Things used to be different for the Miami Dolphins. They joined the NFL in 1970, hired the legendary Don Shula, won two Super Bowls and made 21 playoff appearances between then and 2001. If you started following professional football more recently, that all reads like ancient history. Bob Griese is just Brian's father, Dan Marino is one of those old guys on CBS and Jimmy Johnson is just another dude selling boner pills.
Since 2001, the Dolphins have made the playoffs. They had four head coaches, two interim head coaches and became the last stop of Bill Parcells' storied NFL career. This year, Miami committed to a turnaround, again. The Dolphins sacrificed short terms gains this year, eyeing a rebuilt franchise to fill the eventual void of a Brady-less AFC East.
Television cameras are currently documenting the Dolphins, giving fans with an HBO subscription an inside look at those efforts for "Hard Knocks" this season. To dig a little deeper and get a little more insight into the franchise, from the fans' view, we talked to Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider, SB Nation's Miami Dolphins blog.
Trading Brandon Marshall left the Dolphins thin at receiver. Has anyone emerged to take his place?
Davone Bess is clearly the top guy, and behind him there isn't much. Really, this team doesn't need someone to step up and become Brandon Marshall at this point. It needs someone to step up and catch a ball. Wide receiver, tight end, someone. Just catch a ball.
It seems like the situation at receiver could be a challenge for a rookie quarterback. Do anticipate that being a problem this year?
Absolutely. Tannehill will struggle, simply because the receivers aren't where they need to be. But, I also don't think all of the receivers the Dolphins will have this year are on the roster right now.
Will Daniel Thomas be in the mix for the offense this season, or will they be leaning on Reggie Bush as their primary weapon?
I think the coaches want to use Thomas more than he was used last year as he dealt with injuries. Bush is clearly the starter, but I think Thomas is going to be used inside the tackles and as the power back. He might not be a 1,000-yard rusher any time soon, but Thomas is going to have a role on this offense.
It seems like the Vontae Davis trade takes away an important part of the defense this season. What were your feelings about that move?
I understood it. Davis was not developing as the Dolphins had hoped. This is the second straight year he has reported to camp out of shape. He's shown up to a practice drunk. He's tried to fight Brandon Marshall. Davis is really a big kid, and he isn't maturing like Miami wanted. Maybe new scenery will help him. He's a great guy, and has enormous talent. But, he needs to mature. This week's episode showed how the trade went down, with the Colts calling Miami trying to get the deal, and I think it really was a matter of the Dolphins realizing they could cut their losses at this point, and get some decent value in return.
With a rookie quarterback, much of the focus outside Miami has been on the Dolphins offense. Give us a sense of how the defense looks.
The defense has struggled early this preseason, but came on strong last week. The secondary has been the weak area, and losing Davis won't help that, but overall, the defense should be able to step up.
I have to ask about "Hard Knocks." What's that been like as a Dolphins fan to see your team from that angle?
I have absolutely loved watching "Hard Knocks." It's amazing to see your team so intimately. There have been a few awkward moments, like the release of Chad Johnson or Wednesday's trade of Davis, but it really has been nice to see inside what has historically been a silent and stonewalled franchise.
Do you think that "Hard Knocks" has been a net positive for the Dolphins or a distraction?
I think it's a positive for the franchise. I think some of the players have not enjoyed it, just because some of the moments that shouldn't be seen are shown - like when tight end Michael Egnew was chastised by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. The next day, the media was all over Egnew to get his reactions. Some of the veterans have taken exception to situations like that. But, for the franchise as a whole, letting fans get some connection to them, especially after three losing seasons, has been a good thing.
In the spring, Dolphins' coaches were pretty clear that Ryan Tannehill would be the third quarterback on the depth chart. What changed?
From the beginning, the coaches said it would be an open competition, but were clearly giving the initial advantages to David Garrard and Matt Moore. Garrard was set to be the starter, then injured his knee. With Garrard out, Tannehill began splitting the reps with Moore on a 50/50 timeline -- and Tannehill won. Or, maybe it's better to say Moore lost, because he never claimed the spot as his own. I think the coaches fully meant to let Tannehill sit for at least the first part of this year, but there was no way to ignore the fact that Tannehill is coming along faster than anyone expected.
How successful can Tannehill be as a rookie? Do you think those are realistic expectations?
Tough question, simply because the Dolphins' wide receivers are still a mess. Tannehill has the talent to be a solid starter as a rookie -- he'll make some mistakes, but he will bounce back and play really well at times too -- but with the obvious lack of receivers who can actually hold on to a ball right now, Tannehill will have his work cut out for him.
As a fan, how do you feel about Tannehill's place in the future of the team?
I absolutely thought he was the right pick for the Dolphins back in April. I think starting him now, with Garrard injured, was the right decision. I was all for Garrard starting the year while Tannehill developed, but with Moore not outplaying the rookie, why not put Tannehill out there? As for his future, I really think he might be the guy to solidify the Dolphins' quarterback position for years to come. The team is clearly looking to build around him; hopefully he will be able to step up and become the franchise quarterback we have needed for so long.