What’s Next for the Miami Dolphins?
The 2020 Miami Dolphins (10-6) finished tied with their best record since 2016 and had their sixth winning season since 2000. Not only did they improve their record by five games from the previous year, but they also scored 98 more points on offense, while surrendering 156 less pointson defense. On the defensive side in 2019, they were ranked 26th against the pass, 27th against the run, surrendered the most points in the league, and had the 30th ranked defense. Fast forward to 2020, and the defense improved to 23rd against the pass, 16th against the run, surrendered the 6th fewest points in the league, and had the 20th ranked defense.
Now while the pass defense did only improve three placements in the rankings, the pass defense did improve dramatically. In 2019, the Dolphins gave up 39 passing touchdowns, most in the league. Compare that to 2020, and the Dolphins gave up 21 passing touchdowns, 2ndfewest in the league. Dolphins defenders also picked off opposing quarterbacks 18 times in 2020 (most in the league), compared to only 13 times in 2019 (12th best). Those two statistics played an integral part in the five-win swing from 2019 to 2020. If the Dolphins can keep the momentum, make some key moves in free agency and the draft, they could be a team to look out for in 2021 to be a dark horse to compete in both their division, and the playoffs.
Young Nucleus Leads Charge
The Dolphins are already set at quarterback for now. Tua Tagovailoa, the 5th overall selection in last year’s draft, appears to have taken the reins of the offense for the upcoming season, with Ryan Fitzpatrick appearing to be headed out of town. The true test now, is making him comfortable in his second year, and getting him some weapons.
Tagovailoa had some solid stats in his 9 games starting. He threw for 1814 yards, had 11 touchdowns, threw 5interceptions, and was sacked 20 times. The Dolphinshave receivers Devante Parker and Preston Wiliams, tight end Mike Gesicki, and running back Myles Gaskin all under contract for 2021, and all under 28 years old. Improving both the receiving core and running back committee should be a top priority both in free agency and the draft.
Receiver at No. 3? Or Veteran Presence?
Via the draft, Miami could choose receivers Ja’MarrChase, Devonta Smith, or Jalen Waddle with the 3rd overall selection. All three receivers appear to have a good chance to be available, so it would be something to consider if you want a young receiver for Tua to grow with.Tua has played with both Smith and Waddle at Alabama, while LSU’s Chase is dubbed the best receiver of the class.
Via free agency, there are a plethora of good receivers that will instantly help the receiving core. Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and Kenny Golladay headline the receiving class that will demand big paydays, but veterans TY Hilton and AJ Green could bring a veteran presence to the team for cheap.
Big Splash or Rookie OL?
The offensive line is young as well, with all the starters from last season being under 30. Austin Jackson (52.4), left tackle, and Solomon Kindley (51.3), right guard, both were drafted last year, and were both graded the worst on the team via Pro Football Focus. Shoring up the offensive line should also be a priority for the Dolphins to consider if they are in win-now mode.
Via the draft, the Dolphins could consider taking an offensive lineman at the 18th selection. Some names to consider that might be available are Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC), Samuel Cosmi (Texas), or Alex Leatherwood(Alabama) could be available when the Dolphins are back on the clock. Wyatt Davis (Ohio State) or Trey Smith(Tennessee) should be targets for pick 36, the Dolphins 1stsecond round selection, as both guards appear to have a strong chance to make it to day 2 of the draft.
Via free agency, the Dolphins should consider signing either Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff, as those two are the prized free agents at the guard position. They would instantly improve the offensive line, but it would be a huge chunk of change they would be handing out for either player.
There’s a Dark Horse
Not only was 2016 the last time the Dolphins had a winning record, but it was also the last season the Dolphins had a 1,000 yard running back. Jay Ajayi (1272 yards and 8 touchdowns) had a pro bowl season with the Dolphins. The Dolphins could pick either Najee Harris (Alabama) or Travis Etienne (Clemson) at 18 and get immediate starter quality from either player. Harris, (1466 yards and 26 touchdowns) and Etienne (914 yards and 14 touchdowns) both would improve the ground game and make the offense more complete.
If the Dolphins feel like they can roll with Myles Gaskin as the lead back for 2021, they could focus their attention at improving other areas. Maybe a big name falls to 18 that they cannot pass up, or one of the linemen are just too good to pass up. Either way, the Dolphins are a prime candidate to play spoiler come the 2021 playoffs.