AFC East: Bill Lazor

DAVIE, Fla. -- The first week of training camp is a time of immense optimism in the NFL. Every team is undefeated and believes it is worthy of the playoffs. Teams highlight strengths, not weaknesses, until the games matter in the regular season.

The same goes for Miami Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is thinking big this upcoming season. Tannehill has lofty goals for himself and the Dolphins in 2014.

"We want to play deep into January and February," Tannehill said. "And that’s our goal at this point, is to go out, win the division and then play the playoffs from there. There is a big season ahead of us and I think anything less than that is not up to our standards."

Tannehill must set the tone for Miami. The previously mild-mannered quarterback is starting to be more vocal and make his presence felt. Tannehill is showing more emotion. This summer he screamed at a pair of receivers for making mistakes in practice, which is something the Miami media hadn’t previously seen.

The Dolphins are learning a new offensive under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor. Tannehill has to be an extension of Lazor on the field.

“One thing he has been doing, I tell people all of the time that he’s been a lot more vocal, taking a lot more control over this offense and over the team in general,” Dolphins tight end Charles Clay said. “You can see it in times like that, but he’s maturing a lot.”

It’s also clear the Dolphins are 100 percent behind Tannehill. He is just 15-17 as a starter and Miami averaged just 19.8 points per game last season.

But Tannehill has received universal praise from his teammates, who believe Tannehill is due for a breakout season. The quickest way for Miami to improve is for Tannehill to take the next step. The Dolphins have talented pieces in other positions and consistent quarterback play would take the team to a new level.

“I definitely think he has it,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said of Tannehill. “The thing I love about Ryan is his composure. I don’t think he ever gets rattled. I’ve never seen it, personally. He’s good at coming back like it [a mistake] never happened and that’s what we need from our quarterback.”

W2W4: Dolphins training camp

July, 24, 2014
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The Miami Dolphins will begin their 2014 training camp on Friday amid many expectations following last year’s 8-8 season. This is an important season for many within the organization, starting with head coach Joe Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who are both 15-17 the past two seasons.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins blog will be there every step of the way for Miami’s training camp. Here are some things we will be monitoring closely as practices begin:

1. Dolphins' plan at center

Pouncey
The Dolphins have been mum on their contingency plans at center since starter Mike Pouncey underwent recent hip surgery. Pouncey initially was expected to miss approximately four to six games. But the Miami Herald reported Wednesday that Pouncey could be out as many as eight weeks. Friday’s first practice will reveal what Miami’s coaching staff has in mind. It could be Sam Brenner or Nate Garner at first-team center. Maybe guard Shelley Smith moves to center. But what happens Friday might not stick two weeks from now or in Week 1 against the New England Patriots. However, this is a valuable time for Miami to start figuring out how to replace its Pro Bowl center.

2. Ryan Tannehill's development

Tannehill
All eyes will be on Miami’s third-year quarterback as he tries to put together his first winning season. Tannehill is learning a new, up-tempo scheme under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. There were some growing pains in organized team activities and minicamp, with a mix of good and bad practices from Tannehill. He must put together a strong and consistent training camp, starting Friday.

3. Rookie development

In an important season, the Dolphins cannot afford to have a repeat of 2013 with their rookie class. Miami needs valuable draft picks such as Ja’Wuan James, Jarvis Landry, Billy Turner and Walt Aikens to immediately contribute and find roles. The Dolphins got very little from last year’s draft class, and it was a significant reason they were unable to get over the hump. For Miami to reach its potential, the Dolphins must get quality production from both their first- and second-year players.

Camp preview: Miami Dolphins

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's James Walker examines the three biggest issues facing the Miami Dolphins heading into training camp.

Bill Lazor's offense: There is a new sheriff in town responsible for adding life into Miami's struggling offense. The Dolphins hired Lazor, a former quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, to take over for Mike Sherman after Miami's offense became stale and predictable last season. Lazor may be the biggest key to getting the Dolphins over the hump. Miami's 27th-ranked offense held the team back during its 8-8 season. Lazor is bringing an up-tempo style and many of the principles he learned from Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Early indications are that Lazor is a demanding coach who expects a lot of his players. Lazor threw a lot at this group in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp and had mixed results. There were mixed protections, dropped balls and overall sloppy play at times, which is expected at this stage. Still, Lazor's scheme is getting rave reviews from Dolphins players on both sides of the football. The key will be for the offensive players to pick up the scheme well enough to have early success. According to Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, the entire offensive playbook was installed before training camp. The Dolphins cannot afford to be sloppy and unorganized on offense early in the regular season. They will play a pair of division games in Week 1 and Week 2 against the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills, respectively.

Ryan Tannehill: A case can be made that quarterback play is the key to every season in the NFL. But never has the spotlight been brighter on Tannehill. The kid gloves are off and this a crucial third year for the former first-round pick. Is Tannehill a franchise building block or just another average quarterback? He's shown reasons to make a case for both sides. But the Dolphins are standing behind Tannehill for at least one more season to see if he can improve on his 15-17 career record. This year Tannehill must prove he can lead the Dolphins to the playoffs. The wild card is Tannehill is learning a new offense for the first time in his career. He played for Sherman at Texas A&M and the Dolphins, which used the same offense that was built around his skills. It's unknown how Tannehill will respond to playing in a different offense. Tannehill made plays in OTAs and minicamp, but he certainly didn't look dominant. His accuracy was off at times and he didn't make many deep-ball connections, which has been a weakness of his for two years. Tannehill must build on his offseason performances and strive for more consistency in training camp and the preseason.

Linebacker issues: The Dolphins enter training camp without a natural middle linebacker in the starting lineup. Miami addressed a lot of holes this offseason, but the team is going into the season with the same group of linebackers that struggled stopping the run and couldn't defend slot receivers or tight ends with any consistency. The Dolphins believe they've found the answer by moving Dannell Ellerbe to outside linebacker and swapping Koa Misi to middle linebacker. Miami's coaching staff believes Ellerbe will be free to make more plays outside, while Misi's athleticism will translate better in the middle. Misi has never played middle linebacker in his NFL career or at the University of Utah. This is a risky experiment by the Dolphins at an important position. The middle linebacker is often the quarterback of the defense. Misi will be responsible for making the play calls, lining up players and patrolling the middle of the field. The good news is there is still plenty of time for this group to get in sync during training camp and the preseason. The Dolphins invested a lot of money in their linebackers, so they are sticking with them for at least one more year.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Here is the offseason issue with the Miami Dolphins' deep-ball attack involving quarterback Ryan Tannehill and receiver Mike Wallace: The media simply hasn't seen it.

After seven practices open to the media -- including a three-day mandatory minicamp -- Tannehill has yet to prove he's improved his biggest weakness from a year ago. Tannehill tried to connect deep with Wallace on a few occasions during open media sessions and misfired, which is mostly what the rest of the NFL saw last season.

Wallace
Wallace
Tannehill
Yet, Dolphins players and coaches say Tannehill has improved his deep ball in 2014. But all the big plays have been on display during the private sessions not open to the media.

Is this fact or fiction?

"(You) haven't been here. ... We hit those, about three or four of them so far,” Wallace said of deep passes against Miami’s defense. “Me and him haven't personally thrown that many. If we've thrown like six, we've hit on like four."

"They have, a number of times. ... It's been better," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin also confirmed.

This is an important part of Miami’s offense and a strong indicator of whether this team will be able to take the next step and make the playoffs this season. The Dolphins' offense missed on plenty of opportunities for big plays last year. Wallace, who is one of the league's fastest players, did his job by getting open deep. But Tannehill often missed Wallace due to poor accuracy or throwing the ball short, which allowed defensive backs to recover and force the incompletion. This was one of the many issues for Miami's offense, which was ranked 27th last season.

The 2013 season was the first time Wallace and Tannehill played together. Miami's power pair spent a lot of time together in the offseason working on their game and their timing. Outside of the deep ball, Tannehill has made other good throws to Wallace in sessions open to the media.

"I feel like we've been doing really well," Wallace said of himself and Tannehill. "Pretty much every day, we've pretty much been on the same page. Might have one here or there, but, for the most part, I think we've been doing a really good job being on the same page."

Wallace, who had 930 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season, appears determined to have a big year in 2014. His offseason participation has been excellent and Wallace put in extra time after each practice to work on catching footballs.

"I thought Mike had a really good offseason program," Philbin said. "You've seen him after practice, nobody is holding a bat to his head. This guy is out there working and doing the little things that can make the difference when the season comes around."
The bad news struck down like a hammer on Monday afternoon. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will miss 3-4 months following major hip surgery.

Pouncey was probably the player the Dolphins could least afford to lose early in the season. According to his timeline, Pouncey could miss the first couple of games or even be put on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and miss the first six games, depending on his progress. Either way, it’s horrendous news for a Dolphins team trying to end a five-year playoff drought.

But now it’s time for Miami to move forward and find the best contingency plan possible. Here is a look at the Dolphins’ remaining options at center:

Brenner
1. Sam Brenner

Why it can work: When Pouncey missed time during mandatory minicamp, Brenner was the starting center and received a bulk of the reps. That's a clue to what Miami’s top in-house contingency plan is. Brenner, as an undrafted rookie, shined at guard last year. He was a four-game starter who performed well in a short period and impressed the coaching staff. The Dolphins may ask him to do the same for a month or so to start this season.

Why it can’t work: Brenner has never started at center at any level. He played guard for the Dolphins last year and guard and left tackle in college for the University of Utah. The fact that Miami worked Brenner as the No. 2 center this offseason shows its coaching staff believes he can make the transition. But you never know for sure until Brenner performs well in a real game situation. Do the Dolphins want Brenner learning on the job against the AFC East rival New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills? Both opponents have good players on the defensive line.

Garner
2. Nate Garner

Why it can work: Garner is Miami’s most versatile backup. Despite his lanky frame (6-foot-7), Garner started at center for two games last season when Pouncey had a health ailment. The Dolphins were 1-1 in those games and Garner held his own. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin may revert back to what was comfortable for him last season in game situations (Garner) versus what he’s currently doing in practice (Brenner).

Why it can’t work: Garner hasn’t played center during the entire offseason program. Those reps went to Pouncey and Brenner. For the Dolphins to completely switch the plan at this stage and go back to Garner would seem like a patch-work idea. Garner’s biggest strength is he can play every position. But the bad news is he’s average -- at best -- at every position. Average may not be good enough in the middle of Miami’s offensive line.

Smith
3. Shelley Smith

Why it can work: Smith, who signed as a free agent from the St. Louis Rams this year, has experience at center. The Dolphins have looked into it a little just on an exploratory basis. But this option has to receive more consideration now that Pouncey is on the shelf. Smith is probably the best player of the aforementioned group.

Why it can’t work: Smith only has eight career starts in four seasons, including just two starts in 2013. It’s important for Miami to get Smith comfortable in his new surroundings and a new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor. By all accounts, Smith is holding his own at right guard. Do the Dolphins want to take that momentum from Smith? I’ve never subscribed to the theory that you weaken one position (right guard) to fix the other (center). Now, you’ve weakened two positions.

The Dolphins have a full training camp and preseason to figure this out. Miami will take the field in Week 1 with a new center and without Pouncey on Sept. 7 against the Patriots.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins officially put a bow on their 2014 offseason last week following the conclusion of mandatory minicamp. Miami had three consecutive days of spirited practices and ESPN.com's Dolphins blog was there to take in all the action.

Here are five things we learned about the Dolphins in minicamp:

1. Tannehill, offense shows growth

[+] EnlargeOlivier Vernon and Ryan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeAfter struggling on Day 1 of minicamp, Ryan Tannehill and the offense made strides.
Thoughts: To put it bluntly, the first day of minicamp was a disaster for Miami's offense and third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins gave up four sacks, threw three interceptions and was sloppy overall in team drills. Even the mild-mannered Tannehill became frustrated and yelled at his receivers. It appeared the defense would dominate the offense during this three-day camp. Miami's defense mostly has been together for three seasons, while the offense is in transition under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. But Tannehill and the offense showed growth in Day 2 and Day 3 with more even performances. Lazor's group must continue to make strides in training camp in order to not become the weak link of the team to start the regular season.

2. Hope for second-year players

Thoughts: It is well documented that the Dolphins got very little from their rookie class last season. Miami had the third fewest snaps from rookie players in 2013, and many in South Florida had written off players from that class as draft busts in the making. But as the offseason progressed and peaked at minicamp, second-year players such as guard Dallas Thomas, defensive end Dion Jordan and cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis made more and more plays in practice, proving that there is hope for Miami's much-maligned 2013 draft class. Miami's second-year players could play a key role in whether the Dolphins make the jump this year from an average team to a team with playoff potential. All the aforementioned players had a productive offseason.

3. Offensive line still a work in progress

Thoughts: The Dolphins' two offensive lines in the white-and-aqua scrimmage allowed seven sacks. That stat was reminiscent of last season, when Miami's offensive line allowed a franchise-record 58 quarterback sacks in 16 games. The Dolphins invested a lot of money and resources into this group with the expectation that the pass protection with be much better. Miami paid $47 million for Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. The Dolphins also spent a first-round draft pick on rookie right tackle Ja'Waun James and signed guard Shelley Smith in free agency. With four new starters, Miami's offensive line must get on the same page in training camp.

4. Dolphins in relative good shape

Thoughts: This is the time of year when freak injuries happen in the NFL. Around the league there have been several injuries during the offseason program. The Dolphins are fortunate to not be one of those teams to suffer anything catastrophic. Miami did a good job with maintenance of veteran players such as cornerback Cortland Finnegan, defensive tackle Jared Odrick, wide receiver Brandon Gibson and linebacker Koa Misi. The only player to keep an eye on in the next month is running back Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins kept him out of minicamp and has been mum on his injury, but Profootballtalk.com reports Moreno has an ailing knee. Moreno is competing for a starting job at running back with Lamar Miller and must be healthy in order to win the job.

5. Receiver position toughest to gauge

Thoughts: Miami's coaching staff will have a tough time in training camp narrowing the roster down to six receivers. The Dolphins currently have a deep group of 13 receivers led by starters Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. But it's the various receivers behind them that will make it a tough decision. The Dolphins had various production from receivers at different times in minicamp and organized team activities. Players such as Gibson, rookie Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews, Damian Williams, Armon Binns and Matt Hazel all had their moments. Miami will be looking for the most consistent receivers to step forward in training camp. The three-way competition at the slot position between Gibson, Landry and Matthews is particularly intriguing. It's been close the entire offseason.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Ryan Tannehill was tested during his first two years with the Miami Dolphins. In 2012, he was a rookie starter surrounded by veterans. Last year, Tannehill gained some comfort but still wasn’t a vocal leader the Dolphins desperately needed it.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeMiami QB Ryan Tannehill doesn't hold back when criticizing a teammate during Tuesday's minicamp.
However, times appear to be changing for Tannehill in Year 3. In what is essentially a make-or-break year for Tannehill, who is 15-17 as a starter, he is already showing the kind of fiery leadership the Dolphins lacked from past quarterbacks.

Tannehill got into the face of two receivers and yelled at them for missed assignments Tuesday during the opening of mandatory minicamp. It was uncharacteristic to see the mild-mannered Tannehill chewing out teammates in public. But it could be another step in the right direction for Tannehill's overall development.

“I think now I’m more apt to step up and say something, make a statement,” Tannehill explained after practice. “That’s part of playing the QB position. Now I feel more comfortable. I have the respect of my teammates around me and I can do that.”

Tannehill’s increased vocal leadership didn’t go unnoticed with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin.

“It’s just one of those things in a competitive situation, and Ryan is a competitive guy,” Philbin said. “He wants to make sure everyone is on the same page. I think he’s done a really good job.”

Both of Tannehill’s run-ins were due to receiver mistakes. First, slot receiver Rishard Matthews cut off his route early and appeared to give up on a broken play. That caused a would-be quarterback sack on Tannehill. After the play, Tannehill ran up to Matthews and screamed at the receiver to play through the whistle.

The second example came late in practice when Tannehill and the offense already had a frustrating day. Rookie receiver Gerald Ford didn’t know his assignment, which upset Tannehill and caused a verbal tongue-lashing.

“I’m a rookie, so I kind of expected it,” Ford said of getting yelled at by Tannehill for the mistake.

So what did the rookie receiver say to his starting quarterback afterwards?

“I’m sorry leader,” Ford said, sparking laughter from the media. “It won’t happen again.”

Whether Tannehill’s increased leadership translates well on the field remains to be seen. The Dolphins' offense as a whole struggled Tuesday. There were three interceptions (one by Tannehill and two by Matt Moore), four would-be sacks allowed, a few drops and overall sloppy play.

Miami is implementing a new offense under first-year assistant coach Bill Lazor and continues to experience growing pains. Right now, Miami’s defense remains well ahead of its offense.

“Today wasn’t our best day,” Tannehill admitted Tuesday. “We’ve had much better days as an offense all around -- getting line up, playing fast, throwing the ball, protecting. We just didn’t have our best day today. That’s what this time is for.”
DAVIE, Fla. -- The 2014 organized team activities (OTAs) are coming to a conclusion this week for the Miami Dolphins. There will be mandatory minicamp next week. Then, the Dolphins will take more than a month off before training camp.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page has attended every OTA open to the media. Here are some takeaways from the past three weeks:
  • Thomas
    The surprise player from spring practices has been second-year offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. The former third-round pick didn’t contribute anything during his rookie season. Not much was expected of Thomas, especially after the Dolphins drafted a similar player in 2014 third-round pick Billy Turner. But Thomas showed up for offseason workouts in good shape and is flashing good athleticism. He’s done enough to earn the inside track on the starting left guard position next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Thomas’ next task is to hold off Turner when the pads come on in training camp and the preseason.
  • Speaking of Turner, early impressions are he still has a lot to learn. Turner played left tackle last season at North Dakota State and is still working on improving leverage. From what I’ve seen, Turner still stands a little high at times and looks like a left tackle playing guard. Turner also needs to work on his punch. These are things that should improve with experience. But Turner is running out of time if he wants to be a Week 1 starter.
  • Thigpen
    The more practices that go by, the more I think Dolphins return specialist Marcus Thigpen won’t make the 53-man roster. Thigpen has been Miami’s primary kick returner the past two seasons. But with rule changes and less emphasis on kick returns, Thigpen’s value has decreased and he doesn’t offer much in other areas. The Dolphins have moved Thigpen from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but Thigpen isn’t making plays. If Miami can find a decent alternative to return kicks this preseason, Thigpen could be on the outs. Other possibilities include receivers Damian Williams and rookie Jarvis Landry.
  • Bill Lazor’s new offense is getting rave reviews in Miami. Many of the concepts the Dolphins’ first-year offensive coordinator is implementing make sense and are an improvement over last season’s offense under Mike Sherman. But one thing I noticed that could be risky is the amount of pressure Lazor’s scheme puts on the offensive line. There are a multitude of passing plays that involves four and five options. More eligible receivers mean less protection for the quarterback. Lazor is relying on his quarterback to make quick reads and get rid of the football, which is an area Ryan Tannehill must improve.
  • Finnegan
    Cortland Finnegan is starting to establish his role on the defense. He currently has the inside track to start at cornerback opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes. But Finnegan also is getting a look inside as the nickel cornerback on obvious passing downs. Finnegan is a physical cornerback, and the Dolphins believe those traits can help get the defense off the field on third down. Other possibilities for the nickel corner include versatile defensive backs Jimmy Wilson and Michael Thomas.

The Dolphins will wrap up their offseason program with mandatory minicamp June 17-19.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins ran a stale and predictable offense last season under former coordinator Mike Sherman. Miami finished 27th in total offense and was inconsistent running and passing the football.

Hartline
Wallace
Wallace
But there is a significant amount of newfound excitement with Dolphins players under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami’s offense has a completely different look. There are various formations, motions and quick-hitting plays that you didn’t see last year from Sherman. Lazor learned under Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and is bringing some of those principles to Miami.

We are only in Phase 3 of the Dolphins’ offseason program, but Lazor is getting rave reviews from his players.

“It’s really interesting. I’ve never been in an offense like this, how it’s called, how it’s run, the combination routes,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. “There’s a lot of things going on that I haven’t done. It’s really exciting and actually, I’m really enjoying it. You can tell it puts a smile on my face. I can’t wait to learn more, do more and then put it into action.”

One of the major criticisms last year of Sherman was the fact he didn’t move No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace around to get favorable matchups. That’s one of the first changes we’ve seen from Lazor, using Wallace on both sides and the slot depending on the formation. Wallace has looked good in organized team activities. He had three touchdown receptions in Tuesday’s practice in Lazor’s new scheme.

“Nobody can ever key on me,” Wallace explained after Tuesday’s practice. “Last year, you kind of knew where I was every single play, what you had to do because I was there every game, same spot. Moving around, it’s harder for the defense to know where you’re at, harder for them to adjust.”

Lazor is still experimenting and learning his players. For example, one interesting wrinkle the Dolphins are toying with is how to use tailbacks Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno in the same backfield.

Not everything is going to stick come September. But Dolphins players seem to appreciate the creativity. That is a good sign at this early stage.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins held their second practice during organized team activities that were open to the media Monday. ESPN.com's Dolphins page was there to take in all of the action.

Here are some additional observations from Monday's practice:
  • Keep in mind that it's very early, but I've been pleasantly surprised so far with the development of second-year guard Dallas Thomas. The Dolphins are playing Thomas with the first team at left guard, and he's holding his own next to Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert. Thomas suffered through injuries and looked mostly confused last year as a rookie playing guard and offensive tackle. But he's healthy and more experienced this year. Thomas has to hold off rookie third-round pick Billy Turner in training camp.
  • Speaking of Turner, he looks a little raw in the two practices I've seen him. Turner still plays a bit high, which is understandable because he was a left tackle at North Dakota State. The stance at guard is much different. Turner also needs to work on some of his footwork and fundamentals, such as his punch, at the NFL level.
  • New Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is trying many new things, which is refreshing to see. Miami's offense was stale and predictable last year under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. But Lazor is doing several creative things, such as moving No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace around and using a lot of motion and tempo to dictate to the defense.
  • Miami head coach Joe Philbin said the team should have about 85 percent of the new offense installed by the end of this week. One of the biggest storylines to watch this offseason is how quickly third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the group can pick up the offense. This week's practice was more crisp that last week's session.
  • One interesting wrinkle I saw in practice Monday was Miami using Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller in the same backfield. There are plenty of possibilities with that pairing.
  • Dolphins' second-year defensive end Dion Jordan continues to impress with his athleticism. This week he ran Miami tailback Mike Gillislee down from behind. Keep in mind Jordan is 265 pounds. Miami must find a way to get Jordan on the field. He looks ready for increased responsibility.
DAVIE, Fla. -- Earlier this week during 11-on-11 drills, Miami Dolphins speedy receiver Mike Wallace got a step on Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and streaked down the sidelines. Wallace began to pull ahead of Grimes as quarterback Ryan Tannehill unleashed a deep ball.

Wallace
Wallace
Tannehill
But Tannehill's pass was overthrown by a couple yards. The sight was all too familiar for Dolphins fans.

Tannehill and Wallace did not have the type of impact the Dolphins expected last season. The pair were expected to be dynamic but could not get on the same page.

Wallace, arguably the fastest receiver in the NFL, finished with 930 receiving yards after signing a $60 million contract. Wallace probably left an additional 300-500 yards on the field due to missed connections deep with Tannehill.

The Dolphins are in a "playoffs or bust" season and cannot afford to leave big offensive plays on the field.

"Well, it's big. It's big time," Tannehill said of making more plays with Wallace. "I think that's one thing you looked at from last year is just connecting more. Not only on deep balls but just connecting more on every run."

Wallace has been putting in the work this offseason to have a better 2014. He met briefly with the Miami media Tuesday and said he worked with Tannehill often this offseason.

Here is another good sign: Wallace was the last player to leave the practice field Tuesday during the start of organized team activities. Wallace spent at least 30 extra minutes following the two-hour practice catching passes and working on the JUGS machine. His work ethic has caught the attention of Miami's coaching staff.

"I think Mike, if you ask, Mike's attitudes been outstanding," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. "He's been working hard every single day that he's been here. I think he feels a lot more comfortable just as we like to say, parking his car in the parking lot and coming to work. I think he feel better about being a Miami Dolphin. I think he understands the expectations that we have in the offseason and so forth. So really like what he's doing."

It will be interesting to see how Wallace is used in Miami's new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. One immediate change that was noticeable this week was Wallace being moved around to different spots in an effort to get him open and to be less predictable.

This is a huge season for Tannehill to prove he's the long-term solution in Miami. A better rapport with Wallace would go a long way.
DAVIE, Fla. -- New Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor did wonders with the Philadelphia Eagles last season. As Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach, Lazor helped develop Nick Foles from a previously unknown quarterback into a Pro Bowler in Foles' second season.

So is it also safe to assume Lazor will easily take Miami third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill's game to the next level in 2014? Not so fast, according to Lazor.

[+] EnlargeBill Lazor
AP Photo/Steve NesiusBill Lazor helped guide Nick Foles to a Pro Bowl season in 2013. Can he do the same with Ryan Tannehill?
“If it was one key, it would be easy and we could bottle it and sell it, right?” Lazor explained. “Each guy is different. I think that is important.”

Lazor is one of the Dolphins’ most important additions and aims to jump-start the offense. Miami finished No. 27 in total offense and became predictable under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. It also stunted the growth of Tannehill, who was a first-round pick in 2012.

After his work with Foles last season, Lazor is starting to develop a reputation of a quarterback guru. That reputation will only increase if Lazor is able to also get Tannehill over the hump. Miami’s starting quarterback is just 15-17 as a starter entering a crucial third season.

The early impression is that Lazor is a demanding coach. He is detailed and already has a clear expectation of the offense and starting quarterback.

“I want to see the ball coming out on time, letting his football tell him when it’s time to throw it, and I want to see that he trusted us that this is how it all fits together,” Lazor said of Tannehill. "The quarterback has got to play at game speed every day in practice. The receivers will catch up to him."

Miami cannot afford to have inconsistent quarterback play this season. This is a big year for many in the organization. The Dolphins have not been to the playoffs since 2008, and the easiest way to end that drought is for Tannehill to develop into a franchise quarterback.

This week’s start to organized team activities proved there is still work to be done. Miami's offense made various mistakes and looked well behind the defense, which has played in the same scheme for the past three seasons.

“There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight,” Tannehill said this week. “It’s going to take some time, not just for me but for all of our guys.”

The question Dolphins observers in South Florida want to know is how long it will take Miami’s new offense to click. Will it be in training camp? During the preseason? Or will the Dolphins take a steep learning curve into the regular season where the offensive can potentially cost them games that matter?

“How long it takes is a work in progress. It’s day-to-day,” Lazor said. “What we did today isn’t going to be good enough tomorrow. We made that clear to the players afterward. They’ve got to get better, and there is no ending point.”

The Dolphins are hoping Lazor and Tannehill can be a power pair this season. Much of Miami's success this year is riding on it.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor was all over the place during the team’s start of organized team activities Tuesday.

There were a few dropped passes, poor timing and some badly thrown balls by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Dolphins veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan took advantage on one play to pick off Tannehill towards the end of practice to cap off a shaky day for the offense.

The practice essentially looked like a defense that has been in the same system for three seasons facing an offense still learning the playbook for the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is learning a new scheme as he enters a pivotal season in his development.
“Just walking off the field -- I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of the video yet -- but I think some of the basic things that need to get corrected,” a candid Lazor said. “Number one would be communication offensively. If we are not all on the same page, we’ve got a very low chance of being successful. Some of the times you saw some mistakes where we saw mistakes, we weren’t together.”

Similar to the offense, it also was a shaky start to OTAs for Tannehill. He enters a huge season -- the third-year quarterback must prove he is the long-term solution. Tannehill, a former first-round pick, is 15-17 in two non-playoff seasons.

But here is the wildcard: Tannehill is learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career. Will it be a smooth transition or will Tannehill have a steep learning curve? No one knows for sure.

Tannehill had run the same offensive system under former Dolphins offensive coordinator and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman since college. Sherman recruited Tannehill out of the high school and tailored the offense at the college and pro levels around Tannehill's abilities. That helped Tannehill become a starter right away during his rookie year in Miami. He has gone on to make 32 consecutive starts for the Dolphins.

But Lazor was hired to take Tannehill's game to the next level. Lazor comes to Miami with his own ideas of how to run an offense. Some early and noticeable differences are the multiple formations, up-tempo style and many quick-hitting plays.

Lazor coached with the Philadelphia Eagles last season under Chip Kelly and is bringing many of those principles to Miami. It will be up to Tannehill to make a quick adjustment for Miami’s offense to take flight.

“There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight,” Tannehill said. “It’s going to take some time, not just for me but for all of our guys. The receivers are running routes that they haven’t run before doing adjustments that we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be a learning curve, but that’s what this time is for.”

It’s too early to be concerned about one questionable practice from Tannehill. There certainly will be some growing pains, especially in the spring. But Tannehill must start to show more consistency in Miami’s new offense.

The Dolphins cannot afford a slow start offensively in what is a very important year for many in the organization. Miami will have three tough tests right off the bat against the New England Patriots (Week 1), Buffalo Bills (Week 2) and Kansas City Chiefs (Week 3). The Patriots and Chiefs are playoff teams from last season, and Buffalo swept Miami last season.
The Miami Dolphins will have their full squad available on the practice field Tuesday for organized team activities. This is the first veteran session that is open to the media.

ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page will be live in Davie, Florida, to examine all the action.

Here are three things to watch:

1. Dolphins’ new offense

Analysis: I first got a peek at Miami’s new offense last week during rookie minicamp. First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor showed a lot of new formations and concepts that can challenge a defense. However, last weekend’s rookie camp probably only showed a small portion of the playbook. Expect Lazor to open up the offense this week with veteran players back on the practice field. The Dolphins are expected to be more up-tempo and dynamic than last year’s offense under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. This is an important time for Miami to develop an offensive identity and make a smooth transition.

2. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill

Analysis: Continuing the theme on offense, perhaps no player is more important this year than Tannehill. Miami’s third-year quarterback is a mediocre 15-17 in his career and is entering an important Year 3 with the Dolphins. This offseason is imperative for Tannehill. He is learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career now that Sherman, his college coach, is gone. Tannehill also appears to have bulked up in the offseason after getting sacked a franchise-record 58 times. Tannehill must avoid a slow start and quickly master this new offense.

3. Defensive end Dion Jordan

Analysis: Like Tannehill, the Dolphins need another former first-round pick to develop into a franchise building block. Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, had somewhat of a redshirt season last year. He was the team’s third or fourth defensive end on the depth chart and played on special teams. Jordan must get stronger, particularly against the run, in order to become a complete player. The Dolphins had trouble getting him on the field consistently with the exception of obvious passing downs. I’m curious to see how much work Jordan has done this offseason in order to make an important jump in Year 2.
It has been a busy offseason for the Miami Dolphins. Coming off a disappointing 8-8 season, the Dolphins made several changes in the front office, by hiring new general manager Dennis Hickey, and within the coaching staff, by hiring new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

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