AFC Notes: Dolphins, Pats, Dupree

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill believes the team’s 2017 offense will be the best he has ever played with, and James Walker of ESPN.com agrees with him. On paper, Miami does boast a great deal of talent at the skill positions, but as Walker observes, the Dolphins still have some depth problems. Jay Ajayi was a revelation in 2016, but what happens if he should go down with an injury, or if he needs to be spelled from time to time as the season progresses? Could Kenyan Drake or Damien Williams step up? And can Leonte Carroo be counted on to complement Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry, and DeVante Parker, or even carry the load if one of those players should get hurt? Will Mike Pouncey stay healthy for a full season. Of course, every team can ask itself similar questions, but for the Dolphins’ offense to take a step forward this year, it will need to stay healthy or else get contributions from unlikely sources.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • As Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes, the Patriots don’t have many major position battles, but one to keep an eye on is at backup tight end. Of course, Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen are entrenched in the top spots, but given Gronk’s health issues, the No. 3 TE could end up playing a significant role. As it currently stands, Matt Lengel and James O’Shaughnessy will compete with UDFAs Jacob Hollister and Sam Cotton for the job.
  • Steelers LB Bud Dupree was drafted with the thought that he could become the next great Pittsburgh pass rusher, and given the way he performed down the stretch in 2016, the team believes the third-year pro is ready to make the leap. As Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review points out, Dupree did not start his first game in 2016 until Week 14 — he began the year on injured reserve and was slowly eased back into action — but in that Week 14 matchup, Dupree played all but one snap and racked up 2.5 sacks (he ended the regular season with 4.5 sacks). He also recorded a half-sack in the playoffs while playing all but three snaps, so he appears primed for a breakout in 2017.
  • The Browns finished 1-15 last season, and most think they will be lucky to get to six or seven wins in 2017, but Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com says head coach Hue Jackson is not on a short leash. The team’s front office realizes it was again looking at a multi-year overhaul when it hired Jackson, and Jackson will get a chance to see it through (assuming he wants to, of course).
  • Some are wondering why Chad Henne is still on the Jaguars roster even though he does not have a pass attempt since 2014, but Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union has a succinct answer. O’Halloran says, “Henne has experience in many offenses. He has experience working with new coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. And he has accepted being a sounding board for Blake Bortles. That’s why [he] is here.” Of course, as we heard last month, second-year player Brandon Allen could unseat Henne with an impressive preseason.
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