There’s a lot of optimism riding into Training camp soon. A brand new offense, a better roster with first round talent and a returning top 5 defense even with a holdout of a star defender; however there are some concerns fans and the franchise should be looking out for this upcoming season.
The Xavien Howard Situation
News from this weekend started to circle out that Xavien Howard could potentially miss training camp over the pending contract issues. In May of 2019, he signed a 5 year, $75.25 million contract with $39 million total guaranteed. He only played 5 games that season before Miami placed him on the PUP list with another knee issue. After returning to full health in 2020, Howard exploded with 51 tackles, 20 PBU’s, and a league leading 10 interceptions.
“A source close to Howard, who turns 28 on Sunday, said he expects Howard to hold out at the start of training camp — if he hasn’t been given a raise by that point — but acknowledged it’s possible he could change his mind,”Barry Jackson
While Howard missed mandatory minicamp, the expectation is that Howard does not report to the beginning training camp. According to Barry Jackson there is a possibility Howard comes to training camp in good faith or not at all. The decision is Howards to make.
Rishi Desai detailed the options of what the Miami Dolphins could do to satisfy Howard, and if the organization’s relationship with Howards camp sours a trade may be a possibility.
This situation is one to monitor as Matt Serniak details the situation from a fans perspective:
it’s not like Howard has come out and said that he’s not ever coming back to the Dolphins. But what is painfully apparent is that Howard is not happy with his contract. A contract he signed in the Summer of 2019, which was for five years, $72M with $39M of it being fully guaranteed. You look at that and your first reaction may be to be annoyed that Howard is causing problems when he just signed two years ago. I can’t even tell you you’re wrong to think that. I get why you wouldMatt Serniak
If the situation does Sour and Howard is dealt, Miami loses its Interception leader and a former DPOY candidate who has helped Brian Flores and Company win games to push for the playoffs last season. It would be a big task for the rest of the secondary to recoup Howards ability to bait opposing QBs.
The Running Game does not improve
Pro Football Focus graded Miami’s Offensive line 27th of 32 teams last year. There is a new man in the middle with former Raven Matt Skura who was benched last year and didnt earn his job again. Four of the starters are back, so the team is cautiously optimistic and are banking on the extra year of experience to translate into better performances. Notably Sophomore slumps do occur in the NFL.
Miami was 22nd in rushing last season and 29th in YPC. Admittely, a strong ground game would have hugely taken pressure off Tagovailoa last season, and would again. But, on a paper at least, the run offense looks substandard.
No ones stock rose higher than Myles Gaskin after the draft was concluded. His task will be to improve the running game with a new offense installed by co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville. Gaskin will be a critical cog in the passing game.
“And of all the running backs in the NFL to take 60+ snaps in pass protection (there were 16 of them), none posted a better pass block efficiency rate than Gaskin — who is credited with just 2 hurries in those 71 snaps by Pro Football Focus. Gaskin wasn’t just good ‘for the Dolphins’ in this area, he was one of the best pass protecting backs in all of football last year.”Kyle Crabbs
While we can look at the roster now and say the addition of Malcolm Brown should help, drafting a bruiser in Gerrid Doaks and the emergence last year of Salvon Ahmed is a good sign as well; however, the Miami Dolphins do not have a feature running back that can carry the load off of Tua’s shoulders.
If the offensive line and running back play stay the same, the Dolphins offense will become one dimensional and stagnant again which would not help second year QB Tua Tagovailoa. Alarms may not be raised on Brian Flores seat yet but there will be more concerns about him not being able to bring in a proven Offensive coordinator to run the offensive side of the ball
Tua Tagovailoa does not take the leap we are expecting
If Tua Tagovailoa does not take the next step into becoming a prolific passer, the Dolphins might have a big issue on their hands.
Tua has to be better than what we saw last year, We saw glimpses of what could be a potential star and we routinely saw what could possibly lead to him being another Miami Dolphins QB.
He has all the tools and skillset to become a great QB along with the team investing along the offensive line to protect a valuable asset like him. With better protection Tua should be able to stand in the pocket a little bit longer and throw to his new offensive weapons.
His Weapons include free agent pickup Will Fuller V a fast and reliable pass catcher that has a knack for finding the end zone. Fuller is a proven WR, when healthy. Jaylen Waddle was selected with the 6th overall pick in the NFL draft and already has chemistry with Tua, as both have played together at Alabama.
NFL Network project Jaylen Waddle will help to increase Tua as a passer and his rise to become the next great QB in Miami.
“Not only will Waddle help Tua Tagovailoa when the second-year signal-caller targets his former college teammate, but the speedy playmaker will also generally command a lot of attention, which will help the whole offense have more space to work with and inherently drive up the unit’s potential to be extremely efficient. Last season, 29.4 percent of Miami’s targets to wide receivers were thrown into tight windows — the highest rate in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. Over the past two college campaigns, Pro Football Focus ranks Waddle in the top five in yards per route run (3.6, including a robust 4.4 in 2020 alone) and yards after the catch per reception (11.5). My model says his speed when open — i.e., when no defenders are closer than 3 yards — is the fastest in this draft class. And according to PFF, Waddle also had just one drop on 29 catchable passes during his injury-abbreviated 2020 campaign.”Cynthia Frelund
Now, I am not one to completely move on from a QB who has not even played a full season in the NFL, barring any unforseen circumstances, if Tua cannot deliver his projections with the increased assets the Dolphins organization has provided to him another offseason of scrutiny will befall on Tua and the Miami Dolphins.
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