Be sure to follow Andy Cohen on Twitter at @ACohenFins.
This is an important summer for the Miami Dolphins. There is no use sugarcoating it. Answers must come. Progress must be made. Holes must be filled. An entire football team must grow as one. It is a formidable task, yet it is clearly attainable. But there is no time to waste. Not with the stakes so high. Not with the New England Patriots coming to town on the first Sunday of September.
Training camp begins at 8 a.m. sharp on Friday. Yes, we can finally put the 2013 season behind us. The record is no longer 8-8. It is instead 0-0. The slate is clean; the challenges are clear. As Ryan Tannehill so aptly put it midway through the offseason: “This is a big year for me, a big year for this football team.”
And it starts with training camp, with a football team transitioning into a new-look offense, with an offensive line that could very well have five new starters against the Patriots, with a quarterback striving to reach another level and with enough new faces to make this as competitive a summer as we’ve seen in these parts in a long, long time.
People ask me all the time for a prediction on the 2014 Dolphins season. Is this the year they get back to the playoffs? Do they have enough important pieces in place to challenge for the AFC East title? Are far too many seasons of 7-9 and 8-8 records now a thing of the past?
I answer all the questions the same way: Let’s see what happens in training camp.
See, there is no way to predict what will transpire over the next six weeks. There are just too many unknowns, too many pieces that must come together.
Sure, I believe this is the most talent Joe Philbin has had in his three seasons here.
I believe that Ryan Tannehill will be a better quarterback with two full seasons on his resume. The question: How much better?
I believe the new offensive line has a significant upside, even while waiting for Mike Pouncey to return from hip surgery.
I believe that the defense has added some intriguing pieces and, with the switch of Koa Misi inside, should be more proficient against the run.
I believe that all the shifts and sets and formations and hurry-up mentality introduced by new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will make a significant difference, especially for a player like Mike Wallace.
But it isn’t what I believe that matters at this precise moment; it is what we see. It is how this team progresses, whether it can stay healthy, whether the right chemistry is in place and whether Philbin and his staff have enough time in the day to put all of this together.
From a running back (Knowshon Moreno) trying to return from arthroscopic knee surgery to a veteran cornerback (Cortland Finnegan) trying to re-start his career to a pair of rookie linemen (Ja’Wuan James and Billy Turner) trying to crack the starting lineup, this training camp is filled with a smorgasbord of storylines and subplots. I’m as anxious as you are to see how they unfold.
With the Patriots first in line on this 16-game marathon, there is certainly a clear sense of urgency as camp begins. Put simply, if the Dolphins are going to win in September, they had better accomplish an awful lot in late July and August.
That’s the backdrop we take into Friday morning’s practice and all the practices that follow. Indeed, there is real reason for hope, but that hope is tempered by a plate that is overflowing with uncertainty.
Training Camp 2014 is finally here. It is time to get those answers.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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