This isn’t what an NFL offseason is supposed to feel like.
The doldrums of football being out of season typically resemble hibernation for an NFL franchise. A time to recharge the batters. To take a backseat to other leagues and other sports for nearly six months.
Sure, a big signing or a trade can catapult a team back into the spotlight. And the NFL has the entire sporting world’s attention for one weekend in April – the spectacle that is the league’s rookie draft. But brief stints of news and topics to discuss are usually followed by long hiatuses without either.
Unless, of course, you’re the Miami Dolphins.
Over a decade of mediocrity has translated to the Dolphins being an afterthought. Not only around the league, but increasingly in South Florida. That changed this offseason, though, when the franchise provided the league and fans with one storyline after another.
Controversy was the original tune. CEO Mike Dee and the Dolphins revealed that the team would be undergoing a bit of a makeover with a new logo and new uniforms. Traditionalists shrieked. Tough guys demanded that a scary, intimidating dolphin replace the 1997 depicted cartoon.
When the final product was leaked, virtually no one was satisfied. But that can be expected with change. And as we inch closer to football season, more and more fans appear to be warming up to the new look.
If you hate the new posture, no helmet, and lack of an intimidating presence the new mammal features, you probably don’t hate the new uniforms nearly as much. Gone are the shadow-text numbers and cursive font. In is a new, sleek look that is set to usher in a revived Dolphins era in style.
But while passionate fans value appearance, winning is the only thing that really matters.
And the Dolphins’ remodeled brand pales in comparison to the makeover the team’s roster had in free agency and the draft. Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross issued a combined $250 million on new contracts. General manager Jeff Ireland added weapons for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, renovated an aging linebacking corps, and patched up holes along the offensive line and in the secondary.
But praise for free-agency champions is dwindling by the year as one big spender after another have suffered the fate of falling considerably short of expectations. Building a team through the draft is widely thought to trump overspending for veterans on the open market. The Dolphins had the firepower to do both.
With five picks in the draft’s first three rounds, Ireland positioned the Dolphins to continue loading up on young, promising talent. And he may have pulled off the steal of the draft by moving up the third overall pick to nab the top pass rusher of the class in Dion Jordan for only a swap of firsts and a second-round selection.
Of course, this offseason wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Dolphins. A stadium renovation effort that was spurned by the Florida House put a damper on things. South Florida no longer has a shoe in the Super Bowl rotation and franchise relocation threats have followed.
But it’s far from panic time on that front. It is time to begin thinking about real football. But it’s difficult not to reflect on what a momentous offseason it was.
The Dolphins spoiled their fanbase this offseason. The franchise’s activity wasn’t always met with consensus approval, but the team being irrelevant was no longer a complaint.
And so a wild offseason comes to a head this week as the Dolphins hold mandatory minicamp. It will go down as an offseason that will shape the franchise’s future for better or for worse for years into the foreseeable future.
Will the new look team have success? Or will it be new players in new digs but the same old Dolphins? Only time will tell.
Here are some things to monitor this week at minicamp (the Dolphins will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in front of the media):
Randy Starks’ situation
The Dolphins’ Pro Bowl defensive tackle sat out OTAs because he wants a long-term deal. But he has maintained that he will be present for required practices. And he better or he’ll be subject to thousands of dollars in fines.
Starks returning to the field is interesting because it’s uncertain what that means for Jared Odrick. Odrick, a defensive end, has moved inside to tackle to replace Starks. We’ll find out tomorrow if Odrick stays inside or gets kicked back out to end.
Where is the competition?
Competition was expected to be a major theme this summer. But there didn’t appear to be much of it going on during OTAs. Typically players in an open competition rotate back in forth with the first team. That hasn’t happened in the practices that have been open to the media thus far, but that could change this week with three days of work.
Second-round pick Jamar Taylor will reportedly miss the week of practice as he continues to recover from sports hernia surgery. So we won’t see Richard Marshall’s starting job at corner threatened until training camp.
Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, and Mike Gillislee are said to be competing for starting running back. But Miller appears well ahead of his competition and has held the majority of reps with the first team so far.
John Jerry and free-agent signee Lance Louis are expected to compete at right guard. But Louis is still recovering from the ACL he tore last season and it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready to challenge Jerry until at least training camp.
Kicker may be the only position we see a legitimate battle go down this week. Riveting, I know. Dan Carpenter will try to fend off fifth-round pick Caleb Sturgis. Carpenter has been a solid kicker in Miami, but he had an inconsistent 2012 season and going with the rookie Sturgis would save the Dolphins money.
As always, spotlight will be on Tannehill and his new weapons
These are important practices for Ryan Tannehill as he develops chemistry with his new arsenal of weapons. Tannehill is expected to make significant strides in his second season under center. Fans would be thrilled to hear reports of him tearing it up this week and frequently connecting with the likes of Mike Wallace, Dustin Keller, and Brandon Gibson.