There are so many things to take away from what Adam Gase said on Thursday, his first press conference since the draft. But foremost, as he enters year three, is a strong belief that this roster is now the closest it has been to the level he is searching for.
"It feels right for us now," he said. "I feel like we're in a good place."
Options. That's what it's about. More options in the passing game, more on the offensive line, more on the defense in general. That's what he wants. That's what he covets. Options mean more talent and depth and the ability not to advertise what you're going to do. Options means Gase can sleep just a little bit better at night.
Yes, it's early in the process. Rookie Camp is just beginning. OTA's are still more than a week away. But you sense a comfort zone with Gase that maybe he didn't have in the past two seasons, a strong belief that the right moves have been made for the right reasons.
Put simply, as he said several times Thursday, "We wanted to create the right fit. I like our make-up right now."
What else does he like? Let's take a closer at some of the topics Gase touched upon during his 30-minutes of questions and answers.
• Most of the questions were about quarterback, and understandably so. First, there's Ryan Tannehill who is progressing well in the rehabilitation of his knee and, although he still has some hurdles to clear, Gase was quick to offer: "He looks good to me. It feels smooth." We'll know a lot more after seeing him on the field in OTAs.
• Then there's the matter of back-up quarterback, a competition that is expected to come down to Brock Osweiler or David Fales, though recently-signed Bryce Petty could figure into the mix. When pressed about whether he would have to search for another quarterback if Tannehill went down, something he had to do last season with Jay Cutler, Gase offered an emphatic "No. Nope. Nope."
His reasoning: He knows Osweiler, coached him in Denver, first met him seven years ago when he was 20 years old. At first, he had to be convinced that Osweiler was ready for the challenge and, as Gase put it, "wanted to get his career rolling again." But after meeting with the coaches, after visiting the training facility and after some important face-to-face time with Gase, it was clear Osweiler's priorities were in order. At that point, it became an easy decision.
As for Fales, the playing time he saw last season in the final regular season game against Buffalo was enough to convince Gase of an upside that was worth pursuing. "You see it in practice, but once you get to see it in a game, then you know," Gase said. "He's one of those guys that sometimes he makes plays and you're not really sure how he did that."
I know Gase well enough at this point to be sure that if he didn't have a strong conviction on both players, even if there was just some doubt, he'd be searching for better alternatives. Nobody embraces the importance of that position any more than him.
• The Kenyan Drake we will see this season will be more mature, more certain in his responsibilities and more capable of serving a variety of roles in this offense. Or, as Gase, framed it: "he's a guy who's really looking to bust out." Combine Drake with the experience of Frank Gore and the potential of fourth-round pick Kalen Ballage and you've got an intriguing three running back look.
• Let the speculation stop right here. Gase has no intention of moving veteran safety T.J. McDonald to linebacker to make room for the arrival of No. 1 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. "I want to get the best 11 out there. We'll see how it plays out." Bottom Line: You can add safety to the "more options" list.
• The Dolphins didn't select an offensive lineman in the draft for the first time in their history. There's a reason for that. The group coming back and assembled through free agency and a trade checks all the boxes. "I really like that we have multiple options and depth," Gase said. There's that option word again.
• You get the feeling that Kenny Stills is going to have a greater role in this offense than he had even a season ago when his numbers were solid. You also get the feeling that with a rookie tight end in Mike Gesicki, who can stretch the field, things could open up even more for Stills.
• The rookie mini camp, held this weekend, will not include on-the-field work as was the case last season as well. Instead, there will be meetings and seminars and a crash course in everything that involves being successful on this level. This is a smart approach. So many times over the years I've seen rookies trying to overdo it early on and in the quest for that coveted glowing first impression end up pulling a hamstring or twisting an ankle. After all, Gase wants to keep all his options upright. And, as previously mentioned, options is what could very well separate this team from his others.