Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

Dolphins success on QB Tannehill’s shoulders

A year ago at this time, Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was 39-years-old and full of confidence. He was coming off his first season as a NFL head coach, producing a 10-6 regular season and ending Miami’s playoff drought that had lasted since 2008.

Now, Gase is 40, and things have changed drastically. The Dolphins are coming off a 6-10 season, and some NFL evaluators are saying Gase has one of the worst rosters in the league. Las Vegas oddsmakers have set the over/under Dolphins win total at 6.5.

So what can we expect from Gase and the Dolphins in 2018?

Will it be more like 2016, when the Dolphins went 9-2 down the stretch? Or will it be more like 2017, when an embarrassing 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens started an 0-5 slide?

Gase seems optimistic, and one reason for that is the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has missed the past 20 games due to a knee injury.

But the Dolphins also lost some of their biggest stars from last year, including five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams; and three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who scored nine touchdowns last season and led the NFL with 112 receptions.

The Dolphins got two draft picks — fourth-and-seventh-rounders — back for Landry, whose 400 career catches are the most ever for an NFL player through his first four seasons.

Miami also let three-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey walk away in free agency. They did the same with Cody Parkey, who tied the franchise record for field-goal accuracy, and backup quarterback Matt Moore, who had proven his value over the years.

Special-teams coverage and depth were also impacted with the losses of players such as Michael Thomas, Damien Williams and Neville Hewitt.

The Dolphins signed Akeem Spence to replace Suh, Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson to plug in for Landry and Daniel Kilgore to stand in for Pouncey.

Miami drafted Jason Sanders as the new kicker, and there are currently three backup quarterbacks set to replace Moore as needed.

And while all of that may not be a match, talent for talent, Gase is hoping this team — with 17 new players and six new assistants — has superior intangibles when compared to the 2017 squad.

“I like our team,” Gase said. “The guys we have are football first, and I like the fact that I think we are a team. The best thing we have going on is our locker room.

“We brought in a good group of guys in free agency, players who are making a difference in our locker room. We’re headed in the right direction, and I’m not really worried about what anybody else thinks.”

SERIES HISTORY: 37th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 20-16. The Dolphins won last year’s matchup, beating the visiting Titans, 16-10. There were extenuating circumstances, however, as Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariota sat out due to a hamstring injury. Miami’s defense carved up the Titans and backup QB Matt Cassel. The Dolphins posted six sacks, and safety Reshad Jones returned a fumble 36 yards for a touchdown.