With the Mini-camps and OTAs right in front of us and with so many of the important personnel decisions now behind us, it’s time to tackle your questions and I assure you I won’t let a single one slip through my grasp.
Q. What do you think the ceiling is for a guy like Gesicki? @MartyParty6_
AC: Don’t strain your neck looking up, but the ceiling on this second-round pick is about as high as it has ever been for a tight end drafted by the Dolphins. I understand there are blocking limitations that must be addressed. But this is a uniquely gifted athlete capable of providing the mismatch in the secondary that the Dolphins have been searching for. If he’s as good as advertised, he will have a prominent role in the game plan every Sunday. I’m especially excited to see him in red zone situations.
Q. Will the wide receiver corp be better, worse or about the same without Landry? @Frostyman007
AC: I’m going to say better for several reasons. I know the Dolphins are losing 100-plus catches a season from Landry and that can’t be ignored. But with the addition of Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, coupled with a desire to get more people involved in the offense, I actually expect more productivity at wide receiver. Landry is gifted, but on far too many Sundays was relied upon too much, and one player dominating all the stats isn’t necessarily the right path. I look for Kenny Stills, for instance, to have his best season.
Q. I’m curious about Raekwon McMillan, how is his rehab coming? Also, do you think Tannehill will be able to shake off the rust and pick up where he left off over a year ago? @driggsdefinfan
AC: McMillan, I am told, is ahead of schedule on his rehab and the Dolphins are confident he will be 100 percent by training camp. Note: You almost have to consider McMillan a member of this rookie class since he was injured in last summer’s first preseason game. As for Tannehill, he is also good to go and there is no reason to believe he won’t quickly regain the form he exhibited in 2016. I like his chances. Assuming he stays healthy, I truthfully expect him to have his best season.
Q. Which players drafted this year will be immediate starters for you? Do you think we have a good OL? The right guard position worries me a bit. @hermancueva7
AC: I certainly expect the top two picks, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and TE Mike Gesicki to earn starting jobs as rookies. I also believe third round pick LB Jerome Baker has a chance to start right away or at the very least play in passing situations. Other possibilities? Tight end Durham Smythe should see a lot of action in the two tight end formations and kicker Jason Sanders will get every chance to earn that job. A sleeper? Linebacker Quentin Poling, a seventh-round pick, has an intriguing upside and could turn out to be the surprise of this class. As for the offensive line, a lot has to come together, but even with the loss of Mike Pouncey I see enough talent and depth to justify real optimism.
Q. Is this a make or break season for DeVante Parker? @Owlizee
AC: I hate to use the words make or break, but it’s safe to say that it’s imperative for Parker to come up big this season, both from a productivity and a health standpoint. We need to see how he performs over 16 games. We need to see more consistency. We certainly need to see the big plays. You watch Parker, so explosive in practice, and you don’t understand why it doesn’t carry over to games. It’s time for that to happen. This offense could certainly use it.
Q. Will the Dolphins carry 4 TE’s on the roster. If so, what other position will that affect? @rbm3313
AC: I think four is probably too many. Perhaps there could be three on the 53-man roster and one on the practice squad. A lot has to be sorted out before that decision is made. Right now the Dolphins have more depth there than they’ve had in years, what with a pair of tight ends taken in the draft. A positon of great need now could become a positon of strength. It’s nice to have plenty of options.
Q. Who is playing SAM LB when the season starts? @MistaC561
AC: Just as they did a season ago, the Dolphins will try to use their flexibility as an advantage at linebacker. Translation: Nobody appears set in one specific role. I can tell you this: Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan will undoubtedly man two of the three positions and I expect third-round pick Jerome Baker to get every shot possible to be the third linebacker in the base defense and certainly on the field in passing situations as well.
Q. Super curious about our starting defensive backs Andy! Will it be Tankersley or Lippett on the other side of Howard? And will McDonald line up in a hybrid safety-linebacker position and be on the field at the same time as Jones and Fitzpatrick? Thank you! @chadwilson305
AC: You obviously know this secondary. As for the cornerback spot opposite Howard, I’d give a slight edge to Lippett, who really played well in 2016 before his Achilles injury last summer. Either way, both he and Tankersley, I believe, will play a lot. As for safety, I see the Dolphins doing all sorts of things with Jones, McDonald and Fitzpatrick. Each of the three is multi-skilled and could easily play closer to the line of scrimmage. Yes, I see many instances where all three are on the field together.
Q. Does Adam Gase finally have the pieces to run his full offense this year? @Trifected
AC: Sure seems so, doesn’t it? With tight end taken care of in the draft and depth at running back solidified by Frank Gore and the fourth-round selection of Kalen Ballage, there are no longer any major holes. The key, as always, will be Ryan Tannehill. If he plays well and stays healthy, there is no reason this offense can’t have a break out season. I’m looking forward to seeing how Gase utilizes all the moving parts.
Q. Do you believe the run defense will be our Achilles’ heal this season? @issacbentes_
AC: I’ve got to admit this is my biggest concern heading into training camp. The most pressing question: Can they make up for the loss of Ndamukong Suh who was so dominant against the run? I’m cautiously optimistic for three reasons: Raekwon McMillan is an outstanding run defender, which is why he was drafted; No. 1 pick Minkah Fitzpatrick has top-tier skills in that area as well and veteran William Hayes – maybe the best run defender on the team -- is healthy again and will reportedly shift some to the inside. All of that gives this run defense a chance to be improved.
Q. I trust a lot in coach Rizzi. Was the 7th round kicker his selection? @rubeneramirez
AC. You can be sure it was. Adam Gase has unyielding faith in Rizzi’s ability to make that decision and rightfully so. Rizzi and his assistant Marwan Maalouf personally checked out every top kicker in the country and if Jason Sanders out of New Mexico is the player they came up with then, given that endorsement alone, I certainly like his chances to succeed.
Q. I would like to ask Andy what it’s been like covering the Dolphins since Don Shula retired? @oklahomated
AC: I’m not going to kid you. It’s certainly been challenging at times. There have been so many head coaches, so much change and not nearly enough success. As I look back on the years, I’m certainly anxious to be reminded again of what it’s like covering a consistent winner, as was the case under Shula. But I see real signs under this group of decision-makers that things are changing for the better, especially after this most recent draft. And that, in so many ways, is what this upcoming season is all about.