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AFC East offseason update: Dolphins counting on Tannehill's return, culture change

This is the second of a three-part series reviewing what the rest of the AFC East did during the offseason.

The Miami Dolphins flirted with joining several other teams, including two in their division, in the franchise-quarterback gold rush of 2018.

Instead, they're putting their faith in Ryan Tannehill's recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him all last season, while giving him one final shot to prove he's their long-term answer at QB.

The Dolphins also used the offseason to fix a culture their decision-makers felt wasn't conducive to a team-oriented foundation. Gone are wide receiver Jarvis Landry, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and center Mike Pouncey – players they saw as being too selfish to continue to be worth keeping despite their superior talent.

The team's brass now believes it has assembled a roster that can better handle last season's adversity, which began with Tannehill's injury and included Hurricane Irma causing the loss of the Dolphins' bye and an assistant coach behaving badly enough to be forced to resign a quarter of the way into the season.

Here's the rundown:

Key additions:

WR Danny Amendola (FA, New England), OLB Jerome Baker (3rd round, Ohio State), DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (1st round, Alabama), TE Mike Gesicki (2nd round, Penn State), RB Frank Gore (FA, Indianapolis), C Daniel Kilgore (T, San Francisco), DE Robert Quinn (T, L.A. Rams), OG Josh Sitton (FA, Chicago), DT Akeem Spence (T, Detroit), WR Albert Wilson (FA, Kansas City).

Key subtractions:

WR Jarvis Landry, C Mike Pouncey, DT Ndamukong Suh, TE Julius Thomas, LB Lawrence Timmons.

Key coaching change:

Dowell Loggains replaced Clyde Christensen as offensive coordinator. Loggains spent the past two seasons as OC of the Chicago Bears, who promoted him to the position from quarterbacks coach after Adam Gase left to coach the Dolphins. Loggains might not be a dramatic upgrade over Christensen, but he's an upgrade.

Games against the Bills:

Dec. 2, at Hard Rock Stadium; Dec. 30, at New Era Field.

Schedule overview:

The toughest stretch comes at the end of the season. The Dolphins finish with five games against playoff teams that had a combined 45-19 record last year. It begins at home against the Bills, followed by another home encounter with New England. After that, it's a road contest against Minnesota, at home against Jacksonville, and a road trip to Orchard Park to face the Bills.

Catching up with rest of AFC East: Patriots should overcome drama, Edelman suspension

What to expect on offense:

How well Tannehill comes back from the torn ACL he suffered in his left knee during the first non-contact 11-on-11 drill in training camp early last August is anyone's guess. Besides the physical recovery, there also is the mental aspect as Tannehill – whose mobility is a big part of his game – gains confidence that his knee will hold up. Gase had seemingly connected well with Tannehill in 2016, but they lost crucial development time last season as Gase was forced to coax one of his former QBs, Jay Cutler, out of retirement in a futile attempt to save the Dolphins' season. Amendola should provide a reliable target and Gore's experience could be helpful, provided he still has something left in the tank. With those two, plus Wilson, the overall team attitude can be expected to greatly improve.

What to expect on defense:

Thanks largely to Suh's bloated salary, the defensive line had the distinction of being the NFL's highest-paid, yet one of its least productive. The Dolphins were 26th in the league in sacks last season with 30. There's a chance that could change for the better if Quinn, Spence and Baker make the impact they're expected to have. The Dolphins also will look for last year's first-round pick, end Charles Harris, to rebound from a disappointing rookie season when he had only two sacks. This year's first-rounder, highly versatile defensive back Fitzpatrick, and linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who missed his rookie season in 2017 with a torn ACL, also will try to do their share to contribute to a defensive upgrade.

What it all means:

Something's going to give with Tannehill, even if it isn't his surgically repaired knee giving out. Either he delivers, or the Dolphins will do much more than flirt with the possibility of finding his replacement. The other storyline to watch is Gase. He did a lot of purging, and the pressure is on for positive results to show – especially if Landry, Suh, and Pouncey excel with their new clubs.

Next: New York Jets.

Power Rankings: NFL offseason

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