his prime.
They still have three very capable running backs, in Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, as well as perhaps the best blocking tight end in all of football, in Anthony Fasano, so the team should fare better at closing out games and in bad weather than they have previously. The defense? Well . . . let's be kind, and just say that it's a work in progress. To be sure, they haven't looked very good thus far; let's hope they can tighten up soon. If they can tighten up before the Buccaneers come to town in Week One, that would be a welcome revelation. I guarantee you that game is going to be a shootout. If anybody is looking for 13-10 type score, we respectfully suggest that you tune in to a different broadcast. I expect to see 50-60 points scored between the two teams. That one is going to be a barn burner. When Miami signed Cutler three weeks ago, the narrative was that the defense would have to hold the fort during the first month of the regular season while the offense found it's rhythm, but it's increasingly looking like the reverse is going to be the case. If Cutler and Co. don't come out smoking and score enough points while controlling the clock, the defense could find itself incriminated and the team, incinerated, by opposing offenses.
Win, lose or draw, the 2017 Miami Dolphins are going to be an exciting team to watch, and figure to be one of the highest draws in the NFL by the end of the year, in terms of advertising. You can already see the effect that Cutler has had, bringing some new people from around the country to The Phinsider. Yeah, he'll make some throws that will have you wanting to throw something at your television set, but he gives the home crowd their money's worth. Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be an amazing season.