Miami Dolphins make needed defensive strides in offseason

The Miami Dolphins ended their offseason program on June 15. Here’s a look at how they fared:

Offseason goals/grade: The Dolphins entered the offseason hoping to improve their 29th-ranked defense. They signed veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons and safety Nate Allen in free agency and added defensive end Charles Harris and linebacker Raekwon McMillan with their first two picks in the draft. The moves paid early dividends, as Miami's team speed on defense, pass rush and ability to create turnovers are already showing. The defense beat the offense by a significant margin in most practices open to the media. Of course, Miami's inconsistent performance on offense affects its overall grade. Grade: B+

Move I liked: Harris, Miami's first-round pick and No. 22 overall, flashed early and often during organized team activities and minicamp. Watching Harris hold his own against 2016's first-round pick, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, was among the most intriguing parts of spring practices. Harris' quick first step was problematic, even for Tunsil. Initially, I had reservations about the Dolphins drafting another defensive end for an already deep group that includes Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, starter Andre Branch and veteran backup William Hayes. But Harris' youth and athleticism add a different dynamic, and he should make an impact despite a limited role.

Move I didn’t like: There were major questions about the offensive line after the Dolphins traded veteran left tackle Branden Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Those questions still remain after spring practices. Miami moved Tunsil from left guard to left tackle to replace Albert. There are calculated risks involved with that move, but it makes sense. The area of concern is the inside part of the line, in terms of replacing Tunsil at left guard and the health of center Mike Pouncey, who didn’t practice this spring as he recovers from hip surgery. Free-agent pickup Ted Larsen is a drop-off from Tunsil at guard, and there is no guarantee Tunsil will be an immediate stud tackle protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s blind side. Add in the fact that Pouncey’s durability has been a question for the past three seasons and it’s clear the offensive line has a lot to prove.

Biggest question still to be answered in training camp: Can the Dolphins stop the run? They were 30th against the run last season; that was the team's biggest weakness. Miami made the aforementioned defensive additions with that in mind. But without pads and with limited contact in spring practices, it is hard to gauge Miami's improvement at this stage. The focus for defensive players in spring practices was to make sure they were in the right position to stop the run. We will know a lot more about Miami's run defense once the physicality ramps up in training camp and the Dolphins face opponents in the preseason.

Salary-cap space: $17,333,558 (Overthecap.com)

2017 draft picks: 1. DE Charles Harris, 2. LB Raekwon McMillan, 3. Cordrea Tankersley, 4. G Isaac Asiata, 5. DT Davon Godchaux, 6. DT Vincent Taylor, 7. WR Isaiah Ford.

Undrafted rookie free agents signed: LB Chase Allen, LS Winston Chapman, P Matt Haack, CB Larry Hope, WR Malcolm Lewis, DE Cameron Malveaux, CB Torry McTyer, DE Praise Martin-Oguike, WR Drew Morgan, WR Francis Owusu, DE Joby Saint Fleur, RB De’Veon Smith, OT Eric Smith, S Maurice Smith, WR Damore’ea Stringfellow.

Unrestricted free agents signed: S Nate Allen, TE Anthony Fasano, LB Lawrence Timmons, G Ted Larsen, S T.J. McDonald, QB David Fales, T Avery Young, DE Arthur Miley, LB Deon Lacey.

Restricted free agent signed: RB Damien Williams

Players acquired via trade: TE Julius Thomas, DE William Hayes