Reasons to Believe
1. On The Defensive – Despite their 0-7 start, Miami's defence was still in the top half of the league last year. The unit was playing very strong at the end of the season and if they can successfully transition from 3-4 to 4-3, should be one of the best units in 2012. Wake, a two-time Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the CFL, has 28 sacks in three years in Miami; someone for Canadian fans to cheer for.
2. Fresh Start – With HBO's Hard Knocks we get a close look at this year's Dolphins and we're seeing something players say wasn't there last year. New head coach Joe Philbin has brought in a freshness and crispness to operations and Dolphin players all seem to be enjoying the change. It's still to be seen how successful Philbin will be as a coach, but he's aced his first test: getting players to buy in.
3. Run Away With It – After years of not quite fulfilling his potential in New Orleans, Reggie Bush had the best season of his career last year with the Dolphins. For his next act, Bush says he wants to lead the league in rushing. Don't expect that to happen, but reports have Bush looking good in training camp; combined with backups Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, the Dolphins have a surprisingly strong group of runners.
Reasons to Doubt
1. Rookie Passer – Most people expect Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin – two of the most highly touted quarterback prospects of all time – to struggle in their rookie seasons, so Dolphins fans have to expect struggles from Tannehill, the first QB taken after Luck and Griffin. Tannehill beat out veterans Garrard and Moore for the team's starting job, but history suggests he'll face his growing pains in year one.
2. Missing Targets – Compounding the challenges for Tannehill is the less than stellar receiving corps he'll have to work with. Say what you will about Chad Johnson, he was at least a 'name' receiver. After his release, Miami was left with the likes of Davone Bess and Legedu Naanee as pass catchers.
3. Mind Your Business – Time and again, one thing that has proven not to work out is a meddlesome owner. There have been rumours and reports of Stephen Ross' influence swaying football decisions since he became owner in 2008 – the most recent being his insistence the team draft Tannehill. That move may work out, but it's rarely a good idea when an owner affects football decisions.
What to Expect
Not much is expected of the Dolphins in the AFC East. The Patriots remain division favourites until further notice, while a lot of people anticipate the Bills and Jets duking it out for second in the division and a wild card spot. Even without the pressure of high expectations, with a rookie QB starting from Week 1, it will be hard for Miami to crack the top three in a very strong division.