The Miami Dolphins have qualified for the playoffs twice this decade and own the NFL’s second longest drought when it comes to producing a playoff win.
The Dolphins haven’t done that since 2001, and that 21-year shutout is only exceeded by the Detroit Lions’ 30-year drought.
But this could be the year the forever rebuilding-reloading-retooling Dolphins turn the tide on the franchise’s two decades of futility, because Miami’s roster is stacked with talent, some depth and a handful of playmakers who will be led by a new coaching staff, one that was propagated from one of the hottest coaching trees in the NFL.
Here are 10 things that could help the Dolphins make the playoffs in 2022.
Coach Mike McDaniel and his staff bring balance to the offense.
The Dolphins, who average a dismal 92.2 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per attempt, haven’t had an effective rushing attack since the 2016 season, which was the last time Miami qualified for the postseason. Running the ball effectively comes down to three things: a forceful offensive line, which Miami hopes they achieved by signing Pro Bowl pick Terron Armstead and veteran starter Connor Williams; a commitment to calling run plays; and a talented stable of tailbacks, which the Dolphins seemingly have after adding Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel this offseason.
Miami’s young and troublesome offensive line gets fixed.
The Dolphins have poured a ton of resources via free agency, draft picks and trades into building the offensive line the past four offseasons. The hope is that last year’s issues were a result of lackluster coaching and not poor talent evaluation. Miami needs Armstead, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, to be a pillar of granite at left tackle and for Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt, Austin Jackson, Solomon Kindley, Michael Deiter and Greg Little to clean up their technique issues and get in better shape.
Miami’s defensive line will be a force again this season.
The Dolphins have been one of the most successful teams at applying pressure the past two seasons, and it’s not just the zero blitz technique that is dialing up the heat applied to opposing quarterbacks. Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler are all blossoming as young starters, and Jaelan Phillips, who set a franchise record for sacks as a rookie, has the talent and work ethic to become a force in year two.
Josh Boyer proves it wasn’t Brian Flores pulling the strings on defense.
There are claims that Boyer, Miami’s defensive coordinator, had his game-plan and play-calling responsibilities taken away from him before Miami’s defense eventually tightened the screws after its 1-7 start last year. Whether that’s fact or fiction will never be known for sure, but how the Dolphins start 2022 — their third season in this identical scheme and under Boyer’s leadership — will be a huge indicator. It will likely show us whether Flores, the team’s former head coach, was really pulling the strings when the defense got its act together late last season.
Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki become one of the NFL’s most dangerous trios.
Hill, Waddle and Gesicki are unquestionable among the top 10 fastest players at their respective positions. That’s why the Dolphins need to ensure the offense puts this trio in position to touch the ball at least five times a game each and uses the run game to force teams to make tough decisions about who to double, and how many defenders to put in the box. The hope is that the attention Hill draws will open up the field for everyone else.
Tua Tagovailoa becomes the NFL’s most accurate quarterback in 2022.
Tagovailoa held that crown for a couple weeks last year before his late season struggles led to a fourth-place finish in 2022. His 67.8 percent completion rate was the second-best in franchise history, just shy of the team record of 68.5 set by Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2020. If the offensive line improves, the run game becomes more effective and Miami’s top-shelf receivers have a healthy season, Tagovailoa should be among the NFL’s most accurate passers because of his ability to hit players in stride and his upper-echelon pocket presence.
Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones and Eric Rowe help Miami’s secondary become one of the NFL’s stingiest.
The Dolphins’ secondary has been the strength of the team for the past few years, and the addition of Jevon Holland and the development of Brandon Jones, a 2020 third-round pick who has started 17 games the past two seasons, has given the safety play a painful bite. If Holland, who recorded 69 tackles, 2.5 sack, two interceptions, forced two fumbles and recovered three, was that good as a rookie last season, just imagine how good he’ll be when the game starts slowing down for him. Jones has shown the knack for making big plays, but he needs to be more reliable in coverage. Rowe needs to get back to locking down tight ends like he did in 2021.
Miami’s special teams unit will rebound from last year’s struggles.
Every aspect of Miami’s special team performance was lacking in 2021, and didn’t meet the team’s standards. Jason Sanders missed a career-high eight field goals and one extra point last season. Thomas Morstead, a 14-year veteran, should outshine Michael Palardy, the punter he replaced. And the hope is that Miami’s return game and coverage units will become more consistent a season after the team’s 2021 struggles.
Xavien Howard will lead the NFL in interceptions again.
Howard, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has led the NFL in interceptions (27) since he entered the league in 2016, and that trend hopefully continues in 2022. Last year he recorded seven takeaways, which included three in the fourth quarter, and they all affected the outcome of the game favorably for the Dolphins. The Dolphins have been a top-eight secondary for the past two years, and Miami needs Howard to lock down the opposition’s best receiver to maintain that standing.
Dolphins will have a relatively healthy season.
Injuries are part of football, which is the most physical of all professional sports. That is why every team loses about half a dozen starters or key reserves for six or more games a season. What Miami can’t do is lose too many key players — Howard, Hill, Waddle, Emmanuel Ogbah, Tagovailoa, Gesicki, Byron Jones, Armstead, Jerome Baker or Holland — whose performances usually directly affects the outcome of games, because the replacements or backups fall short of the standard.
Source: Berkshire mont