The Miami Dolphins have a small challenge. They are improving from last season.
Brian Flores has been an impressive head coach for the Dolphins on and off the field since arriving from New England in 2019 as an assistant. He will lead the challenge ahead. Improvements from 5-11 to 10-6 deserves to applaud, but the air will get thicker this season to secure a playoff berth for the first time since 2016.
Flores is on the sideline; his roster is who Dolphins fans pay to see. This is the season for Dolphins fans to see that playoff birth come to fruition. The talent is on this roster its starts at quarterback with fifth overall pick Tua Tagovailoa. At the moment, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is not walking through the door with his off-the-field scandals.
Let’s get into the offense.
Last season was an abnormality for Tagovailoa. It is fair. He played earlier than I thought from a hip injury that occurred while playing at the University of Alabama and didn’t have the benefit of a typical offseason of the preseason because of the COVID-19 protocols in place.
Moreover, Tagovailoa had a 6-3 record as a starter after taking over for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he ranked 30th and 31st among 35 qualifiers in average yards per attempt and completion.
Now, Tagovailoa looks better at the quarterback position; however, from the sample size of training camp and two preseason games, the verdict will be determined in the regular season if he is genuinely improved.
Miami is deep at the tight end position. Mike Gesicki is Tua’s big target. Gesicki’s 703 receiving yards last season ranked fourth-best at the position.
The offensive line is where the Dolphins continue to move the pieces around. The Dolphins have used five draft picks on offensive linemen over the past two drafts; that includes projected starters Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley, all taken in the 2020 draft, and 2021 second-round pick Liam Eichenberg.
Dolphins acquired two offensive linemen via trade, adding tackle Greg Little from the Carolina Panthers and center/guard Greg Mancz from the Baltimore Ravens.
There is speed at the wide receiver position; Albert Wilson is back after opting out last season. Dolphins signed former Houston Texans first-rounder Will Fuller V as an unrestricted free agent. They drafted Tua’s former Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. DeVante Parker, the team leader in receptions the past three seasons, is treasured for this receiving core.
The running back position to go along with a questionable offensive line brings question marks to the table. Mile Gaskins appears to be the no.1, but Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed will mix offensive plays throughout the season.
Defense is where the Dolphins butter their bread.
The defense was outstanding last season expect an improvement this season. Key starters return from a unit that led the NFL in 2020 in both takeaways (29) and third-down stops (31.8 opponent conversion rate).
Flores was a defensive assistant at New England, leading to the improvement on the field, but his anchor is All-Pro cornerback Xavien Howard. The latter last season became the first NFL player since 2007 to reach double digits in interceptions. Moreover, he was ranked 17th on the NFL Top 100 list. Howard is back after the Dolphins agreed to restructure his contract this summer after the cornerback requested a trade.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah led the team in sacks with nine in 2020, linebacker Jerome Baker had seven while ending up as one of only two players in the NFL (along with Tampa Bay linebacker Devin White) with at least 100 tackles and seven sacks.
The secondary also includes cornerback Byron Jones, who had two interceptions last season. Safety Eric Rowe knows how to shut down the team’s best tight end. Rookie Jevon Holland, out of Oregon, had four interceptions in training camp. Dolphins selected University of Miami edge defender Jaelan Phillips who will improve the pass rush. Veteran Jason McCourty is a new edition from New England and will help at cornerback and safety position.
My prediction on their record: 10-7. The defense will be the reason for twins this season and making the playoffs. Tagovailoa is expected to be better in his second season, but there’s more to been on how improved he will be. Hopefully, the offensive line does not disappoint.