Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Patriots' scheduled opponents in the upcoming season. The following are questions that have been posed to the beat writers of each particular team. In this case, the Miami Dolphins.
Five questions about the Dolphins heading into training camp with Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Date: Dec. 2
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Sun Life Stadium
Date: Dec. 30
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: Gillette Stadium
2011 record: 6-10
1. What is going to be the strength of this team?
The strength of the 2012 Dolphins will continue to be the defensive line. Miami has annually been one of the most forceful defensive lines when it comes to shutting down the run. The Dolphins have been top six against the run for the past two years, and top 10 for the last three. Adding Olivier Vernon and moved to a base 4-3 scheme should help strengthen Miami's pass rushing.
2. Where are they looking to get better?
The Dolphins should be .500 based on talent alone, but quarterback play is Miami's Achilles heel. The Dolphins could be in the playoff hunt if they find another Chad Pennington. The offense changing to a West Coast approach under Joe Philbin's leadership will help, but it's going to be a process.
3. Players on the spot?
Miami's defense will only be as good as the secondary allows. Vontae Davis, Sean Smith and safety Reshad Jones are all talented players, but their maturity level and weekly preparation has been a concern the past few years. The Dolphins need a safety who can keep the unit tougher, preventing communication breakdowns. Receiver Clyde Gates, offensive guard John Jerry and tight ends Will Yeatman and Jeron Mastrud are all young players being put on the hot seat in training camp.
4. What needs to happen for this team to win big?
The Dolphins need a quarterback who can settle the offense, convert first downs, score in the red zone, and limit turnovers. David Garrard might become that player considering he's digested the west coast offense the best. But it is possible Matt Moore could blossom in his second season as a starter.
5. Realistic expectations for this team at this point?
The Dolphins aren't much competition for the Tom Brady-led Patriots, but with solid quarterback play the team's strong defense should keep Miami hovering around .500. Last year's team won six games in the second-half of the season, and that doesn't include Miami's four fourth-quarter losses.