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Dolphins, Tannehill face greater expectations

The SportsXchange

DAVIE, Fla. -- With some expensive new toys to play with, second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill will be on the hot seat beginning Saturday when the Miami Dolphins report to training camp with high hopes of improving their 7-9 record from last season.

When they take the field Sunday, Tannehill will be throwing to swift wide receiver Mike Wallace, who moved from Pittsburgh to accept a five-year, $60 million free agent contract, in an offense that must adapt to several changes.

Tannehill must improve on a rookie year in which he threw 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and was the NFL's 27th-rated passer (76.1).

To help him, in addition to getting Wallace, the Dolphins added wide receiver Brandon Gibson (UFA, Rams) and tight end Dustin Keller (UFA Jets).

Of course Tannehill will need protection to give him time to become acquainted with this new receivers and, although they lost tackle Jake Long (UFA, Rams), the Dolphins think they may have the makings of a solid front wall with some good offensive linemen, especially center Mike Pouncey and left guard Richie Incognito.

Miami picked up tackle Tyson Clabo, released by Atlanta for salary reasons, and he is expected to start on the right side. Jonathan Martin, the 2012 second-round pick out of Stanford, starts on the left side and he must show in training camp that he has the footwork to protect Tannehill's blind side. At right guard, John Jerry has the ability to do a great job, but coaches want him to keep his weight under control.

That line seems especially talented as aggressive run blockers, which will help the transition from Reggie Bush (UFA, Detroit). The backfield includes second-year runner Lamar Miller and rookie Mike Gillislee, a fifth-round pick from Florida.

Coach Joe Philbin admits he is unsure of the running game.

"It's hard to get a tremendous feel for where you are in the running game on either side of the ball," he said. "So I think that is something that we need to pay close attention to when it gets closer to camp."

On defense, most attention will be given to a secondary that must mesh quickly before facing quarterbacks Andrew Luck (Indianapolis), Matt Ryan (Atlanta) and Joe Flacco (Baltimore) in the first five weeks.

Strong safety Reshad Jones and free safety Chris Clemons are back as starters, but cornerbacks Brent Grimes (Achilles') and Richard Marshall (back) are coming off injury-shortened seasons.

The Dolphins are excited to see their first-round draft pick, versatile edge player Dion Jordan, whom they selected with the third pick of the draft. Although he has not yet signed a contract, he said Friday that he expects the issue over guaranteed money to be settled quickly and he is planning to be in camp.

"It's not finalized yet, but I'll be there," he said. "I am excited. I know we have work to do and I want to get going."

Tannehill echoed that sentiment, and then some.

"I'm excited with where we're at, but we're hungry," he said. "We have a long way to go, but we're going to use the fall camp to our benefit and get better each day."

Starting Saturday, or Sunday on the field.
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