10 Reasons why the Miami Dolphins won’t stink as much as sports books think

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill last played for Miami in 2016. (AP Photo/Brad Penner)

I’m not a sports bettor, as evidenced by a recent venture to Las Vegas highlighted by a tribute performance to The Beatles in which circus-trained acrobats dazzled the crowd with incredible feats of athleticism.

It was really good.

Vegas does not think the Dolphins are going to be really good. In fact, Vegas thinks the Dolphins are going to stink in 2018.

Perhaps I am a sucker. When a line seems too good to be true, it usually is, and Vegas usually knows more than even the guy who covers a team on a daily basis.

There’s a sports book at The Mirage (that’s where The Beatles: LOVE can be seen) and there are also plenty of online wagering destinations, which all seem to have this in common: they hate the Dolphins.

It seems the folks in the desert feel Miami’s talent pool has dried up (see Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, and yes, The Jupiter Juggernaut, kicker Cody Parkey).

There are issues. Plenty of issues. But an over/under line of 5.5?

Hmmm. I’ll bite. If, you know, I was the wagering type.

It seems Miami is projected to win between 5.5 and 6.5 games this season, after winning 6 last season (with smokin’ Jay Cutler! at quarterback). It seems I have a different perspective on Miami’s roster building strategy.

Yes, Miami’s overall approach in free agency and the draft can be questioned. But did you notice that the power trio of Mike Tannenbaum-Chris Grier-Adam Gase made moves designed to win this year? We’re not talking a Super Bowl. We’re talking be a legitimate contender for the playoffs entering December. And I’m here to tell you that’s how I see it.

I’m here to give you 10 reasons for hope (hey, it’s May). And I’m here to say I believe Miami definitely, positively, absolutely, without question, without hesitation, with full conviction, will win — at least six games. More likely seven to nine.

But five-and-a-half???

We must begin this story of hope with references to 1. starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill and starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who return this season after missing all of last season with knee injuries.

How devastating is it to play without the men expected to wear the headsets, as Miami’s coaches on the field, before the season even begins? Tannehill is a polarizing figure in this town, which is hard to believe considering how vanilla his persona can seem.

But he can be good enough. There I said it. Again. Why can’t Tannehill be Matt Ryan-Kirk Cousins-Alex Smith-like? Why can’t Tannehill be worthy of Pro Bowl consideration? I know many of you are tired of hearing it. But what if, just maybe, you see it this season?

Tannehill is worth at least two or three wins over the 2017 version of Cutler. He just is.

Kenyan Drake is one of the NFL’s emerging backs. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dolphins need a star as Miami is a star-driven town, and there aren’t too many obvious ones on the roster at the moment. But I present 2. running back Kenyan Drake. What if I told you no running back in the NFL had more yards than Drake over the last five weeks of the season? None. What if I told you Drake had three rushing plays for 40-plus yards, which tied for the second-most in the NFL, despite starting just five games?

Miami dumped Pro Bowlers, especially Ajayi, Landry and Suh, in part, because they felt their leadership style wasn’t conducive to a winning atmosphere. Miami wanted to reconfigure its nucleus with players they feel bring a more team-oriented approach. Enter 3. Josh Sitton, Frank Gore and Danny Amendola.

All three players have won in the league. Sitton is still playing at a very high level, filling a long-suffering need at guard. Amendola is going to have a hard time justifying his salary, but he is a quality addition to the locker room. And Gore, a true professional, can help mentor Drake.

You’re going to claim blasphemy for raising 4. DeVante Parker at this moment. But Parker has turned a bit of a corner in his preparation, knowing this is truly a make-or-break season in his career, say those who know him best. We’ll see. But Parker has the ability. It’s never been about ability. And having Tannehill back will help him.

For years, Miami has been embarrassed by tight ends and has trotted out embarrassing performances by tight ends. Thus, Miami drafted 5. Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe to catch and block and 6. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker to blanket Rob Gronkowski and friends.

Those were very role-specific selections. And you may not agree with all of them. But they should help in this area.

In fact, for years, there have been outcries for a guard, a tight end and a linebacker or safety who can cover the tight end. If there are outcries about that this season, it won’t be because Miami didn’t try to address the concerns.

Robert Quinn can change the course of a game. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

We’re losing a bit of steam but we come to 7. Robert Quinn, the pass-rusher slyly acquired by Tannenbaum for a fourth-rounder. It can be argued that Quinn, if healthy, will generate more game-changing plays this season than Suh would have, if mostly by nature of his position.

No two players in recent NFL history have created more strip-sacks than Quinn and Cam Wake and the notion that they may be charging rookies like Josh Allen (Buffalo) and Sam Darnold (New York Jets) should foster some enthusiasm.

Remember that time Wake and Suh crunched former Jets quarterback Bryce Petty? Oh, sorry, forgot for a moment the Dolphins have signed Petty. We won’t bring up the backup quarterback situation here. Story for another day.

Tannehill has been quite effective throughout his career when protected, and so the decision to exercise 8. Ja’Wuan James’ fifth-year option, along with the expected development of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, gives Miami capable bookends. From a pure upside perspective, in fact, these former first-rounders have the ability to dominate at times. What if they do, far more often?

You might say we’re reaching when we talk about Miami’s 9. re-configured coaching staff, but Gase trusts offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains explicitly. And there are new voices for the receivers, running backs, offensive line, defensive line and defensive backs. And it should very much help defensive coordinator Matt Burke that this is his second season calling plays. It also helps that the club has loaded up on young defensive talent in the first three rounds of recent drafts.

This exercise nearly complete, I bring up reason 10. why I don’t think the Miami Dolphins fail to win at least six games this season. I say, for sure, at least seven games, all the way up to nine or 10.

The AFC isn’t very good. And Miami’s schedule isn’t as good as it was last season.

There are five or six hard games on the Dolphins schedule, but even if they were to lose all five, there are five or six games they should be favored, in my opinion, to win.

Vegas clearly doesn’t see it that way. Remember, I don’t bet on sports.

But I’m sure some do.

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What Adam Gase said Thursday before Patriots game

Adam Gase and the Dolphins face the New England Patriots. Again. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Here is some of what Adam Gase said Thursday:

• There were some stretches in the last meeting where execution was good offensively. It just wasn’t consistent. They can’t get behind to New England like they usually do.

• Facing quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t allow much room for error.

• The national television games have been against good opponents. They can’t allow things to snowball.

• The Patriots haven’t given up many points. So the Dolphins have to handle New England’s front. They do a great job game-planning.

• Kenyan Drake wanted to know if he ever became a starter, if he could still do kickoff teams. This is an example of his commitment to special teams.

• Drake has Matt Forte a bit in speed, but they are both versatile as receivers and inside and outside run.

• Damien Williams (shoulder) is not going to practice. Davon Godchaux (foot) has a chance to practice.

• Matt Moore is out this week. He was banged up pretty good. So David Fales is the backup.

• On Charles Harris the sacks aren’t as important as pass disruption. As long as he keeps doing that. No complaints on his rookie season.

• Jordan Phillips is bringing excellent emotion and leadership at the right time.

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Dolphins coach Adam Gase trusts WR DeVante Parker on health

DeVante Parker will decide his status for the Jets game. (AP)

DAVIE—Adam Gase saw it too many times as an assistant coach. A player would contend that his injury was significant enough to warrant missing time, and a coach wouldn’t believe him. All the incidents like that made him determined not to be that way when he got his chance.

During his time with the Dolphins, Gase has stuck by his philosophy that players should make the call on their own status. It’s been in question over the past few seasons whether wide receiver DeVante Parker should be trusted with that responsibility, but he’s proven over the past year or so that he’s got a high pain threshold.

“Yeah, that’s fact,” Gase said. “With what I saw him do last year, not a lot of guys would’ve played through what he had.”

Going into the Week 13 game at Baltimore last year, Parker was battling a back injury that the staff anticipated would keep him out multiple weeks. Instead, he decided to give it a shot that week and played 79 percent of the offensive snaps.

This is relevant now because Parker missed last weekend’s game with an ankle injury. He went down against Tennessee and hasn’t played or practiced since, and Gase was unsure whether he’d practice this afternoon.

That decision, as well as his status for Sunday’s game against the Jets, will be up to Parker.

“My philosophy has always been trust the player,” Gase said. “If he tells you he’s not right, believe him. Because I’ve been in too many situations when I was a younger coach where a guy is saying something’s wrong, and it’s not seen the same by the training staff or coaches.

“You observe that when you’re younger, and a lot of times the players are right. They want to be out there. A lot of these guys play through extreme pain and find a way to be productive on Sunday or be impactful. I’ve always believed that those guys want to be out there, so if they’re healthy enough to play, they will.”

Parker has 19 catches for a team-high 236 yards and a touchdown. Leonte Carroo started in his place last week.

[A meaningful moment between Adam Gase and Jarvis Landry after the Atlanta win]

[Rookie corner Cordrea Tankersley with some late heroics vs. Atlanta]

[Michael Thomas weighs in on bizarre botched punt]

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No regrets: Dolphins QB Jay Cutler happy despite rough start

Jay Cutler’s taken a beating this year. (AP)

DAVIE—Jay Cutler insists he’s having fun. It sure doesn’t look like it, but he keeps saying so.

He’s been taking a lot of hits, and his numbers through four games are pretty rough: 62.6 completion percentage (17th in the NFL), 176.5 yards per game (29th), three touchdowns, three interceptions and a 74.8 passer rating (30th).

Despite that, he’s still happy he came out of retirement to play for the Dolphins.

“I am, I am having fun,” he said after practice today. “It’s a really good locker room, a good coaching staff, great organization. They do anything under the sun to make you a successful football player.

“There’s a lot of bright sides of being here, and at the end of the day we’re 2-2. We’re still in a good position and we’ve got to feel good about that. We’ve just got to be more consistent. We’ve just got to go back to work, do everything the right way on and off the field, and if we keep doing that, it’s going to come together.”

The offense has been so poor (37 points in four games and a league-low average of 231.3 yards), that it’s easy to forget the Dolphins are .500. One problem for them, though, is that the first quarter of the season represented a relatively light set of opponents on this year’s schedule. The two opponents they beat are a combined 3-7.

Miami’s road gets much tougher starting this Sunday at Atlanta. Cutler sees that and senses some urgency for the offense to get things straightened out.

“Offensively, if we can’t get it together, it could go the other way pretty quickly,” he said. “But there’s a lot of football left. There’s a whole three quarters for us to go out there and figure things out and play better ball.”

As far as continuing to absorb this physical toll at 34, Cutler said his body is holding up well. That’s a good sign for the Dolphins after he spent most of the offseason doing little more than playing pickup basketball at Vanderbilt.

“I think not doing OTAs and not doing a lot of that other stuff, my body is still pretty fresh,” he said. “I think once you get above 30, those days, even though they’re kind of low impact, start adding up. Your body is so twisted up. So I feel good.”

[Adam Gase unwilling to explain why he isn’t allowing players to kneel for national anthem]

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How the Miami Dolphins compare to New England Patriots, at the moment

New England Patriots QB Tom Brady #12 in action against the Atlanta Falcons at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, February 5, 2017 in Houston, TX. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

There are free agents to be signed and players to be drafted. And yes, the Miami Dolphins say publicly they need to focus on what they’re doing and how they’re growing as an organization, not the Patriots. Or Bills. Or Jets.

OK. Really, or Patriots.

But how can you ignore a franchise that wins year after year and seems to add players of note, without giving up much, year after year?

The Patriots have already added Brandin Cooks, Stephon Gilmore, Dwayne Allen, Kona Ealey and Rex Burkhead and re-signed Dont’a Hightower, Duron Harmon and Alan Branch this off-season, moving draft choices and spending money, well, right after another Super Bowl win.

But the Dolphins are moving in the right direction, too. Will there come a moment (after Tom Brady’s retirement?) where Miami passes New England? Who knows. But here’s a look at how each team’s top talent ranks according to Pro Football Focus, at one moment in time, a few days into 2017 Free Agency.

These edges were determined by using the best average at each position among players expected to contribute significantly (at the moment). Any tie went to the team with the highest-ranked player.

Based solely on these Pro Football Focus ranking averages these are the positions each team has an edge in:

New England (6) — Quarterback, Offensive Line, Tight End, Linebacker, Cornerback, Safety

Miami (3) — Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive Line

Based solely on these Pro Football Focus rankings, here are the Top 10 (star-caliber) players for each team:

New England (5) — Tom Brady (1), Rob Gronkowski (2), Marcus Cannon (3), Devin McCourty (4), Malcolm Butler (7).

Miami (5) — Jay Ajayi (3), Ndamukong Suh (4), Reshad Jones (6), Jarvis Landry (9), , Cameron Wake (10).

POSITIONAL RANKINGS

QUARTERBACK (Edge: New England)

New England — Tom Brady (1)

Miami — Ryan Tannehill (15)

RUNNING BACK (Edge: Miami)

New England — James White (29)

Miami — Jay Ajayi (3)

WIDE RECEIVER (Edge: Miami)

New England — Julian Edelman (21); Brandin Cooks (28); Chris Hogan (63); Danny Amendola (65)

Miami — Jarvis Landry (9); DeVante Parker (26); Kenny Stills (53)

OFFENSIVE LINE (Edge: New England)

New England — Marcus Cannon (3); Shaq Mason (15); Nate Solder (19); David Andrews (22); Joe Thuney (46);

Miami — Ja’Wuan James (32); Laremy Tunsil (41); Ted Larsen (44); Mike Pouncey (UR);  Kraig Urbik (UR)

TIGHT END (Edge: New England)

New England — Rob Gronkowski (2); Dwayne Allen (41)

Miami — Anthony Fasano (15); Julius Thomas (28)

DEFENSIVE LINE (Edge: Miami)

New England — Alan Branch (25); Malcom Brown (31); Trey Flowers (31); Lawrence Guy (38); Shea McClellin (67); Kony Ealy (78); Rob Ninkovich (86)

Miami —Ndamukong Suh (4); Cameron Wake (10); William Hayes (17); Jordan Phillips (56); Andre Branch (70); Terrence Fede (UR)

LINEBACKER (Edge: New England)

New England — Dont’a Hightower (12); Kyle Van Noy (53); Elandon Roberts (54); Jonathan Freeny (UR)

Miami — Kiko Alonso (48); Lawrence Timmons (70); Neville Hewitt (75); Koa Misi (UR)

CORNERBACK (Edge: New England)

New England — Malcolm Butler (7, RFA); Eric Rowe (57); Stephon Gilmore (61); Justin Coleman (UR)

Miami —Byron Maxwell (11); Bobby McCain (68); Tony Lippett (75); Xavien Howard (78)

SAFETY (Edge: New England)

New England — Devin McCourty (4); Duron Harmon (54); Patrick Chung (82)

Miami — Reshad Jones (6); Michael Thomas (83); Nate Allen (UR)

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What Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday

Miami Dolphins' Cameron Wake smiles as he leaves the field after the Dolphins defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Getty Images)
Miami Dolphins’ Cameron Wake is a starter. No more role for Wake except: go play.

Here is some of what Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Thursday:

• The third down defense is good because there have been more third and longs.

• The tackling has improved and gap integrity on run defense.

• Neville Hewitt could give some time back to Jelani Jenkins, a linebacker feeling better.

• Using Bacarri Rambo at safety this week allows Michael Thomas to play more in the nickel and dime positions.

• Cam Wake is a starter now but his play count won’t go beyond 40 snaps a game. “Cam is back to being Cam.”

• Cam Wake “wants to be out there first, second and third down. It helps our defense.”

• Chris Culliver has had very serious injury. Not totally ready to play an NFL game.

• “We can be a good defense. We just have to play more consistently.”

• Bene Benwikere a few weeks away from playing.

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Miami Dolphins rookie OL Laremy Tunsil: 90 snaps, zero QB pressures

 

Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (67) in action against the New York Giants during an NFL preseason game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Brad Penner)
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil in action against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Brad Penner)

DAVIE – Miami Dolphins rookie offensive guard Laremy Tunsil has yet to allow a single quarterback pressure in 90 preseason snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, a web site that analyzes each snap and issues grades.

Tunsil has made improvements in his transition from left tackle, where he starred at Ole Miss.

“His mental game and the playbook,” veteran Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert told me are the areas in which Tunsil has shown the most growth. “He knows what he’s doing. All I tell him is ‘Know your plays. Know what you’re doing. Be dependable.'”

Tunsil, 6-foot-5, 316 pounds, has been humble since his arrival, understanding in part he will be displacing a veteran. Tunsil took the most offensive snaps for the Dolphins at Dallas and seems entrenched, meaning Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner or Jermon Bushrod should start at right guard.

According to PFF, “Tunsil’s first action (against the Giants) was not good, but he was far better when surrounded by the starters against the Cowboys.”

Dolphins coach Adam Gase has been candid in his assessment of Tunsil.

“I think he did a pretty good job,” Gase said. “We had a few things that we have to clean up with him. When you look at him, pass (protection) is not going to be something that’s he really going to really have an issue with. It’s just sometimes in the run game when you’re in different parts of the field, there’s different angles you have to take, sometimes you have to come off quicker on some of the double teams.”

Gase explained that Tunsil will learn to move to the second-level defender more quickly and anticipate faster through repetition.

“There’s going to be errors,” Gase said. “It just has to be a quick process. You make a mistake, you’ve got to move on. You can’t let it happen again.”

When I reached out to Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze today and asked what he thought Tunsil’s ceiling as a guard was, Freeze responded: “Man, that’s a tough one. Never thought of him as a guard at all. I still think you want your best pass protector at left tackle and he is the most talented I have ever seen at that.”

Everyone knows Tunsil’s long-term future is at left tackle. And if an unfortunate injury to Albert were to occur, Tunsil would likely slide over. But for now, Miami feels the best group of offensive linemen must include Albert at left tackle and Tunsil at guard, even if it’s a learning process for the youngster.

Tunsil said the calibre of player he’s facing at Dolphins practice is making him a better player.

“You’ve got (Ndamukong) Suh over there and you’ve got Mario (Williams) over there so you’re going against the best every day,” he said. “So I guess going against them is making the games pretty much easy.”

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How would you grade the Miami Dolphins’ late-round draft picks?

Jakeem Grant #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders runs after the catch against KJ Dillon #9 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first half during the game on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Jakeem Grant #11 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders runs after the catch against KJ Dillon #9 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first half during the game on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins made some interesting moves Friday night at the NFL Draft in Chicago, trading up to nab Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard in the second round and adding Alabama running back Kenyan Drake and wideout Leonte Carroo from Rutgers in the third. They may not be the prettiest of picks, but they got solid reviews from the experts for filling immediate roster needs.

On Saturday, the Fins were busy. They wheeled and dealed and ended up with a haul of Texas Tech WR Jakeem Grant and Penn State safety Jordan Lucas in the sixth round. Then, in the seventh, they added quarterback Brandon Doughty from Western Kentucky and tight end Thomas Duarte from UCLA.

But we’d rather hear from you. How would YOU grade the Miami Dolphins’ picks from Round 1 to 7? Vote in the graphic below.

[playbuzz-item url=”//www.playbuzz.com/adamhs10/nfl-draft-2016-grade-the-miami-dolphins-first-round-pick”]

Party like it’s 2007: Prince gave Miami best Super Bowl halftime ever

Prince performs during the Super Bowl halftime in Miami. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Prince performs during the Super Bowl halftime in Miami. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

There was one moment when nobody really cared if it was raining on Sun Life Stadium.

Prince had taken the stage for his halftime performance at the 2007 Super Bowl between the Colts and the Bears, and nobody else but The Artist himself had the power to literally make it rain on cue.

As Prince broke into his iconic song Purple Rain, it began raining again on the stadium — a night that changed the course of stadium history, for it was that downpour that ultimately inspired Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to cough up $450 million for the current renovations on the stadium for a canopy to help attract future Super Bowls.

Prince was found dead Thursday, but his legacy from that performance will never be forgotten.

Web sites including Billboard and CBS, in rankings published each January and February of the greatest halftime shows ever, judge that show No. 1.

Here’s what Billboard has to say:

“Long known for erotically-charged performances, Prince was a curious halftime choice only three years post-Nipplegate. While he did wield that purple, unpronounceable-symbol-shaped guitar in an unabashedly phallic way, the ecstatic genius of Prince’s performance was the way he actually played the instrument. The rocker powered through his own classics (1999, Let’s Go Crazy) and the classics of others (Proud Mary, All Along the Watchtower). But the explosive coda was Purple Rain, which had the stadium full of testosterone-pumped football fanatics waving their arms and howling in falsetto.”

CBS: “When it comes to putting on a show, no one can top Prince’s electric 2007 performance. … It quite literally began raining on the stadium crowd. The result — the funkiest and most epic halftime performance to date, and our personal favorite.”

That wasn’t the only show Prince gave South Florida that week. In addition to performing a concert at Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, he also appeared at the traditional news conference the NFL puts on for entertainers doing the national anthem and halftime shows on Super Bowl Sunday.

“We hope we don’t rock your ears too much,” Prince told reporters at the news conference.

Not only was that a harmless lie, but so was his assertion that he was going to field questions from reporters.

“When we were told by his people that Prince would show up but not speak, we looked at each other,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told reporters. “Then they said, ‘He’ll play.’ ”

Indeed, as soon as one reporter started to ask a question, Prince broke into the Chuck Berry classic Johnny B. Goode.

He somehow managed to cram a bit of funk, rock, pop and salsa into a 10-minute performance that had reporters rocking.

Reporters are usually a hard-to-please, borderline-grumpy group, but nobody seemed to care that Prince didn’t answer questions.

His music did.

 

Prince gives the media a preview of his show during the Super Bowl XLI halftime news conference. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)
Prince gives the media a preview of his show during the Super Bowl XLI halftime news conference. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images)