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AC in the AM: Time To Answer Your Questions

Posted Aug 30, 2017

With only one preseason game left, with roster cuts looming and with the season opener just two Sundays away, it’s time to see what’s on your mind and I promise, even when I get it right, there’ll be no penalties for an excessive celebration.

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AC: An excellent chance. Can I be any more blunt than that? The Bucs clearly are not the Bucs of old, and they probably have as much as talent as they’ve had in years. But the Dolphins made the playoffs last season for a reason and they understand the importance of starting strong after a 1-4 start a season ago. I fully expect that strong start to happen.

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AC: Wouldn’t be at all surprised. Everything he did last season was well earned. He didn’t back into anything, certainly not those 200-yard games. When I asked him recently if he’s got some more of those in his system, he responded: “Why not.” And that’s my response as well: Why not?

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AC: I don’t think they are underrated because I believe they both received the respect and the credit they deserve for what happened last season. It is clear by talking to people around the league that the widespread feeling is that this organization is now heading in the right direction. You also need to give credit to Mike Tannenbaum, Executive VP of Football Operations, for his role in this turnaround.

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AC: Because the process of him getting in real playing shape had to start at some point and it couldn’t start until he signed. The Dolphins knew what they were getting and understood that Maualuga had some work ahead of him. You can even look at it a different way: He was practicing after only one week, which tells you he wasn’t that far away.

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AC: Like your optimism. The reality is that everything is wide open. The Dolphins have made no commitment to Cutler for more than one year, but that doesn’t mean things won’t change. If he plays well, and wants to come back, I’m sure it’s a problem the Dolphins wouldn’t mind having. Right now things are trending well. Cutler really seems to have embraced his return to football. But it’s a long season. Let’s see how things unfold.

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AC: It’s a little too early to make that judgment. The statistics and the won-loss record should answer that question for you. But what I can tell you right now is that they are entirely different players: Cutler relying more on his pure arm strength and penchant for airing it out; Tannehill relying more on his athleticism and short to mid-range passing game. I can also tell you this: It’s a credit to the Dolphins that they were even able to get Cutler on such short notice and the fact that we’re even having this discussion only underscores their good fortune.

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AC: I know that Adam Gase couldn’t have been more clear when asked about it earlier this week: “No chance we’re going to trade you,” Gase said he told Landry. Last I checked, no chance means it won’t happen and that’s exactly the way I see it as well. Landry is too valuable to this team, both as a playmaker and a leader, to be traded. I understand he is due for a nice payday and there is a salary cap to contend with, not to mention the luxury of having some other quality receivers around him. But you don’t reach the playoffs on a regular basis by trading away your best players in the prime of their careers. Landry is a keeper.

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AC: Whoa, EJ. Slow down. We’re still playing preseason games here. I know the defense hasn’t looked sharp and I know there were issues against the Eagles. But this is a veteran group that understands the difference between the preseason and the regular season. I’m not predicting dominance here; I’m simply saying let’s evaluate this defense once it plays in a game that matters and once we see it over four quarters. I mean look at some of the pieces. Look at the upside of this defensive line. Look at what the return of a healthy Reshad Jones could mean. Or the emergence of a young cornerback like Xavien Howard. Yes, it has to come together. No, we haven’t seen it yet. But let’s see some real games before any frustration sets in.

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AC: Yes, yes and yes. First, Landry. I’m not sure he can keep up the pace he has set over his first three seasons, catching 288 passes, tied for the most in NFL history. But I still expect him to catch a lot of his passes and produce more than his share of first downs. As for DeVante Parker and Julius Thomas, I expect both to flourish in this offense, Parker more on deep routes and Thomas more on third downs and in the red zone. Bottom Line: The Dolphins have more game-breaking pieces in this offense than they’ve had in years.

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AC: Probably the defensive backs. I’m concerned about depth, especially after the injury to Tony Lippett, and I need to see more of Nate Allen at safety to be convinced. I do think the secondary will get a huge boost when safety T.J. McDonald returns from an 8-game suspension. As for the offensive line, the return of Mike Pouncey alleviates a lot of my concerns.

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AC: I’d be concerned about covering the Bucs receivers regardless of how the secondary has performed this preseason. Mike Evans is among the top five receivers in the league and now the Bucs have speedy and elusive DeSean Jackson on the other side to make life more palatable for Evans. This is going to be an imposing assignment for the Dolphins secondary and, from my vantage point, this matchup could very well prove to be the difference in the game.

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