Dolphins coach Adam Gase more confident than ever that he’s got a winning roster

Kenny Stills and the Dolphins’ offense are looking to snap back from a low-scoring 2017 season. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — Dolphins coach Adam Gase emerged from free agency defiant amid widespread criticism of the team’s offseason and claimed he had a winning roster.

Miami had just finished unloading Mike Pouncey, Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry, as well as their massive salaries, and didn’t make any flashy signings to replace them. Still, particularly on offense, this group of personnel was closest to what Gase envisioned when he took the job in January 2016.

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He’s had a while, including the last four weeks of offseason practices, to reevaluate whether he was right about that and he’s now more confident than ever. Watching Ryan Tannehill work behind a remodeled offensive line with several new skill players confirmed for Gase that his offense is on track for a big comeback this season.

“I think so,” he said. “I see a lot of the guys doing things the way we need them done. I like the way that we’re handling the mental game of it as well. Things are moving fast. We’re reacting very quickly.

“Really, it’s going to come down to how we handle training camp when it starts to get hot (and) the preseason games. You’re always going to have an injury. Who’s going to step up and fill those voids? We’ve still got a long ways to go. The season is a long ways away. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us and we’ll just keep grinding.”

Tannehill is the biggest difference, taking command and making plays that were simply beyond the capacity of Jay Cutler and Matt Moore. Nothing makes Gase more confident than that.

While those outside the building have always had doubts about Tannehill, who has yet to produce an above-average season since being picked No. 8 overall in 2012, Gase has been unwavering in his belief that this is a winning quarterback.

He immediately bought into Tannehill’s ability as a dual-threat playmaker and thought all he needed was to be emboldened by a coach who pushed him into being more of a leader. He appears to have adopted some of Gase’s personality, and his past year and a half on the sideline made him fully fluent in Gase’s system as well.

Watching him operate that offense over the last four weeks heightened Gase’s optimism about the upcoming season.

“He’s gotten better,” he said of Tannehill. “We’ve been working (on) a lot of pocket movement things and getting him comfortable in that aspect. It doesn’t seem like he’s really changed much as far as worrying about bodies around him. He’s out there playing. He’s throwing the ball well. You can tell he’s spent a lot of time with these skill guys in the offseason.”

Almost everyone Tannehill will be throwing to is new to him. Among the main pass-catchers, only receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker were playing a significant role in the offense when Tannehill went down in 2016.

He worked frequently with Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, A.J. Derby and rookie tight end Mike Gesicki in player-run passing sessions this offseason.

“I feel right now that we legitimately have two groups of receivers that can play at a high level for us,” Tannehill said. “So if we want to sub somebody out and keep fresh legs in there, or if someone goes down, I don’t feel like there’s really going to be much of a drop off.”

Amendola and Wilson were both as good in Organized Team Activities as Gase anticipated, and Gesicki was a breath of fresh air at a position that’s hurt Miami for a long time. That said, there’s no certainty they’ll be able to perform like that against live defenses.

Is Wilson prepared to be used all over the field? Is Amendola going to be another overpriced, past-his-prime signing like Julius Thomas, Lawrence Timmons and Mario Williams? Are there ever any certainties when it comes to rookies?

Kenyan Drake has to prove himself as a versatile, every-down running back, something hasn’t done as a collegian or pro. Even if Drake thrives in that role, the Dolphins still need something out of 35-year-old Frank Gore or fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage (preferably both of them).

On the o-line, San Francisco castoff Daniel Kilgore takes over for Pouncey, Jesse Davis is a new starter at right guard and Laremy Tunsil looks to rebound from a frustrating season in which he was beaten or blocked the wrong man too many times.

And that’s just the offense.

With more than a month between now and training camp, and another month-plus until the season begins, Gase isn’t fretting over any of those things. For now, he likes what he sees.

“We’re gelling pretty good,” he said. “They like to practice against each other, they like playing together. You can tell there’s a lot of energy out there. I think that’s really one of the things that’s going to be improvement for us. We kind of lost that a little bit last year. This year we’re looking like we’re headed in the right direction.”

[Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil moves past ‘horrible taste’ of last season, poised for comeback]

[Who wins a race between Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Kenny Stills?]

[Marjory Stoneman Douglas football team visits Dolphins practice]

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‘Crazy week’: In a snap, center Daniel Kilgore leaves 49ers, joins Miami Dolphins

Daniel Kilgore of the San Francisco 49ers walks off after a game against the Chicago Bears. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Daniel Kilgore had started the past 32 games at center for the San Francisco 49ers.

He signed a three-year, $11.8 million extension a month ago.

There’s no such thing as job security in the NFL, but Kilgore’s situation came about as close to it as you can get.

Today, he’s a Miami Dolphin.

“It’s been a crazy week,” he said Friday. “A month ago when I signed the extension, I never dreamed about being in this position.”

Mike Pouncey didn’t expect to be a free agent, either, but after he declined to take a pay cut, he and the Dolphins parted ways. As that was going down, former New York Giant Weston Richburg was joining the 49ers. So the 49ers traded Kilgore, 30, even though coach Kyle Shanahan told, “This situation with Dan was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through as a coach. I’ve got the utmost respect for Dan.”

Kilgore, who is 6-feet-3 and 308 pounds, said he’s not upset.

“I did want to stay there,” he said. “Ultimately I had the goal of starting my career there and then finishing my career there. That obviously is not going to happen, but I’ve been fortunate enough that I was there for seven seasons and I’ve seen it all — playing in the Super Bowl and having down seasons.

“This happening, I don’t regret it. This is a new chapter for my family and I. I think the change will be good. As far as how they handled it, I appreciate how Kyle and (GM) John Lynch got me in a position where I can be successful. They could have traded me anywhere but I think they did the right thing by putting me in a position that they know I can be successful, and putting me with a staff that loves the game and that are good people.”

Kilgore was pleased with his initial meeting with coach Adam Gase.

“Meeting with him today was very casual and being ourselves, being just another guy in the room,” Kilgore said. “I think from his record, and track record and guys that have been around the league for a while, they love him. I’m sure with all of those guys that love him, I’ll do the same.”

[Landry, in Cleveland, denies rift with Adam Gase]

[Dolphins’ problems were much more about money than culture]

[Dolphins S Reshad Jones restructures his contract to give team flexibility]

[Cleveland Browns look closer to the playoffs than Miami Dolphins]

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With Mike Pouncey’s release, Dolphins enter full slash-and-burn rebuild

Mike Pouncey is done after seven seasons with Miami. (Bill Ingram/The Post)

The Dolphins have fully entered rebuilding mode.

Their offseason unloading now includes longtime center Mike Pouncey, who is being released after refusing to take a pay cut at 28 years old when he believes he’s still in the prime of his career.

Even after dispatching Jarvis Landry to Cleveland and getting out of a massive financial obligation to Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins still looked like they were trying to fill a few holes and make what they could out of what’s left. This creates a new hole, an enormous one, and the related trade for 49ers center Daniel Kilgore might not be enough to patch it.

Pouncey has been the best offensive lineman on the team for at least the last two seasons and was thought to be a pillar of what would be a revamped o-line. Now he’s a free agent, saving the Dolphins $7 million and salary cap space and a little over $17 million in salary that was earmarked for him in 2019 and ’20.

Pouncey’s played 93 games since Miami picked him No. 15 overall in 2011, making him the highest-drafted center of all time. He’s had at least three known hip surgeries. He’s made the Pro Bowl three times. But the numbers that end in millions are the ones that matter most.

There’s no hiding it anymore. This is a slash-and-burn offseason for the Miami Dolphins.

And teams usually aren’t very good the season after they dump this much talent.

The Dolphins were an inch away here or there from being a 3-13 team last season, and that feels like where they’re headed unless a lot of pieces unexpectedly come together in a way that’s difficult to envision today.

Maybe it’s not so bad, though. It’s going to be brutal to endure this fall, but it’s probably what’s best for the franchise at this point.

This is a departure from wandering aimlessly through the mediocre territory of going 7-9, or something like it, every year. It’s the textbook plan for a rebuild: Clear the books and pile up draft picks.

That’s how teams across sports are doing it, and it’s preferable over the delusion of the Dolphins convincing themselves they’re only a player or two away from contending.

They went 10-6 in Adam Gase’s first season as head coach, making the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but even that felt like a mirage. Gase inherited a team that had won between six and eight games for seven consecutive years, and what he was working with in 2016 wasn’t all that much better.

Of the Dolphins’ 10 wins that season, seven came against teams that went 5-11 or worse. Six of those were one-score games.

Last year was similar, winning on a missed field goal in the opener and rarely looking legitimately impressive outside of a second-half rally in Atlanta and the Monday Night Football stunner against the Patriots. They’ll always have that one.

Rather than keep that group intact after going 16-17 the last two years, counting the time Pittsburgh dismantled them in the playoffs, the Dolphins are blowing it up. No reason to cling to that. This is the right course. The big question now is whether vice president Mike Tannenbaum, general manager Chris Grier and Gase are capable of such large-scale reconstruction.

Everything from here on out will be about setting the team up for 2019, at the earliest, and filling in a few spots to arrive at something resembling a passable starting lineup. They signed four-time Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton today, too, which is a strong and expensive addition, but wisely is only a two-year deal that won’t infringe on any future plans.

That’s the strategy now, and there’s no denying it.

[Dolphins’ problems were much more about money than culture]

[Dolphins S Reshad Jones restructures his contract to give team flexibility]

[Cleveland Browns look closer to the playoffs than Miami Dolphins]

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