Next Steps for the Miami Dolphins This Offseason

The Miami Dolphins suffered a historic collapse in 2022, and the offseason brings the potential for notable moves.

The Miami Dolphins have had a roller coaster of a season to say the least. Each time they have seemingly pulled away from Wild Card contention, they completely neutralized their winning streaks, and are now sitting at 8-8 with a game to go.

There is still a chance to make the playoffs, which will lie in the hands of Skylar Thompson against the New York Jets. If Miami can win (along with a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills), they will secure their first playoff berth since 2016.

However, it is clear that there are underlying issues within this franchise, many of which need to be solved this offseason in order to maximize the potential of the Mike McDaniel regime. Thus, here are some potential solutions to the issues the Miami Dolphins face this offseason.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer could be fired this offseason
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Doug Murray

The Josh Boyer Problem

When the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, they maintained a supreme confidence in their defensive coaching staff from the Flores regime. It was clear that they saw that unit as the catalyst for their back to back winning seasons, and that faith extended to defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

That faith, however, seems to have been misplaced. With similar talent to Miami’s opportunstic units of the past, the Dolphins’ defense has fallen off a cliff. They rank 27th in points per game and are 30th in takeaways. That’s a far cry from their significant successes in those areas over the past two seasons.

Their pressure numbers have also clearly been lacking. Despite trading for Bradley Chubb, they are middle of the pack in sacks. Along with this, they have been unable to gain pressure without blitzing. With a pass rushing duo as promising as Jaelan Phillips and the aforementioned Chubb, the volume of blitzes and schemed pressures called by Josh Boyer has been dumbfounding.

The bottom line is that Miami needs a new defensive coordinator. There is simply too much talent along the defensive front to struggle the way they have. Some have suggested switching to a 4-3 scheme, which makes sense with the personnel on the roster.

Phillips and Chubb can play strictly on the edge, with Sieler and Wilkins wreaking havoc on the interior. The potential change is a more natural fit for their skill sets, and would limit mismatches in crucial situations.

Either way, it’s clear that it’s time to make a change on the defense. Moving on from the final Flores holdover may be that step.

The Quarterback Conundrum

The end of the season has been catastrophic, regardless of playoff success, and the simple fact is that the quarterback play has not been up to par over the last month or so.

Following a five game winning streak where Miami didn’t play a single top ten defense, the Dolphins faced a tough December. It’s safe to say that the team, and specifically the quarterback, didn’t make the most of it.

Dolphins’ fans biggest fears were realized as, against Miami’s toughest stretch of opponents, Tua Tagovailoa absolutely collapsed. He threw less than 60% completions against the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills, as Miami lost all three. Then, in a Christmas day game against the Packers, Tagovailoa threw an interception on each of the offense’s three fourth quarter drives. It was later discovered that he suffered a concussion prior to those interceptions, but that only adds onto the concern over the “injury prone” label.

Miami is now playing their final games of the season with backup quarterbacks. Although they spent significant capital on Teddy Bridgewater, it’s clear that it hasn’t panned out. He has been unable to win any games to this point, and has been injured himself at times this season. With Tagovailoa bound to miss significant time, it’s important to secure a high level backup, and Bridgewater hasn’t been that.

The Quarterback Solution in the Miami Dolphins 2023 Offseason

This leaves two potential solutions, one of which is much more aggressive than the other. The first is to draft a young quarterback to back up Tua Tagovailoa. It’s clear that pursuing backups such as Jacoby Brissett and Bridgewater hasn’t worked. Thus, a rookie would not only potentially be more effective, but cheaper with a higher ceiling. This quarterback class has some depth, and Miami could bring in a young backup to excel in ways Bridgewater has failed.

The second path is far more controversial.

There are several starter-level quarterbacks rumored to be moved this offseason. Tom Brady and Derek Carr are expected to be free agents, while there are rumors of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson being on the move as well.

It’s undeniable that Tua has improved this season. Miami’s offense sat atop the league for significant stretches with him at the helm. However, when you combine the injury history and consistent drop off against high-level opponents, it’s not a stretch to say that it may be in the Miami Dolphins’ best interest to be aggressive this offseason.

The Dolphins are likely squandering away the first year of a three-year Super Bowl window. Talents like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle don’t come around often, and outside of a historic comeback, their first year will have all been for not.

Miami must ensure that the next two years are different, and without a first round pick, they can’t secure a top flight quarterback prospect. Despite this, there are options available who provide a ceiling and consistency that Tagovailoa lacks. Miami has the chance to go from good to great, and Stephen Ross is tired of watching his years of spending be unfulfilling.

Photo Creit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Chris Grier Dilemma

The last of the potential moves would be the biggest, and it involves general manager Chris Grier.

Grier has been with the organization dating back to 2000, even predating owner Stephen Ross. He has continued to rise up the organization, becoming Ross’ right hand man and general manager in 2016.

Despite his rise, however, the Dolphins haven’t won a single playoff game in the last twenty years. The team seemingly finds themselves in the same position year-in and year-out, and Grier remains a constant. It was his recent work, however, that may be the final straw.

When the Miami Dolphins decided to go for a full rebuild in 2019, they positioned themselves for a crucial 2020 offseason. They held five picks in the first two rounds of that draft, including three firsts. Their haul? Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt, and Raekwon Davis.

The 2020 Blunder

The last two have been solid, with Hunt proving this season that he can be a cornerstone of Miami’s line. However, it’s the first round picks, Tua, Jackson, and Igbinoghene where the missteps are clear.

While the verdict on Tagovailoa is unclear, the same can’t be said about Justin Herbert. Taken only one pick later, Herbert has vastly outperformed his 2020 colleague. The last pillar of the Tua-Herbert debate was the idea that Herbert couldn’t win big games. That has now fallen with Herbert’s Chargers clinching a playoff spot and Miami on the outside looking in yet again.

Jackson and Igbinoghene are a similar story. Both have underperformed to their draft slot, with the latter struggling to see the field at all. While Jackson has started, his production has lacked, and this year he has been unable to stay healthy.

Thus, in arguably the most important draft in franchise history, Miami selected the following:

The wrong quarterback, a below average right tackle, a cornerback who doesn’t see the field, an above average right guard, and a starting caliber nose tackle.

This simply isn’t going to cut it for Grier, who is now seeing the successes of talents of like Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson, and Jonathan Taylor (all of which were available with Miami’s respective first round picks).

It’s not unheard of for a team to keep a coach and hire a new general manager. That may very well be the path if Ross decides to move on from Grier.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Offseason

No matter what Ross ends up doing, it’s clear that a change needs to be made. Miami can ill afford to squander the Super Bowl potential of the high-end talent on this roster. Tyreek Hill may very well be the best Dolphin since Dan Marino, and his presence must be capitalized on.

It likely won’t be as drastic as firing a general manager, but there are reasonable changes to make. Time after time, Stephen Ross has seen his teams come up short and December and January. He holds the power to ensure that this time is the last and that the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl hopes are realized. That starts with this offseason.

Three keys to the game vs Patriots

This Sunday gives us Dolphins vs Patriots, part 2. Here are the three keys to the game against the New England Patriots

It’s week 17 as the Miami Dolphins head over to Foxborough. Let’s dive into the keys to the game: Dolphins vs Patriots, part two.

Three Keys vs Patriots

Running the ball effectively

Miami can’t seem to consistently commit to running the football, but when it does it generally has some success. Mostert leads the team with 791 yards with a 4.9-yard average while Wilson adds 275 yards at a healthy 5.2-yard clip.

The Patriots have a good run defense, ranks ninth in the league, allowing 109.8 yards per game on the ground. They are also the 10th ranked rushing defense in EPA/play. Furthermore when looking into third and fourth down rushing plays the Patriots are the 4th best rush defense in EPA/Play.

On the other hand, Miami is the 17th best rush offense in EPA/Play but the third worst in third and fourth in EPA/Play partly as they pass more often than run.

While we know that Mike McDaniel is a pass happy play caller, the Dolphins run the ball efficiently on early downs. They are 6th best in the league in EPA/Rush on first and second down. Conversely, the Patriot’s rush defense is ranked 16th on early downs.

It will come down to moving the ball by running early and efficiently to get into manageable third and short situations and convert. The Dolphins rank 9th in third down conversion EPA. Certainly a factor to watch in Dolphins vs Patriots.

Getting three and outs

The Dolphins defense has not been that bad late in the season compared to the start of the season. They have been and elite run defense.

However, with the injuries in the secondary their strength has turned into a weakness. Getting the Defense off the field on third downs will be key in Dolphins vs Patriots.

They Dolphins are the 5th worst defense in passing yards allowed per game (245), and 4th worst over their last three games. Also, they are the 12th worst dropback passing defense in EPA.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is the fourth worst passer in EPA/Play and the offense overall passes the football 6% over expected than what they should on third and shorts.

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer will have to be aggressive in getting after Mac Jones and limiting third down conversion so the Patriots do not sustain drives.

The Dolphins defense ranks sixth worse in EPA given up on third downs, it will be intriguing if defensive coordinator Josh Boyer gets aggressive and gets after Mac Jones to limit third down conversions.

Jason Sanders will have to be special

This season Jason Sanders has been in a funk. Sanders, who was once deemed to be automatic is 1-4 from the 50 yard yard line and out. He has an 82% extra point percentage which is 24th in the league.

Not to mention he had a “missed kick” on a 93 yard kickoff return against the Packers last Sunday.

Sanders will have be reliable for the Dolphins special teams unit, especially if the Dolphins offense can’t score in the redzone. Especially as the Dolphins rank sixth worse in red zone touchdown percentage since week 12.

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Trill Williams: Miami’s Next Project

The next undrafted player hoping to make his mark on the league is former Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams. Having been cut by the Saints a mere six days after signing following a failed physical, Chris Grier swooped in claiming him off waivers and in doing so acquired one of the most sought after undrafted free agents in the 2021 class.

Perhaps one of the most surprising statistics in football is that 30% of active NFL rosters are made up of undrafted players, the Miami Dolphins of which are no strangers.

Nik Needham, Albert Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Adam Butler, Jesse Davis, Malcolm Brown, Justin Coleman, Robert Foster and Allen Hurns are some notable names on this roster, all of which went undrafted in their respective classes.

The next undrafted player hoping to make his mark on the league is former Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams. Having been cut by the Saints following a failed physical (a mere six days after signing), Chris Grier swooped in claiming him off waivers and in doing so acquired one of the most sought after undrafted free agents in the 2021 class.

“One of the best UDFA in the class- the Dolphins pounced and in doing so brought in a legitimate developmental project who has starting level upside at corner or safety, but needs a position and polish”

NBC Sports Thor Nystrom on Trill Williams

Williams was underrated coming out of high school due to questions about his measurables, and ever since then has played like an underdog with aggression and explosiveness. During his career at Syracuse, he played 28 games, starting 15 resulting in: 93 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 3 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Williams, his junior year in 2020 was plagued by injury.

Having sprained his ankle early on in the season, his efforts in attempting to play through the pain ultimately meant further injury ensued, as his injury began to affect his hamstring, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. After the 2019 season, Williams was regarded as the second best DB at Syracuse behind Ifeatu Melifonwu, while ahead of Andre Cisco who went 65th overall to Jacksonville; Williams was himself projected to go in Rounds 2/3 prior to his injury, making him one of the potential steals in this years draft.

Williams strips the ball from the WR returning it for 94 yards for an overtime walk off win, A play eerily similar to one he made in high school.

It is clear that Williams has a lot of upside and versatility, he is able to line up in the slot, on the outside, at safety, and can play both zone and man coverage.

He is a long rangy, physical and explosive player. In essence he is the epitome of a Brian Flores kind of player. He has a clear talent for creating turnovers, his ball skills best explained by the fact that Williams played both receiver and corner at high school.

Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the 5th best defender with Syracuse with a grade of 74.9, while he was also the second best player in coverage with a grade of 78.7. However, while Williams’ aggressive play style may be one of his greatest strengths, at times it can be one of his biggest drawbacks, as there have been instances where he has been known to over-commit to a tackle, leaving him out of position.

Nevertheless, such issues are easily coachable, whereas the ability to create turnovers which he possesses may not be.

Trill Williams was a steady presence in the Syracuse secondary since 2018 where he spent time at wide corner, slot corner, and at safety. While he is versatile and has appeal in any role, I like him best at wide corner. Williams is long, rangy, athletic, physical, and aggressive. His physical skill set is exceptional and he doesn’t have any restrictions. He is springy and explosive, capable of thriving in both man and zone coverage. With that said, he does have room to grow when it comes to anticipatory skills and there were some instances where he didn’t get his head around to the football with his back to the line of scrimmage.

He had three return touchdowns in his three seasons in college and has a knack for coming up with big plays. For a team looking for a versatile defensive back that can be a matchup-neutralizer, Williams has the physical gifts to do that.

Joe Marino- The Draft Network

Williams is by no means an automatic starter in the secondary, nor is he the heir apparent to Xavien Howard, should relations deteriorate further. Instead at this time he is an outsider to even make the final 53 man roster considering the strength and depth at the position, with his main competition being that of Jamal Perry. Williams will be a strong developmental player with a lot of upside, playing alongside some of the best in their craft in the Dolphins backfield.

Comparisons can easily be made with Nik Needham, a promising young defensive back who flew under the radar during the draft, didn’t quite make the 53 man roster after camp, but then started 11 games in his rookie season.

Needham has since become a solid contributor to this defense with 4 INT throughout his first 2 seasons. Williams has already been quick off the mark in Miami, in fact in his first day with the team he intercepted Tua Tagovailoa, along with a couple of pass breakups, standing out in an otherwise talented positional group. He is a physical, scrappy player with the right mindset to fight on every play to make it in the league and has certainly gotten off to a fast start in South Florida.

So what can the Dolphins can expect from Trill?

“Hes a special kid, and I’ve never seen anybody outwork him. He’s different, he makes difference making plays. I’m so proud of this young man. Now we watch the show.”

Tre Williams, Trill’s father

While Williams may not be NFL ready Week 1 against the Patriots, his mental fortitude, versatility and aggressive play style make him the ideal student for Flores, Boyer, and Alexander to develop and refine his skills as a solid player in the NFL. Dolphins fans should be very excited to watch the development of this young man.

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