DAVIE, Fla. -- On Friday, the Dolphins will bounce onto the practice field full of optimism. It's the opening day of training camp, and, for good reason, spirits will be sky high.
There are new bookend offensive tackles -- Pro Bowl selection Branden Albert on the left side and first-round pick Ja'Wuan James on the right -- to anchor an exciting new offense.
The wide receivers, led by Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson, are a quality crew.
The Dolphins boast a solid defense led by Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes and Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Wake.
Those are enough legitimate reasons to believe the Dolphins will make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
But beneath the surface of that preseason giddiness, serious unknowns linger.
No one knows whether first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's new offense will actually produce more points than the 19.8 per game (26th in the NFL) last season.
And no one knows how many games Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey will miss after offseason hip surgery. The prevailing opinion is four. For that matter, no one knows how long it will take the offensive line, one of the worst in the NFL last season, to come together. It'll open the season with five new starters.
And you have to wonder how long before running back Knowshon Moreno, the free agent signee from Denver, fully recovers from arthroscopic left knee surgery.
The biggest question quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to answer is whether he can connect with Wallace consistently on the deep ball. Last season the duo constantly struggled when they dialed up big-yardage plays.
"They have, a number of times," coach Joe Philbin insisted at the end of last month's three-day minicamp. "We hit Mike on a deep-corner route (the second day of minicamp) in practice for a touchdown, one of the better inside-post routes that we've hit in my time here where they connected deep, and some other verticals. It's been better."
The feeling in the Dolphins' organization is last year's 8-8 season can be turned into a playoff berth with a few changes.
The new offense is the biggest change. It'll get the most attention during training camp.
The most important thing for the offense in the early stages of training camp is tempo, Philbin said.
Lazor's system features lots of pre-snap motion that's intended to get favorable matchups against defenders. The pre-snap motion adds a layer of complication to the offense, which, in the early stages won't have Pouncey, the leader of the offensive line, so Philbin, Lazor and Tannehill have to strike a balance.
"As with anything in football, there's pluses and minuses," Philbin said of the pre-snap motion, "but we've been stressing the tempo and getting up, fast motion, fast shifts, snap the ball and get going."
The defense and special teams enter training camp in good shape, for the most part. They're the strength of the team and the biggest reason to think the Dolphins will make the playoffs.
Yes, defensive end Dion Jordan, the No. 3 pick in 2013, will miss the first four games due to a NFL-mandated suspension for performance enhancing drugs.
And, yes, the linebackers are an unknown. Middle linebacker Koa Misi and strongside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe switched positions. The Dolphins hope it makes them better against the run.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and free safety Louis Delmas also raise a bit of a question because they're veterans coming off so-so seasons.
But the defensive line is so strong, and Grimes is so good, the defensive shortcomings can be worked around.
The Dolphins have questions, but expect the players to have an upbeat vibe when camp opens Friday. It's a new year, which means there's reason for hope.
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