Press "Enter" to skip to content

Dolphins look to turn offseason momentum into long-awaited playoff return

The Miami Dolphins won the offseason.

Now, it’s time for the massive haul of talent over the past several months — and a new coach — to translate into winning in the regular season and, ultimately, a postseason berth.

The Dolphins haven’t reached the playoffs since the 2016 season and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000. Two decades’ worth of misfortune could be on the verge of a turnaround if first-time head coach Mike McDaniel’s vision comes together with a revamped offense that made the major acquisitions of wide receiver Tyreek Hill and left tackle Terron Armstead.

If they’re going to break through that postseason barrier that has kept them out despite back-to-back winning seasons, it’ll have to come in a highly competitive AFC where a number of other teams made improvements. Behind the AFC East favorite Bills, Miami will compete with the Patriots for the next spot in the division. For wild-card contention in the playoffs, the entire AFC West and North can be in that mix, along with the Titans or Colts in the South.

The new Dolphins playmakers, plus McDaniel’s offense that features the wide-zone run scheme and elements of the West Coast offense, can be the perfect combination for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa heading into a pivotal third season for him.

Tagovailoa has an improved offensive line in front of him, upgraded playmakers to throw to and in the backfield, and the support of his new coach. He has every reason to be successful, and virtually every previous excuse over his first two seasons has been eliminated.

Hill will form what is likely the NFL’s fastest receiver duo with second-year wideout Jaylen Waddle. The offense also added slot receiver Cedrick Wilson and returns tight end Mike Gesicki, playing on the franchise tag.

Armstead’s biggest contributions could come in the run game, where he could play the role of the 49ers’ Trent Williams when McDaniel had him at his previous stop in San Francisco. The offensive line also brought in Connor Williams, a guard for four years, to likely play center. Their presence can help bring along young blockers Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg, as well as the already-steady Robert Hunt.

Miami’s backfield should work as a committee led by the trio of free-agent signings Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel — and reincorporating the fullback, Alec Ingold.

While almost completely restructuring the offense, the Dolphins brought back nearly every major defensive contributor from 2021 where the team was elite on that side of the ball during its second-half run. The defense also added edge rusher Melvin Ingram and inside linebacker Channing Tindall, a third-round draft pick this April and Dolphins’ top rookie selection.

Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, though, will have to prove he can run his unit without the assistance of former coach Brian Flores.

Keys to success

Get playmakers the ball in space

The Dolphins picked up the electric Hill this offseason with the purpose of utilizing his speed, agility and playmaking ability. McDaniel and Tagovailoa will want to get the ball in his hands as much as possible in whatever way possible. The same goes for Waddle heading into his second season after setting a rookie receptions record. The short passing game while giving Hill and Waddle opportunities for yards after catch plays to Tagovailoa’s strengths, and McDaniel may even choose to get creative with rushing opportunities for the wideouts. He will also surely look to give the dynamic Edmonds and speedster Mostert room to operate.

Let the run game set up the play-action

Edmonds, Mostert and Michel should all get their fair share of touches in what still figures to be a run-first offense centered around the wide-zone blocking scheme. If the additions of Armstead and Williams, plus improvements from young linemen, pay dividends in the blocking up front, the run game can be productive enough to get opposing defenses to cheat against it, moving closer to the line of scrimmage. This could create the opportunities for Tagovailoa to throw the occasional deep ball to Hill and Waddle, but also get them that space in the short to intermediate range.

Bring that same aggressive, blitzing defense

Defensively, the Dolphins just need to keep doing what they did the second half of 2021, and their offseason approach lends to exactly that. In keeping the defense intact, cornerbacks Xavien Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham can man up against their receivers while Miami brings extra pass rushers, at times including safeties Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland. That helps with the more traditional pressure defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and outside linebackers Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel can apply.

Key games

Week 17 at New England, Jan. 1

If the Bills are primed to win the AFC East, the Dolphins could be in line for a New Year’s Day showdown in Foxborough against coach Bill Belichick with major wild-card implications. It could be a frigid affair, which doesn’t bode well for the Dolphins and is also the reason why winning the opener against the Patriots in the South Florida heat and humidity is pivotal. The Dolphins can put themselves in a good spot to qualify for the postseason if all they need in Week 18 at home is a win against the Jets.

Week 14 at Los Angeles, Dec. 11

The Dolphins should look to rack up early wins because, once December rolls around, the schedule gets tough: The West Coast swing of the 49ers on Dec. 4 followed by the Chargers, then at Buffalo on Dec. 17 or 18, at home against the Packers on Christmas Day and at the Patriots on Jan. 1. The Chargers could be in that crowded mix of teams vying for a wild-card spot down the stretch with the Dolphins, and it will be an opportunity to see Tagovailoa go against Justin Herbert.

Week 3 vs. Buffalo, Sept. 25

The first four weeks also present a challenge: Patriots, Ravens, Bills and Bengals. The Dolphins could throw a wrench into the way the AFC East is supposed to pan out if they can snap their seven-game losing streak to the new kings of the division and at least earn a split against Buffalo in 2022. The better opportunity is to take care of business in a sweltering home game in September.

<u>More season preview content</u>

Dave Hyde: The life story of Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel: always different, always challenged, never satisfied

Between harsh critics and cult-like supporters, Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa enters key season as polarizing figure

Five Miami Dolphins to watch during 2022 season

Tyreek Hill’s work ethic, commitment to maximizing his talents leaving an impression on Dolphins

Breaking down the Miami Dolphins’ 2022 schedule


Source: Berkshire mont

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: