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AC In The AM: Opening The Mailbag

Posted Feb 10, 2016

It's time to open the mailbag and answer fans' questions in this column. I won't sidestep you and I won't stiff-arm you. So bring them on.

(Andy Cohen In the Morning – AC in the AM – will appear on Dolphins.com during the offseason as events warrant. You can also follow AC in the AM by Twitter at @acohenfins).

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Q. Andy, as we saw in the Super Bowl, defense wins championships, even with poor quarterback play. Who or what do we need to have a dominant defense? @Giaruse

AC: Hard to dispute your point after seeing what the Broncos did. The Dolphins need more difference-makers on defense. I’m talking about special players. See, there is a pretty good nucleus already here. You have Ndamukong Suh on the front end and Reshad Jones on the back end and that’s two huge pieces firmly in place. But they need more. Did you check out those cornerbacks on both Denver and Carolina? You cover like that and everyone on defense benefits. That should be a priority. So should a run-stuffing linebacker. The Dolphins truly aren’t that far away. That’s why this offseason is so important.

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Q. Now that he is eligible for next season, will Jason Taylor be the next Dolphins player inducted into the Hall of Fame? @jeromebarker2

AC: I certainly believe Taylor is deserving. Kevin Greene, a player with similar skills as Taylor, just got in. Not taking anything away from Greene, but he didn’t force 46 fumbles or score nine touchdowns as Taylor did. Jason Taylor was a dominant player for a long time. He was Player of the Year one season. I’m not going to tell you that he will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s going to get in at some point. Like those poor offensive linemen trying to block him, who’s going to stop him?

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Q. It is obvious pressure makes good quarterbacks play bad. What’s more important, protect Tannehill or get pass rushers? @kellerchris13

AC: Can I have both? Sorry, just being greedy. I would give protecting Tannehill a slight nod, but only very slight.

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Q. What makes Adam Gase different than the last three Dolphins head coaches with no head coaching experience? @sheldonbeddow

AC: First of all, every situation is completely different. You can’t put people under one “no head coaching experience” umbrella. Look at Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. He was never a head coach before taking over the Steelers. There are many more examples. It’s all about the person, not the other guy. Gase has taken an unusual path here. I like his pedigree. I like his mentors. I like the time he spent with Peyton Manning. I like the fact that so many rave about his smarts. With all of that on his side, he certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt.

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Q. Andy, do you think the ‘Phins will re-sign Lamar Miller? Really want him back. He could do great things with Gase. @Joe_Daddona

AC: I would like to see him back as well. But a lot depends on what the Dolphins do in the draft and free agency combined with which dollars makes most sense (trying to be cute). Some tough fiscal decisions lie ahead for this team. There is a balancing act that must take place. Miller will be a part of that. By now, the Dolphins have a clear picture on what he is capable of doing.

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Q. Andy, don’t you feel sorry for Mike Shula, not getting his Super Bowl ring with Carolina? @viviansdfan

AC: Sure I do. But remember two things: At least he made it that far and, with Cam Newton as quarterback, I like his chances to get there again.

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Q. What position group do you believe the Dolphins need to address the most heavily this offseason? @FinsAlex

AC: Alex, a lot depends on which current players are retained. Just looking at the roster that ended last season, I see a wide assortment of areas that need attention. In no particular order: Offensive guard, back-up offensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and safety. With so much going to change in a hurry, please write that down in pencil.

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Q. Andy, what do you make of Clyde Christensen, the new offensive coordinator? He seems to have a great resume. @phylisb37

AC: I was very impressed with Christensen in his introductory press conference. He seems firmly grounded and far more interested in helping this team than advancing his career. He will help Adam Gase big time. He will be an excellent resource. With Gase calling plays, a coach just like Christensen was exactly what he needed.

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Q. Andy, shoot us straight: how important will the 2016 season be for Ryan Tannehill? @bobbyrene20

AC: Crucial. Is that straight enough? This will be Tannehill’s fifth season. He took a nice step forward from 2013 to 2014, but was more inconsistent last season. Now he’s got Gase and Christensen working with him and you get the distinct feeling both believe Tannehill has what it takes to be a top-tier quarterback. Now he’s got to show it on the field. His time is now. And Tannehill would be the first to tell you that.

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Q. Andy, name two young players on the roster you expect big improvements from next season? @willierodgerstheman

AC: I’ll go with cornerback Tony Lippett and running back Jay Ajayi. His rookie season was a transition year for Lippett, moving from wide receiver at Michigan State to cornerback in the pros. But I saw signs of real progress late last season. This is a superb athlete and big for a cornerback. I like his chances. As for Ajayi, we literally saw bursts of what he can do when healthy last season. He’s got a nice upside. I’m anxious to see it.

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Q. I say focus on offense this offseason and set up Ryan Tannehill to succeed. Last chance. Worry about defense in 2017. @bb88dollar

AC: I respectfully disagree. The Dolphins need to focus on both sides of the ball, not just offense. Improve the defense, create turnovers, and suddenly Tannehill is in a far better position to succeed with a short field. One helps the other. The defense, as well as offense, must be addressed this offseason.

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Q. Andy, look into your crystal ball: What do you see for Cameron Wake next season? @hugefinsfan237

AC: I see double-digit sacks. I see a dominating player. Am I dreaming? I don’t think so. Cam Wake is an unusual player, an unusual person. His commitment level is off the charts. He is in incredible physical condition. I am well aware he turned 34 years old about a week ago and he’s coming off a torn Achilles. But I’ve seen players far less talented than Wake come back strong from that injury. I really believe he’ll do it.

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by our columnists and bloggers 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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