The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
Report date: Rookies July 20; veterans July 26
Location: Davie, Florida
1. Can a healthy Ryan Tannehill take the next step under Adam Gase?
Tannehill escaped a major setback late last season when he suffered an ACL injury but not an ACL tear, so he didn’t have to undergo surgery. That meant he was able to take part in the Dolphins’ offseason practices.
In his first year under Adam Gase, who got the job in Miami in large part because of his work with quarterbacks, Tannehill’s completion percentage was his best ever (67.1 percent), as was his yards per attempt – and he wasn’t asked to do quite as much. Thanks in part to the emergence of Jay Ajayi, Tannehill’s attempts per game dropped from over 36 each of the previous three seasons to just under 30 last year. He still had his share of mistakes (12 interceptions against 19 TDs), but we saw progress.
With another offseason together and more time under Gase’s tutelage, will we see Tannehill continue to make positive strides?
2. Will Jay Ajayi develop into a more consistent rushing threat?
In his second season, Ajayi became just the fourth running back to post three 200-yard games in a single season. But outside of those games, he only had one other game where he topped 100 yards (incredibly, Ajayi was good for just 54 yards per game outside of those three amazing performances).
When you have games like Ajayi did last year, it ups the expectations. But he embraces them, and wants a bigger role.
“I think I’m a little bit more comfortable; but at the same time, a lot more determined,” Ajayi told the Miami Herald in May. “I know what I can do in this league; but at the same time, it’s about just pushing that box, pushing to reach even higher. I know that I can do a lot more and that’s kind of what this offseason is about — just working on the little things, the details to kind of take my game to the next level and really have a great year.”
It’s easy to say the NFL has become a pass-first league, but having a good running game still has value: of the 12 playoff teams last season, six had top-10 rushing offenses.
3. Can Laremy Tunsil hold down the left tackle spot?
We’ve discussed Tannehill, we’ve discussed Ajayi – and both will need help from Tunsil.
The highly rated offensive lineman became one of the most talked about players of the 2016 draft after two of his social media accounts were hacked just minutes before the first round began; as a result, Tunsil slipped a bit, though he was still taken 13th overall.
Tunsil weathered the storm and started all 14 games he played in as a rookie, mostly at left guard. But Miami traded Branden Albert to Jacksonville in February, meaning Tunsil will be kicked out to tackle. So much of an offense’s success starts with the line, and with veteran center Mike Pouncey’s availability for training camp up in the air after an offseason stem-cell procedure on his hip, the Dolphins will need someone to step up and set the tone.
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