The Miami Dolphins open training camp in less than three weeks and are gearing up for an important season in franchise history
The Miami Dolphins have been talked about this off-season more than any in franchise history. Miami has been in the news constantly. Whether it be Brian Flores’ lawsuit, Tyreek Hill’s hyperbolic claims about Tua Tagovailoa, or the national media reminding the world, seemingly once a week, that this is Tagovailoa’s “last chance” to prove he can be a high-level quarterback, the Dolphins can’t seem to get away from the public eye. Even with the Deshaun Watson situation behind them, Miami cannot stay quiet.
New coaching staff
Let’s not sugarcoat it; the Dolphins 2021 coaching staff was an unmitigated disaster. A lengthy offensive coordinator search that featured heavy hitters resulted in two internal promotions for two position coaches to serve as “co-coordinators”. Yet, somehow, the co-coordinators did not start the season calling plays. That luxury went to quarterback coach Charlie Fry. And then, of course, Flores “stopped communicating with his staff somewhere around really Thanksgiving and even about things like daily meeting plans,” claims insider Marcel Louis-Jacques (ESPN).
All that belongs in the past. Mike McDaniel was named head coach earlier this year and is bringing a different approach. McDaniel, a young coach who is renowned for being a run game guru, has brought a completely different feeling to the building. The last two head coaches, Flores, and the much maligned Adam Gase, could be described as ego maniacs who had a hard time connecting with players. McDaniel is anything but as multiple players from his previous stints, including All-Pro tight end George Kittle, applaud McDaniel for his ability to connect with players. McDaniel brings with him a staff of teachers, headlined by offensive coordinator Frank Smith, who look to revive this franchise’s dead offense. The Dolphins have not had a top ten total offense since 1995.
The Dolphins swung big this off-season. Miami added two stars on offense in wide receiver Tyreek Hill and offensive tackle Terron Armstead. Hill and second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle are already the most explosive receiving combo in the NFL. That duo looks to transform an offense that lacked explosivity in 2021. The offense also sees the additions of Cedrick Wilson, Raheem Mostert, Connor Williams, and Chase Edmonds. Miami’s elite defense is seeing a good bit of continuity. Along with retaining defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, Miami is keeping most of their defense the same. The most notable additions are veteran pass rusher Melvin Ingram and third-round linebacker Channing Tindall.
Miami’s roster is unquestionably better in 2022. Keeping everything the same on defense is a substantial risk however. Defense is something that is hard to keep consistent. Most of it is based on the opponent. Miami will be looking for jumps from 2021 draft picks on defense to truly improve. Safety Jevon Holland and edge rusher Jaelan Phillips were impressive as rookies. They will need to become stars for Miami to take the next step.
South Florida turnstiles
The 2021 Dolphins could not block anybody. Jesse Davis started 16 games at right tackle and was a disaster. His days are over in Miami. Last season, Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg, nothing more than overpriced traffic cones in 2021, are going to compete for starting jobs. Armstead and Williams are immediate upgrades over anyone from the 2021 line. Armstead specifically should be a massive bolster to the unit. Miami has not had a player this talented and credentialed since the Jake Long or Laremy Tunsil days. Offensive line coach Matt Applebaum, making the leap from Boston College, has work to do with the young players. Surpsingly, Robert Hunt has been the lone bright spot and would benefit immensely from better coaching. Applebaum has been renowned for his teaching and development, which gives Miami a greater-than-zero chance to salvage Jackson or Eichenberg.
The elephant in the room
This is not a Tua Tagovailoa think piece. Has he been great? No. Has he been bad? Nope. Tagovailoa, the often criticized former top-five pick has been just fine. There are things to be encouraged about. His pocket presence has stopped Miami from breaking the all-time sack record. His accuracy and ball placement kept a mundane offense moving for most of the season. However, there are things to be concerned about. He hasn’t thrown the deep ball enough. His medium-distance accuracy has been all over the place. Also, his decision-making has been inconsistent at times. The narratives around the young quarterback have gotten pretty hyperbolic these days however. He was, in no way, shape, or form a bad quarterback in 2021. He was just average. The reality of the situation is that he has not been given many tools to succeed. Those days are over.
The situation for Tagovailoa is relatively simple. If he takes another step forward in 2022, he will remain the starting quarterback. Miami will also likely be a playoff team. If he stays where he is or gets worse, the Dolphins will likely move on. Many players are excited to see what Tagovailoa looks like in 2022. Hill has taken it upon himself to uplift his quarterback. Despite drawing some criticism, Hill refuses to back down. He has spent the off-season working and encouraging the young quarterback. Much has been said about just how much support Tagovalia had within the organization. However, those concerns have subsided as Miami appears to be fully committed to him for now. Is it fair to give him just one season with his new coach? Probably not, but the Dolphins have the assets to cash in and need to know about him soon.
Playoffs seem to be the expectation this season. The Dolphins are 19-14 across the last two seasons but have yet to see the postseason. The division appears out of reach this season. The Buffalo Bills have Miami’s number right now and Josh Allen has been unstoppable in those games. Buffalo also appears to have the best roster in the league right now. Adding future Hall of Famer Von Miller to their defense makes them just that much better. Miami will be competing for a wild card spot. There has been substantial talk about the Dolphins and all of it can be shut down if they simply win.