AC in the AM: Relieved To Be Talking Football Again

Posted Sep 13, 2017

I’ve always told people that football can be the ultimate escape. For three hours on a Sunday afternoon, you get to forget about your problems, put those work issues aside, let your mind filter everything out and instead focus on, in our case, the Miami Dolphins.

This week is a perfect example of how important a diversion the Dolphins can be.

All of us who live in South Florida and throughout the much of the south, whose lives were disrupted by an unwanted visitor named Irma, who continue to spend a good deal of time both hot and dark, can help use the Dolphins as a much needed remedy for the hurricane blues.

Hopefully I can assist some by talking football, by giving you reasons to let your mind wander away from power outages, flooded streets, downed trees and long, sticky nights. Irma? I’d rather center all my thoughts on two Jays, a Kiko and a DeVante.

The Dolphins are playing a football game this Sunday and, at least for those precious few hours, everything should seem right again. How nice will it be for all of us to escape back into the world of X’s and O’s and away from the gut-wrenching world of cones of uncertainty?

I know there remains disappointment, and rightfully so, that the Dolphins could not open their regular season last Sunday against Tampa Bay. But we all realize by now that it was unavoidable, that this past Sunday at 1 p.m. was no time to play a football game and that too much area wide preparation was going on in the days before to justify an earlier start time.

Adam Gase has made it clear that playing 16 straight weeks should not be an obstacle to success and that his players need to embrace and accept their current situation, just as the 1992 Dolphins did. I remember that 1992 team well. Also had the opener rescheduled because of a hurricane. Also played 16 straight weeks. Never wavered, finishing 11-5 and making it all the way to the AFC Championship game. Years later Don Shula would call those 1992 Dolphins “one of my favorites.”

So let’s move on, as best we can. The Dolphins are in Oxnard, California right now, preparing for their new season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. Owner Steve Ross, the class act that he is, flew the players, coaches and staff, as well as their families, to California last Friday. They had meetings Tuesday and begin practicing today.

You’ve got to believe, certainly after watching 30 teams open their season Thursday, Sunday and Monday, that the Dolphins are itching to get going. The game plan they were going to utilize against the Bucs has been filed away until the third week of November and now they are focused on the Chargers and a different set of challenges.

How are they going to stop Philip Rivers? How can they contain running back Melvin Gordon? Who’s going to match up against Keenan Allen? And I haven’t even gotten around to the Dolphins’ offense yet. We’ve got a few more days for that.

For now, let’s just focus on the Dolphins and five things I actually thought I could hear in the howling winds:

• One positive of opening the season with a bye is that the players got a chance to healthy up. Little summertime nicks had time to heal. Some of the more concerning injuries had another week to progress. A player like linebacker Rey Maualuga, trying to shed pounds after signing only a few weeks ago, had more time to work into shape.

• When we last left you, the roster had just reached the 53-man regular season limit, a new placekicker had arrived and, all told, about 40 percent of the players were first-timers with this organization. Bottom Line: This is clearly no longer last year’s team.

• Two starting spots have yet to be announced, at cornerback opposite Xavien Howard and at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh. It’s between veteran Byron Maxwell and newcomer Alterraun Verner at cornerback and Jordan Phillips and rookie Davon Godchaux at defensive tackle. I’m truthfully not sure it matters a whole lot which way Gase decides to go in either case. All four are going to play a lot, especially at those two depth-is-a-must positions.

• The offensive line is now set. The decision was made last week to go with Anthony Steen at left guard, the final piece of the puzzle. With Laremy Tunsil now at his natural left tackle position and Mike Pouncey back in the middle, the line has a chance to be upper echelon. The short-term challenge is continuing to build some continuity and chemistry over the next three practices. The long-term challenge is staying whole and healthy. Could mean so much to the success of this team.

• Yes, just a few days before finally playing a game that matters, we’re back talking football again. With so many of us still cleaning up the mess that Irma left, with power in some areas still in short supply and with the most forgettable of weekends still so prevalent in our thoughts, I’m sure there’s a whole lot of Dolphins’ fans more than ready for this regular season to begin.

And maybe, along with it, they’ll get a chance to exhale just a little.

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.