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Miami Dolphins
INSIDE SLANT

  Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel | Player Wire

  The Miami Dolphins attempted to patch a number of holes during the offseason. They did OK in some spots, not so well in others.

As a result, the Dolphins will enter training camp with many major questions unanswered, and primary among those are:

How quickly can the revamped offensive line come together?

Can the new offense produce more than the 19.8 points per game the Dolphins averaged a year ago?

Will the retooled linebacker trio of middle linebacker Koa Misi, strong-side linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and weak-side linebacker Philip Wheeler be effective?

The offensive line, which allowed a NFL-high 58 sacks last season, will have five new starters when training camp begins. Getting this unit playing together will likely be the biggest focus of training camp, even ahead of making sure quarterback Ryan Tannehill is sharp. It all starts up front.

A lot of pressure will be on head coach Joe Philbin, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and offensive line coach John Benton to whip the line into shape during training camp.

Not having Pro-Bowl center Mike Pouncey (hip surgery) is a major setback. Pouncey is arguably Miami's best offensive player. Without Pouncey, left tackle Branden Albert is the only starting offensive lineman who has been a regular NFL starter. That showed during OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and minicamp.

"We've obviously got a lot of work still to do," right guard Shelley Smith said, "but we'll build off of the things we're doing at minicamp and be ready to go for training camp and the season."

As for Lazor's new offense, it needs to be clicking early in the season. The Dolphins open Sept. 7 against New England, always a tough matchup, and Sept. 14 at Buffalo, where they've lost the last two years.

It'll be important for the Dolphins' offense to put points on the board for these two AFC East opponents. That means getting things right in training camp.

Tannehill was fairly proficient at running the new system during OTAs and minicamp, but things were far from smooth, which was to be expected. The Dolphins didn't show much quick-strike scoring ability and still had busted routes and dropped passes.

The Dolphins need an accelerated learning curve for everyone, and they'll be doing that with an unsettled running back position (Knowshon Moreno might miss the first week or so of training camp after knee surgery) and an unfamiliar offensive line.

Defensively, the Dolphins switched Misi (from strong side to middle) with Ellerbe (from middle to strong side) and it was tough to tell how well it worked OTAs and minicamp because there were no pads.

During training camp, this switch needs to show results. The linebackers were the weak link last season on a unit in which the defensive line was good and the secondary was good enough. If the linebackers can't stop the run and control the middle of the field, the defense has no chance of being a game-changing force, which is its goal.

Miami made major changes in the offseason, and the most important changes fixing the offensive line, changing the offensive scheme, and addressing deficiencies at linebacker will be the focus of training camp.

CAMP CALENDAR

Players report: July 24

First practice: July 25


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