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NFL notebook: Dolphins are eager to break drought

Associated Press

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The NFL’s bottom-feeders are a predictable bunch, with Cleveland and Buffalo and Tampa Bay among the most consistent clunkers.

So why are the Miami Dolphins believed to be catching such a break just because those three teams are on the schedule? Truth is, only nine of 32 NFL outfits have missed the playoffs each of the last four seasons, and Miami is one of them. Stretch it out a little further and the Dolphins have made the postseason just once in the last 11 seasons.

What’s needed in Joe Philbin’s second season as coach is some real traction, not just a redrawn team logo but a thoroughly rebooted organization. There’s a decent chance it could work, too, if newcomers such as Dannell Ellerbe and Mike Wallace can push Philbin’s holdovers to separate themselves from the pack, and pronto.

Of course, much of the focus will be on Ryan Tannehill’s rate of development in his second season. There were a few outbursts last year, including 431 passing yards in the kid’s fourth NFL start, but overall the Dolphins averaged fewer than two offensive touchdowns per game.

This league asks a lot of every team, and at every position, so what is the answer? Will the Dolphins, seemingly stuck on 7-9, really flip the switch over to the winning side this season?

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you until we start playing some games,” said wide receiver Brian Hartline, a former GlenOak High School and Ohio State standout who is the only one of Miami’s top four 2012 receivers still on the roster. “We’ve brought some guys in. Any time you do that, you should be a better team.

“It’s about coming together and making plays and doing it at the right time. It’s about being efficient, not causing penalties, not hurting ourselves. I guess you really don’t know until Game 1.”

And maybe even a little longer. Game 1 is at Cleveland, where Brownouts are a season-opening tradition. The schedule gets considerably meaner for Miami after that, with Atlanta, New Orleans and Super Bowl champion Baltimore served up in short order. If we’re still talking about the Dolphins’ playoffs chances in December, when Pittsburgh and New England are the back-to-back test, it will be because Philbin’s aggressive new defense is playing up to its summertime billing.

“We’ve got very athletic guys who are fast, who can move,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “Our defensive players like to be on the attacking end of things, and we’re good at it.”

The offense isn’t so steady, with soft spots along the line and no Tannehill track record in conjunction with Wallace and new slot receiver Brandon Gibson, a five-touchdown man in St. Louis last year. New tight end Dustin Keller is already gone due to injury, and there is the challenge of building a balanced running attack without Reggie Bush, whom Detroit wanted more than Miami.

“I think our running game is going to be good,” Philbin said of a young group led by Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, who between them rushed for five touchdowns last year. “I like it.”

Seattle boosts security

Seattle police say they will deploy undercover police officers at Seahawks games this year after multiple reports of unruly fans last season. The department says patrols will begin with Thursday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Officials say police received complaints about fan-on-fan violence and harassment in and out of the stadium.

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