The Miami Dolphins facility is empty this week.
For the first time in his five seasons as Dolphins general manager, Jeff Ireland heads to Indianapolis with over 50 members of his personnel and coaching staffs.
“We brought every single person in the building so we’ve got eyes on every single player at the combine,” Ireland said on Thursday morning.
“We are trying to prioritize who we’re looking at and what we’re looking at. No firm decisions are made during this process. We are just gathering all the information as it comes in.”
Ireland and his staff have nine picks in April’s NFL Draft and the general manager knows this is an important offseason in trying to close the gap in the AFC East.
This past year the Dolphins finished second in the AFC East at 7-9 after their season turned beginning in the month of November.
Sitting at 4-3 heading into the month, the Dolphins fell 23-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium to the Colts, which started a stretch of five losses in six weeks.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill started all 16 games and threw for 3,294 yards at just under 60 percent.
Some critics questioned the selection of Tannehill with the eighth overall pick in 2012, but Ireland pointed to his production this past year along with his youthfulness at the position as to reasons for optimism moving forward.
“As I’ve said before Ryan’s got 35-36 games under his belt as a starting quarterback combined in his college and pro career. Normally, you’d like to have 35 games as a graduating senior,” Ireland said of the quarterback position.
“I still think there is a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential and I like what I see so far. I love his intangible makeup. I love his athletic skill set.”
For the second straight season, Tannehill and the Dolphins will head to Lucas Oil Stadium as both teams finished second in their respective divisions in 2013.
It should be a little quieter training camp in southern Florida this summer after the Dolphins were showcased on HBO’s Hard Knocks series last year.
“We sat (last year) and talked about whether or not we were going to do it and Joe made the famous statement, ‘I don’t think any games are going to be won by doing it and I don’t think any games are going to be lost by doing it.’ And I still feel the same way,” Ireland said.
“I enjoyed it. It was a good exposure for our franchise.”
With second-year head coach Joe Philbin at the helm, the Dolphins begin the offseason with a significant amount of cap room to go along with a team that has its quarterback of the future in place.
Now, it’s time for a week in Indianapolis where the respective staffs of Ireland and Philbin to come together as the Dolphins continue to look for pieces in closing the gap in the AFC East.
“I’ve always said the scouts help you bring information to the bridge and without the coaches you can’t cross the bridge,” Ireland said. “You have to have both involved in this evaluation. It’s a very critical period for us.”
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