Schedule: @NE, BUF, @JAX, SEA, @SF, @DEN, LAC, LAR, @ARI, NYJ, BYE, @NYJ, CIN, KC, NE, @LVR, @BUF
Additions: CB Byron Jones (FA), LB Kyle Van Noy (FA), EDGE Shaq Lawson (FA), EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah (FA), RB Jordan Howard (FA), C Ted Karras (FA), RB Matt Breida (Trade), QB Tua Tagovailoa (Draft), OL Austin Jackson (Draft), CB Noah Igbinoghene (Draft), OL Robert Hunt (Draft)
Losses: OL Evan Boehm (FA), EDGE Taco Charlton (FA), S Reshad Jones (Cut), WR Allen Hurns (Opt-out), WR Albert Wilson (Opt-out)
Let me just start by saying I’m sorry. I know a lot of people are going to be angry that I have Miami with the same number of wins as last year after all the moves they made this offseason. I expected to give them more wins, too. Just hear me out.
For starters, I don’t look at the 2019 Dolphins as a five-win team. Yes, I know they won that many games. But, those wins were as insignificant and fluky as you’ll see. These were the teams they beat and their records at the time: the 1-6 Jets, 5-3 Colts with Brian Hoyer starting, 5-6 Eagles, 1-13 Bengals, and 12-3 Patriots in the annual Miami Curse game. Some other teams they lost to: 0-5 Football Team, 2-4 Steelers, 4-6 Browns, 4-8 Jets, and 2-11 Giants.
They also had the worst point differential in the league. Even if you extrapolate the last 14 games over a full season (removing the first two epic blowouts), it still would’ve been fifth-worst. A good comparison to me is the 2017 Bills who made the playoffs despite a -57 point differential. Expected to build off that success, they finished 6-10 in 2018.
Now that that’s out of the way, let me be clear. I love the direction this team is heading. Brian Flores did an unbelievable coaching job last year—just like Sean McDermott in 2017. I’m excited to see what he can do with a roster of actual NFL players.
Miami’s quarterback situation will be a fun one to watch. Ryan Fitzpatrick had one of the most consistent seasons of his career in 2019. Given his track record, I’m a little weary of expecting a repeat. Then there’s the matter of his replacement, Tua Tagovailoa. As you’ll see, I’m not expecting a ton from rookies—quarterbacks especially—in this bizarro season. Fitzpatrick will likely start the season before being replaced somewhere around midseason. Regardless of who’s in, I don’t anticipate strong quarterback play overall.
The rest of the roster is where the improvements should really shine through, starting with the secondary. Clearly Flores learned the importance of cover guys during his time in New England. With Xavien Howard returning from injury and the additions of Byron Jones and Noah Igbinoghene, Miami has a corner trio rivaling the Patriots’ elite group. The safeties are no slouches either.
That’s the type of unit you can build a team around, and the Dolphins did a good job filling in the surrounding pieces. Kyle Van Noy did everything in his time in New England and his presence should improve every position group. And the Dolphins are going to need it to because there are some holes left over from last year’s atrocious defense.
Besides Van Noy, most of the front seven remains subpar. Adding guys like Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah along with development from Christian Wilkins should jump start a pass rush that finished with a league-worst 23 sacks last season. I don’t expect them to be great, though. Outside of the secondary, this is still an underwhelming defense.
Offensively, there was a similarly large overhaul. There’s a good chance all five starters from last year’s porous offensive line will be replaced. Also, there’s almost no chance Fitzpatrick will repeat as the team’s leading rusher now that Jordan Howard and Matt Breida are in the fold.
With that being said, I don’t know how much better off either of those groups really are. Rookie Austin Jackson and free agent signings Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers seem like locks to start along the o-line which leaves two spots up for grabs. The top candidates are two more rookies and Jesse Davis, last year’s starting right tackle.
Despite his rough past, Flowers revived his career at guard last season and is now the team’s most proven lineman. That’s not ideal. Karras comes from New England where he was primarily a great backup but a backup nonetheless. Then you have a holdover from a line Dolphins fans would love to forget and three first-year players. As I’ve said, I’m worried about rookies this year and offensive line is an especially hard transition, so I don’t expect drastic improvement from this bunch.
Same goes for running back. It would be almost impossible not to improve from last year, which is good because the new guys aren’t exactly superstar additions. If Howard is hit in the backfield, he’ll still fight his way for a 4-yard gain. If he has a massive hole ahead, he’ll still only get you 4 yards. Breida is the higher-ceiling option, but he’s never cemented himself as the guy.
That leaves the receivers as Miami’s most promising and stable group. Unfortunately, they took a hit as well, with Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson both opting-out. Both those players were expected to make the roster and contribute, so their depth will be tested. Mike Gesicki offers a little upside at tight end. Devante Parker is WR1 and balled out to end 2019. It’ll be interesting to see if he can keep that form all season and how Preston Williams fares as his sidekick.
I know predicting only five wins makes me seem like a Dolphins hater, but I just don’t think this roster is that talented even after an excellent offseason. We’ve seen in the past that extreme overhauls often take a couple years to yield results, and I expect that to hold true here. One thing in Miami’s favor, though, is that they get the Jets (depending on how bad you feel they are) twice, the Bengals, and the Jaguars.
What’s your record prediction for the Dolphins? What did I get right or wrong? Sound off in the comments.