Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins opened offseason team activities this week and even though you might need a depth chart to correctly identify all of the new faces, the team is excited about what the future holds.
“Yeah you know we’re still learning, but I’m excited about what I see from those guys,” said quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They’re all getting a grasp on the offense and we’re starting to get a lot of reps with each other, so (we’re going to) continue to work that to get better.”
Perhaps no Dolphins player will be under more pressure this year than Tannehill. The future of the franchise rests on his right arm and his decision making ability. He’s hoping to avoid the typical sophomore slump and said that things have slowed down for him this year.
“Last year at this time my head was spinning. I was just trying to figure out how things worked,” Tannehill said Tuesday. “So being in it a year, I am completely comfortable. Now I can go out and focus on all the little things that go into the game.”
Tannehill will be looking to build on a good, but unspectacular rookie campaign. Part of the problem Tannehill had last year was no real speed or game changers at the skill positions. So, general manager Jeff Ireland addressed that in a big way in the offseason.
Between signing wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, adding tight end Dustin Keller, and promoting running back Lamar Miller, the Fins have speed to burn across the field now. Wallace will be the focus of much of the passing game and he’s not lacking any confidence heading into the season.
“We can do anything, anything you go out there and work for,” Wallace said. “Everybody is going to work hard and come to work every day, and as long as we keep going in that direction, the sky is the limit.”
Another position that will be key for the Dolphins to take the next steps towards the postseason will be how left tackle Jonathan Martin fills the shoes of the recently departed Jake Long. Martin has reportedly hit the weights hard and looks like he’s ready to settle in at the anchor position on the offensive line.
“I think he’s getting back to what he played in college and he’s comfortable there,” Tannehill said. “He got to finish out the year there, and now he’s been working all offseason on that side, so I’m comfortable with him there and I think he’s comfortable as well.”
For his part, Keller said it’s going to take him a few weeks to get fully up to speed in the Fins’ offense, but that he is healthy and betting on a big year from himself and Tannehill.
“You would think that a guy who used to play wide receiver, the thing he would do best was run the ball, which he does well, but he puts the ball right on the money and he is a good decisions maker as well,” Keller said.
It’s not just the offense that will have new faces across the field. The Dolphins defense will have two new linebackers, a new rush defensive end, and a new starting cornerback. Free agent signee linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said while he’s in a new defense, he’s not worried about everyone being on the same page in a few weeks.
“It’s just the fun we have on defense. How the guys attack the day, how hard they work out and how hard they train, and just showing that they want to win,” Ellerbe said. “Speed too. This is the youngest defense I have ever been a part of.”
The Dolphins were without cornerback Jamar Taylor, who’s recovering from a hernia operation and defensive tackle Randy Starks who is the team’s franchise player, but wants a long-term deal. The Fins were also missing guard Lance Louis and left tackle Dallas Thomas who are rehabbing injuries.
Finally, the Dolphins’ first-round pick this year, defensive end Dion Jordan, was not in camp as NFL rules prevent him from joining the squad until Oregon’s classes end next month. Jordan is expected to step in immediately and give the Dolphins an added pass rush element on the outside of the defensive line.