Miami Dolphins: Dustin Keller

Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Tuesday from around the Web:
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald takes a look at the history of the Dolphins' "prove it" contracts.
Morning take: The Dolphins have had some hits (Brent Grimes) and some misses (Dustin Keller) with one-year contracts. This year's group includes cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas.
  • Brian Coyle of the Dolphins team site profiles quarterback Jordan Rodgers, who is the younger brother of Aaron Rodgers.
Morning take: Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin had success with the older Rodgers. Jordan Rodgers will push Pat Devlin for the No. 3 quarterback job in training camp.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes three college receivers visited the Dolphins.
Morning take: We reported Monday that USC's receiver Marqise Lee is in town for a visit. Miami is certainly examining receivers in this draft.
  • The Sun Sentinel takes a look at the No. 19 overall picks over the years.
Morning take: History doesn't mean much to the Dolphins this year. The key is to draft the right player the their spot to fit their needs.
The Miami Dolphins’ front office has been intrigued by the “show me” contracts lately. Instead of paying veterans a boatload of money in multi-year extension, Miami has opted to pay several key players a good one-year salary to see how they fit with the organization.

Last year, Miami signed three veterans to “show me” contracts: cornerback Brent Grimes, tight end Dustin Keller and right tackle Tyson Clabo. All three were longtime starters who had to prove they could fit in Miami’s system.

The three aforementioned players went in different directions in 2013. Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and never got a chance to show what he could do. Clabo was inconsistent and was benched at one point in the season. Grimes developed into a Pro Bowl corner and eventually signed a long-term extension with the Dolphins this offseason.

Will this year’s “show me” go the route of Grimes or Clabo and Keller? Let’s examine.

Player: S Louis Delmas

Contract: One year, $3.5 million

Analysis: Delmas brings intensity and physical play to the back end of Miami’s secondary. But there are also injury concerns. That led to the “show me” contract with the Dolphins. Delmas already said he’s out to prove he can stay healthy and be a top-end safety in the NFL. Miami already paid Reshad Jones a big extension last season. Therefore, Delmas will have to do a lot this year for Miami to put another significant contract into the safety position.

Player: RB Knowshon Moreno

Contract: One year, $3 million

Analysis: Is Moreno coming into his own or the product of Peyton Manning’s system? That is the question the Dolphins and fans will try to get the answer to this season. Moreno was a first-round bust until Manning arrived to the Denver Broncos. Moreno had a career year with 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The holes will not be as big for Moreno in Miami. But he should be a better option at tailback than 2013 Dolphins starter Lamar Miller. If Moreno can top last year’s numbers with the Dolphins, that could put him in line for a more secure contract.

Player: CB Cortland Finnegan

Contract: Two years, $11 million

Analysis: Finnegan has a two-year contract. But it could easily become a one-year contract where the Dolphins cut their losses if things don’t pan out in 2014. Finnegan has been a solid corner most of his career but has hit on hard times the past two seasons with injuries and inconsistent play. Finnegan is looking to regain his swagger in Miami. If he turns out to be the 2013 version of Grimes, Finnegan will stay for the full length of his contract. But the pressure is on to produce this year.
Last year in free agency the Miami Dolphins were all about the flash-and-splash on offense.

Speedy receiver Mike Wallace, slot receiver Brandon Gibson and athletic tight end Dustin Keller were all part of then-general manager Jeff Ireland's plan to build Miami into an explosive, high-scoring offense. The Dolphins also re-signed 1,000-yard receiver Brian Hartline to put as many skilled receivers and tight ends around budding quarterback Ryan Tannehill as possible.

Albert
Albert
But Ireland and the Dolphins forgot one fundamental rule in the NFL: In order to have a high-powered offense, you must first protect the quarterback.

Miami did little to invest in its offensive line in 2013 and, as a result, set a franchise record for quarterback sacks allowed with 58. Despite various weapons, the Dolphins often lost in the trenches and had the NFL’s 27th-ranked offense. That was a major reason Miami finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.

Tuesday’s high-profile signing of Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert signifies a shift in the team’s thinking. The Dolphins opened their wallets during the start of free agency and agreed to a five-year, $46 million contract with Albert, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Miami got the best player available at the team’s weakest position: offensive line.

After another disappointing season in Miami, new general manager Dennis Hickey replaced Ireland in January and is wasting no time learning from his predecessor’s mistakes. The Dolphins must consistently win in the trenches if they want to become a playoff contender. Pairing Albert with center Mike Pouncey gives Miami two Pro Bowlers to build its offensive line around.

The Dolphins also agreed to terms with free-agent defensive tackle Earl Mitchell, according to Schefter, which fills another need in the trenches on defense following the departures of defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks.

There is still work to be done for Miami. But it is clear the Dolphins have a plan, and this is a solid start.

Walker’s Fab 40: Nos. 21-24

February, 7, 2014
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ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues to rank the top 40 players on the team.

Next up, we take a look at Nos. 21-24.

No. 24: Dustin Keller

Position: Tight end

2013 stats: No stats

Analysis: The Dolphins had high hopes for Keller, who signed a one-year contract last season. Keller was having a solid training camp and preseason before suffering a terrible knee injury in a preseason game against the Houston Texans. Keller is rehabbing multiple knee ligaments and needs to prove he’s 100 percent again before another team signs him. A return to Miami appears unlikely. Charles Clay stepped in for Keller and had a terrific year with 69 receptions.

No. 23: Chris Clemons

Position: Safety

2013 stats: 92 tackles, one interception

Analysis: Clemons had another productive year in Miami. He was fourth on the team in tackles and showed toughness by working through multiple injuries in the second half of the season. Clemons’ coverage is inconsistent at times, but he’s a sure tackler. Clemons is an unrestricted free agent. The Dolphins must decide if they want to spend to bring Clemons back or if they can get an upgrade elsewhere.

No. 22: Koa Misi

Position: Linebacker

2013 stats: 54 tackles, two sacks

Analysis: Misi was part of an underachieving linebacker corp. But Misi was active and had six tackles for losses. The Dolphins would like to see more big plays from Misi in terms of sacks and interceptions. He received a contract extension from former general manager Jeff Ireland during the season.

No. 21: Brandon Gibson

Position: Wide receiver

2013 stats: 30 receptions, 326 yards, three touchdowns

Analysis: Gibson was catching his stride in the slot before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Getting back to 100 percent will be key for Gibson in an already deep receiving corp. Gibson is slick route-runner who is good at finding openings. He’s also a smart player with good hands.

Updating injured Miami Dolphins

February, 6, 2014
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MIAMI -- Injured players are often forgotten in the NFL. A person goes down for the season in October or training camp, while other players step in and fans forget the original place holder.

With that in mind, let’s update several key injuries for Miami and where those players currently stand.

1. TE Dustin Keller

Injury: Knee

2013 stats: No stats

Update: The Dolphins had big aspirations for Keller when he signed a one-year contract in March. But Keller suffered a gruesome blow to the leg, tearing multiple ligaments and ending his season. Charles Clay filled in very well and caught 69 passes. Clay did more than enough to prove he’s the starter in Miami. Clay and Keller's major knee injury make Keller's return to the Dolphins unlikely. Teams also could wait until it is late into free agency to see if Keller returns close to 100 percent.

2. CB Dimitri Patterson

Injury: Groin

2013 stats: 19 tackles, four interceptions

Update: Patterson will be an interesting case for the Dolphins and new general manager Dennis Hickey. Patterson produced when healthy, as evident by his four interceptions. But a tricky groin injury was bothersome all year and Patterson played just six games. Patterson should be 100 percent in the spring. However, he’s had a long list of injuries and comes with a steep salary of $5.4 million next season. I would be surprised if Miami keeps Patterson at that salary. The Dolphins already have to pony up a lot of money to keep unrestricted Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes.

3. WR Brandon Gibson

Injury: Knee

2013 stats: 30 receptions, 326 yards, three touchdowns

Update: Like Keller, Gibson was knocked out for the season after a significant knee injury. He was doing well in the slot after signing a three-year contract. Rishard Matthews replaced Gibson and also was productive. Gibson might miss some reps in organized team activities and minicamps during his recovery, but he should be getting close to 100 percent by training camp.

4. OT Will Yeatman

Injury: Knee

2013 stats: Eight games played

Update: Yeatman had a freak accident during a November practice where he tore his ACL. He played in eight games as a reserve. The former tight end has been a two-year project for Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Yeatman is a restricted free agent. So the Dolphins can bring him back on the cheap. However, since Yeatman was injured in November his recovery time will stretch into the summer.

5. WR Armon Binns

Injury: Knee

2013 stats: No stats

Update: Binns showed promise last offseason before blowing out his ACL in the summer. Binns didn’t make it to the regular season and now has to start from scratch in 2014. Binns made a brief appearance in Miami’s locker room after the regular season ended. Binns believed he would’ve helped the Dolphins last year. The bigger question is can Binns help Miami this year? He should be ready for training camp and will add depth to a deep group of Miami wide receivers.

Dolphins position breakdown: TE

January, 15, 2014
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ESPN.com’s Miami Dolphins page continues to examine the team’s roster entering free agency.

On Wednesday, we examine Miami’s tight ends.

Under contract in 2014: Charles Clay, Dion Sims, Michael Egnew

Free agent: Dustin Keller

Analysis: It was an unexpected season for Miami’s tight ends. The Dolphins signed Keller to a one-year contract last offseason and had high expectations for the former New York Jets veteran. But Keller blew out his knee in the preseason, leaving a void for someone else to step up. That replacement was Clay, who more than proved his worth with 69 receptions for 759 yards and a team-high seven total touchdowns. Clay is now firmly entrenched as Miami’s starter, while Keller is not expected to be re-signed. Backups Sims and Egnew got a decent amount of playing time, primarily as blockers. Miami has good depth at tight end. It is not a position of need heading into the offseason.

Walker’s stability meter (1 to 10, 10 being most stable): 9.5
We had another interesting SportsNation poll question this week in the Miami Dolphins blog. Here was the question: Who is the most improved player on the team this year?

There were various candidates to choose from. However, tight end Charles Clay received approximately 60 percent of the vote to come in first place. Clay has been a major surprise filling in for injured tight end Dustin Keller. Clay is second on the team in receptions (60) and leads Miami in touchdowns (seven).

In second place was Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon with approximately 28 percent of the vote. Vernon, in his first year as a starter, leads the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks.

Cornerback Nolan Carroll and running back Daniel Thomas brought up the rear in third and fourth place, respectively.

The Dolphins have received several surprise contributions, and it’s one of the reasons they are in the playoff hunt with three games remaining. Miami (7-6) will need all of these players to step up Sunday against the AFC East-leading New England Patriots.

Charles Clay comes up big for Dolphins

December, 8, 2013
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PITTSBURGH -- In a game filled with stars and storylines, a relative unknown shined the brightest to help lead the Miami Dolphins to a 34-28 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Miami tight end Charles Clay, a former sixth-round pick, had a game-high seven receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns. With the Steelers focusing their attention on Miami receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, Clay was able to make Pittsburgh's defense pay over the middle.

On the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter, Clay had to fight through a tackle to get to the end zone for a 12-yard score.

“It was just an attitude,” Clay said. “When you catch the ball that close to the goal line, the only thing I was thinking was to do all I could to get in the end zone.”

Clay entered training camp as a backup behind starting Miami tight end and big free-agent signing Dustin Keller. But Keller suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

Clay has stepped into Keller’s role nicely and has 60 receptions for 678 yards and six touchdowns this season. Clay proved he can be a starter in the NFL and is arguably Miami’s biggest surprise of the season.

“The guy comes to work hard every day,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “He likes competing. He goes out and enjoys playing. He’s a good teammate, and he’s a talented guy as he’s shown.”

It takes good role players like Clay to make a playoff run. The Dolphins (7-6) join the Baltimore Ravens (7-6) as two teams with the inside track on the final playoff spot in the AFC.

A signature road win like Sunday’s against the Steelers (5-8) could be the type of game that helps propel the Dolphins into the postseason. Miami showed a lot of character to over six lead changes, in part due to Clay’s toughness and production.

“We earned every bit of it,” Clay said of the win.

The Dolphins will host New England Patriots (10-3) next week in another big game for both teams.

QB Watch: Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
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A weekly examination of the Miami Dolphins' quarterback play.

Tannehill
Rewind: Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to be turnover-prone. He threw two interceptions and lost a key fumble in Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots. Tannehill now has 10 turnovers during Miami’s four-game losing streak. He is clearly suffering through a sophomore slump in his second season.

Fast-forward: Things do not get easier for Tannehill and Miami’s offense. The Dolphins will host the first-place Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) on Thursday, which is Halloween night. Cincinnati has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. But the Bengals have a particularly aggressive and talented defense that poses a lot of problems. Cincinnati rattled and confused New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith this past Sunday during a 49-9 blowout.

Losing targets: Tannehill lost one of his favorite receivers in Sunday’s defeat to New England. Slot receiver Brandon Gibson will be out for the season with a knee injury. Gibson was a reliable target for Tannehill over the middle of the field and recorded 30 receptions for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Tannehill has now lost two safety valves for the year due to knee injuries: Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller.

Prediction: Cincinnati is coming into this game with a lot of momentum. The Bengals are on a four-game winning streak, and the Dolphins are on a four-game losing streak. These are two teams heading in opposite directions. It will take a big performance from Tannehill to change that. Although it is possible, Tannehill is on a bad turnover streak and could continue that against a good Cincinnati defense.
The Miami Dolphins are 2-0 after winning back-to-back road games. Let’s see what’s on the minds of Dolphins fans heading into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

DrePowell72 via Twitter writes: How healthy is quarterback Ryan Tannehill?

James Walker: Any time you see a right shoulder injury for a quarterback, that raises eyebrows. But Tannehill is fine and will play on Sunday. He is listed as “probable.” Tannehill has been sacked nine times already in two games and is starting to develop some wear and tear. That should be a warning sign for Miami's offensive line that it needs to protect its quarterback better. It's a long season, and keeping Tannehill upright is important.




Brad from New York wants to know about the status of Dolphins starting safety Chris Clemons.

Walker: Clemons returned to practice Friday, which is a good sign. He is listed questionable with a hamstring injury, and I expect Clemons to be a game-time decision. The Dolphins certainly need Clemons. The Falcons are going to test Miami’s defense by throwing often and throwing deep.




Sliop24 via Twitter writes: Do you think cornerback Brent Grimes playing Julio Jones in practice when they were both on the Falcons will help him?

Walker: I asked Grimes this very question, Sliop24. Grimes said it helps, but that goes both ways. Jones also knows how Grimes likes to play. It really will come down to execution and which player is on the top of their game on Sunday. Both players are very talented.




TimWood1988 via Twitter writes: How scary good can this team be if they fire on all cylinders?

Walker: Any team is scary when firing on all cylinders, TimWood1988. But the Dolphins still have plenty to improve on. I’m curious to see if Miami can run the football more consistently and better protect Tannehill on offense. I also would like to see if the Dolphins can defend the tight end better on defense. Every team has things to work on, and right now these are three areas of improvement for the Dolphins.




Aqua_and_Orange via Twitter writes: How much has Charles Clay made people forget about Dustin Keller, and do you see his role expanding in this offense?

Walker: Clay has done a good job for two weeks. He has 10 receptions for 163 yards and a rushing touchdown in two games. However, it’s a long season and Clay must prove he can do it consistently for 16 games. Clay benefits from defenses not focusing on him. Look for Atlanta and other teams to pay some attention.




KipMoney via Twitter writes: Do you still do the chats? I haven't seen any lately.

Walker: Thanks for asking, KipMoney. Yes, I still chat on Tuesday. However, with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin changing the schedule to practice on Tuesday, I haven’t been able to chat the past two weeks. I don’t know how much longer Philbin will stick to this plan. I assume as long as the team is winning nothing will change. But if this goes a couple more weeks, I might change my chat day from Tuesday or Thursday.

Miami Dolphins Stock Watch

September, 17, 2013
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The Miami Dolphins are 2-0 after Sunday's victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

Here is a look at whose stock is up and whose stock is down in Miami after Week 2:

Rising

Wallace
Wallace
1. Mike Wallace, receiver: Wallace had a huge turnaround from Week 1 to Week 2. Wallace wasn’t happy after getting just one reception for 15 yards in his Dolphins debut against the Cleveland Browns. He responded Sunday with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown against Indianapolis. Wallace is a playmaker who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The Dolphins’ offense is potent when he’s involved for four quarters.

2. Dolphins coaching staff: It’s not sexy to talk about coaches after a win. But Miami head coach Joe Philbin and his staff did a masterful job against the Colts. The Dolphins fixed most of their Week 1 issues. They found different and creative ways to get Wallace the football, the running game was improved, and the defense stayed focused on stopping Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck in the second half when he’s most dangerous. Players make plays. But Miami’s coaches deserve credit for putting its talent in a position to succeed.

3. Charles Clay, tight end: Clay had a career game at the right time. He caught five passes for 109 and had a rushing touchdown against Indianapolis. Clay showed his versatility and increasing rapport with Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Clay’s biggest catch went for 67 yards and set up a touchdown. Clay did a good job of replacing former starter Dustin Keller, who is out of the season with a knee injury.

Falling

1. Dolphins’ pass protection: Miami’s pass protection was shaky for the second week in a row. Tannehill was sacked five times against Indianapolis. Miami has now allowed nine sacks in two games. Tannehill is showing his toughness, but this trend can’t continue if Miami wants to have a healthy quarterback this season. Tannehill is being sacked an average of 4.5 times per game.

2. Miami’s pass defense: Outside of cornerback Brent Grimes, Miami’s pass defense struggled against Luck and the Colts’ passing game. Luck threw for 321 yards, one touchdown and one interception to Grimes. Miami was without starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson, and Luck picked on Miami backups Nolan Carroll and Jimmy Wilson for completions.

3. Dion Jordan, defensive end: Although it’s a bit nitpicky, Jordan’s playing time dipped in Week 2. Miami’s No. 3 overall pick recorded one tackle and missed a key opportunity to sack Luck in the second half. It was a big missed played that could have come back to haunt Miami. The good news is Jordan now is 3-0 against Luck, dating back to their battles in college.

Miami morning take: Reaction Monday

September, 16, 2013
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Here are the most interesting Miami Dolphins stories Monday from around the Web:
  • Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes the Dolphins finally have playmakers this season.
Morning take: My biggest complaint with the 2012 Dolphins is that they didn’t have enough dynamic players. That changed this offseason when Miami added players like Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Brent Grimes. All made big plays against Indianapolis.
  • Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says the Dolphins' defense redeemed themselves after last year's loss in Indianapolis.
Morning take: The difference this year was Miami's defense made plays in the fourth quarter. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has eight fourth-quarter comebacks. But the Dolphins refused to be the latest victim.
  • Dave George of the Palm Beach Post writes Dolphins tight end Charles Clay showed his versatility against the Colts.
Morning take: Clay had a career game with five receptions for 109 yards and one rushing touchdown. The fullback/tight end showed all of his tools on Sunday, as he replaces injured starter Dustin Keller.
Morning take: Philbin was hyped after a big win. The Dolphins showed a lot of toughness and maturity during this 2-0 start.
DAVIE, Fla. – The Miami Dolphins hit the practice field for the first time during the 2013 regular season. Miami will travel to play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Here are some Dolphins notes from Monday's practice:
  • Miami had full attendance in preparation for Week 1. However, Miami rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis worked on the side with trainers in the portion of practice open to the media. Taylor has been off and on with hernia and groin injuries. Davis had a boot on his left foot, which is never a good sign with a game just six days away. That provides insight into why Miami kept extra defensive backs on its 53-man roster.
  • As far as good news, Dolphins No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan participated in team drills Monday. Jordan (shoulder) returned to full practice last week, which is a sign he's making good progress. Jordan appears confident he can play in Sunday's regular-season opener against the Browns. His role would likely be as a third-down pass-rusher if Jordan plays for Miami.
  • Dolphins tight end Charles Clay remains with the first team. Miami is still searching for a tight end to emerge after the season-ending knee injury to starter Dustin Keller. Clay sat with many of Miami’s starters last week in the fifth preseason game.
  • Two Dolphins rookies changed their numbers after making the 53-man roster. Running back Mike Gillislee changed from 35 to 23, which is the number he wore at the University of Florida. Fellow Gators alum and rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins also changed his number from 43 to 53. Jenkins took the number of former Dolphins veteran linebacker Austin Spitler.

ESPN.com’s Dolphins page will have plenty of reaction from Miami’s locker room after practice. Keep it locked here for all the latest. You can also follow my reports and observations via Twitter @JamesWalkerNFL.

What to Watch: Saints-Dolphins

August, 29, 2013
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MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins will play their fifth and final preseason game Thursday against the visiting New Orleans Saints.

Here are three things to watch for the Dolphins:

1. Players on the bubble: Miami must make 25 roster cuts by Saturday evening to get down to the 53-man limit. Several key players to watch are defensive tackle A.J. Francis, third-string quarterback Pat Devlin and receivers Marvin McNutt and Chad Bumphis. Look for the bottom portion of the roster to get plenty of playing time. Shameless plug alert: I will do my roster projection Friday after the final preseason game.

2. Progression of tight ends: It was not a strong outing for Miami’s tight ends following the season-ending knee injury to starting tight end Dustin Keller. The Dolphins got just three catches and 34 yards from the position. New starter Charles Clay had just one reception for five yards -- though he was targeted six times by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. This will be an important game for Miami’s tight ends to get reps in preparation for the regular season, even if Tannehill isn’t on the field. Let's see what more Clay, Michael Egnew, Kyle Miller and Dion Sims can do.

3. No injuries: To be blunt, there isn’t much for teams to gain in this final preseason game. The most important thing for the Dolphins is to exit without significant injuries. The real games start in about 10 days, when the Dolphins travel to face the Cleveland Browns. Miami head coach Joe Philbin has been coy about playing time for his starters. Some may play briefly, while others might not play at all. This is a game for backups and fringe players.
ESPN.com kicked off the new NFL Nation with a two-hour, mega-chat involving reporters representing all 32 teams.

I discussed a variety of topics concerning the Miami Dolphins and the upcoming season. Here are some of the subjects that were covered:
  • What are realistic expectations for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill?
  • Is this a big year for Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland?
  • Will Miami’s offensive line hold up?
  • What are Miami’s best options at tight end after Dustin Keller’s injury?
  • Can Miami field a top-10 defense?
  • Will running back Lamar Miller have a big year?
  • Which Dolphins players are on the bubble for Saturday's final cuts?

These answers and more are all provided in this chat transcript by clicking this link. Thanks to those who dropped by and provided great questions.

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