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.

Why Liam Eichenberg Shouldn’t Start After Stint on IR

The Miami Dolphins have announced that offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg has been activated from the injured reserve. Eichenberg, a former second round pick out of Notre Dame, began the season starting at left guard. On November 1st, the Dolphins placed Eichengerg on injured reserve after he was carted off the field.

In his place, Robert Jones has stepped in amicably. Jones, undrafted out of Middle Tennessee State in 2021, has been better than anticipated, but still not great. However, this return to the active roster for Eichenberg should end there. Jones has been just as good — if not better — than Eichenberg was. The results on the field show in both the numbers and the tape. 

Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg
Photo Credit: Junfu Han-USA TODAY Sports

Why Keep Liam Eichenberg out of the Starting Lineup 

Discipline 

One of the biggest reasons Robert Jones has been an improvement over Liam Eichenberg has been the reduction in penalties. Both players have started about 7.5 games along the Dolphins offensive line, but Eichenberg has considerably more penalties. Eichenberg has totaled five penalties this season, with three of them being holding. A holding penalty can absolutely kill a drive and put your offense behind schedule. Jones has just two penalties, with both coming as five yard false starts. 

Run game revelation

The Dolphins’ run game was lost early in the season. However, they have managed to find some rhythm late this year. The biggest surge came in Jones’ second start against the Cleveland Browns, where Miami rushed for nearly 200 yards on the ground. Strong surges against Buffalo and Green Bay kept Miami in those games when the passing game was sputtering. The Dolphins spent far too much time early in the season averaging less than four yards per carry on the ground. 

The Outlook Going Forward

Robert Jones should certainly finish out the season at left guard, regardless of whether or not Liam Eichenberg is healthy. The results clearly show that Jones has been more effective, and January is not the time to be shaking up an offensive line that is playing relatively well. Going forward, however, could be a different story.

Both Eichenberg and Jones can be categorized as ‘replacement level’ players. They are not complete disasters like the days of Sam Young and John Jerry, but neither have produced results encouraging enough that Miami should be completely ignoring the position going forward. They can both be on the roster when training camp starts, but some type of stop-gap veteran should be signed in the process.

The Dolphins have a drastically improved offensive line from their 2021 disaster, but this unit is by no means a finished product. The line seemed to self-destruct any time that perennial pro-bowler Terron Armstead was out of the game. Better players at both left guard and right tackle should curb that trend. 

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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Dolphins vs Bills: Week 15 Preview

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa and Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo Credit: Cooper Neill and Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s been 12 weeks since the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills in Miami to take the lead in the AFC East. Now, in Week 15, the Bills are back on top. Two straight losses from the Dolphins have opened the door for the Bills to take a three game lead in the AFC East. Both teams will be battling more than each other this Saturday night. What will affect these two squads and how will it play out? Let’s dive into what to expect in this rivalry game: Dolphins vs Bills, part 2.

Dolphins vs Bills Game Information

  • Date: Saturday, December 17
  • Time: 20:15 ET
  • Venue: Highmark Stadium; Orchard Park, NY
  • TV: NFL Network and NFL+
  • Records: Dolphins (8-5) Bills (10-3)
  • DraftKings Sportsbook line: Bills -7

Key Factors

1. Battling the Winter Weather

In Week 3, the heat in Miami proved to be a factor. Players were dropping like flies. More than a handful of players needed to head to the locker room for IV’s and to cool off. It was a close game in Week 3, and if it wasn’t as warm, maybe the outcome is different.

The snow won’t be as bad as Week 11 in Buffalo, where they had to move the game. However, it will still be a major factor. The forecast predicts up to six inches of snow by gametime, with a chance for more. With a severe weather alert of lake effect snow for Saturday, it could come down heavy.

On top of the snow, the temperature is expected to be a low of 26 degrees, with the wind chill in the low teens. The cold temperature, gusts of wind, and snow falling will make this game tougher for most players and could affect them in a big way.

2. Playing through Injuries

This Week 15 matchup will be a little bit kinder to both teams in regard to injuries than in their Week 3 matchup. For the Dolphins, they will be without safeties Elijah Campbell (concussion) and Eric Rowe (hamstring). Miami also has QB Teddy Bridewater (knee), RB Jeff Wilson (hip), and OL Terron Armstead (toe/pec/knee) listed as questionable. The Buffalo Bills will be without OL Ryan Bates (ankle) and DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder).

Both teams have some key players who are playing through injuries. For Miami, they will have LB Elandon Roberts (ribs), TE Durham Smythe (quad/knee), WR Tyreek Hill (ankle), CB Kader Kohou (thumb/neck), and DT Justin Zimmer (back). For Buffalo, they will have FB Reggie Gilliam (ankle), DT Ed Oliver (pec), LB Matt Milano (knee), QB Josh Allen (elbow), CB Cam Lewis (forearm), and OL Mitch Morse (elbow) playing through the pain.

Those are some big names playing through injuries to try to help their teams get the win in a big game.

Dolphins vs Bills: Keys to Success

Miami Dolphins – Don’t make Tua do too much

In the past two losses for the Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has struggled. He’s averaged 220 passing yards per game, thrown for three touchdowns and turned the ball over three times while having a 45.9% completion percentage. Head coach Mike McDaniels should look to take some pressure off of Tua to get him going again.

His recent struggles aren’t the only reason Miami should look to ease the pressure off Tua. Tagovailoa has struggled in his young career in cold weather. This could be the coldest game Tua has played in his football career. In games below 50 degrees, Tua has thrown two touchdowns while turning it over four times. He has had a combined QBR of 14, and is 0-3 in those games.

This weather could be the worst he’s ever seen, so it’s crucial for the Dolphins to make it easier for him.

Buffalo Bills – Win the Turnover Battle

In all three losses for the Bills this season, they have had more yards than their opponent. That’s the positive of their losses. On the flip side, they have also lost the turnover battle in each of those games. They have lost by 3 or less in each loss. If they win or tie the turnover battle, who knows, they could be undefeated right now.

With a top defense on the other side, turning the ball over might not seem like that big of a deal. But going into a game expected to have bad weather, turnovers could be more costly. Every possession will be crucial as both teams could struggle to move the ball down the field. If the Bills can take care of the ball, they should win this game. Especially considering the Bills are 3-0 in games where Josh Allen doesn’t have a turnover.

Final Thoughts

This could be an ugly offensive game, due to the weather. Miami will be looking to increase their chances at the AFC East. We could see them open up the playbook more than usual. On the other side, the Bills are looking to clinch a playoff berth and put themselves one win away from the division crown.

I expect a low scoring, close game that will come down to who can put the ball in the endzone last. Regardless of the outcome, the Bills vs Dolphins rivalry is clearly back.

Bye Week Rooting Guide for Miami Dolphins Fans

Photo Credit: Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have finally hit a much needed bye week. When Miami returns to action next week, they will face the Houston Texans and then hit the most challenging portion of their schedule. But before we get there here’s a convenient rooting guide for Miami Dolphins fans for the bye week action.

Sitting at 7-3, the Dolphins find themselves atop the AFC East with seven games left. However, the weather is starting to change, spelling danger for this warm weather team, led by a warm weather quarterback. With the week off, Dolphin fans can turn their attention towards rooting against Miami’s interconference foes.

Miami Dolphins Rooting Guide

Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns

The Miami Dolphins rooting guide starts with a game that’s a bit… murky in terms of rooting interests. Your rooting interest in this game varies on your expectations for Miami. Do you think Miami can survive this tough upcoming stretch and stay above Buffalo in the division? If that’s the case, then it’s Cleveland all day.

A loss would put Buffalo at 6-4, giving Miami a better record, tie-breaker, a better division record, a better conference record, and the edge in common opponent games because of last week’s win against this same Browns team. 

However, let’s play the numbers game here. After the Texans, the Dolphins will face a six-game stretch that features the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets. Only one of those teams presently sits below .500 — and that team has Aaron Rodgers.

What is the likelihood of Miami coming out of that stretch 5-1 or 4-2? The Dolphins may very well be competing for the Wild Card. If that is the case, Cleveland falling to 3-7 and losing the tiebreaker would make it nearly impossible for Cleveland to catch Miami. One less team to worry about come January is never a bad thing. 

Philadelphia Eagles vs Indianapolis Colts

This one is pretty simple: Root for the Eagles. With Philadelphia finally dropping a game on Monday, they serve no interest to the Miami Dolphins anymore. The Indianapolis Colts on the other hand, still find themselves in the thick of the wild card race.

Any NFC team beating an AFC opponent is a win for Miami. The Dolphins don’t face the Colts this season and play in a much stronger division. That gives the Colts an opportunity to gain the tie-breaker. Ensuring Miami has a better overall record is imperative. 

New York Jets vs New England Patriots 

All signs here point to a Patriots win being the most beneficial for the Dolphins. Miami has already beaten the Patriots and New England has a worse record. A Jets loss would put both New England and New York at four losses, which is helpful for the Dolphins, who will not be able to claim head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets this season. 

Baltimore Ravens vs Carolina Panthers

Another NFC vs AFC matchup here leads to an easy rooting interest for the Dolphins. The Baltimore Ravens saw a 21-point lead evaporate to Tua and company in September, giving Miami a tiebreaker advantage over the Ravens. The Ravens are another team in the thick of the AFC, and losing to an out-of-conference opponent only gives the Dolphins a bigger advantage 

Las Vegas Raiders vs Denver Broncos

This game has little to no meaning for Miami, but there is still a slight rooting interest. A Raiders victory would put both clubs at 3-7, which would make it extremely hard for them to catch the Dolphins. However, a 4-6 Broncos team would still have a puncher’s chance. Miami fans should be rooting for the Raiders in this one.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

While it seems obvious on the surface, figuring out who to root for is quite tricky in this game. On one hand, the Bengals are a team who could be competing with Miami for positioning — whether it’s as a division winner or a Wild Card team. 

On the other hand, would it be more beneficial for Miami to have the Bengals win the North so the Dolphins are competing with the Ravens for the Wild Card, whom they already have a win against? That all depends on what you think the Dolphins’ chances of winning the AFC East are. If you think the Dolphins will come out of this tough stretch and relinquish first place, you should be rooting for the Bengals to win the AFC North.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers 

Our final game is another that differs based on where you think Miami finishes in the division. An AFC East champion Miami Dolphins team would absolutely love for the Chiefs to drop this game, as the two teams battle for the number one spot in the conference and the illustrious first round bye. 

However, a Wild Card Miami Dolphins team will be rooting like hell for the Chiefs this weekend. The Chargers are a team who finds themselves right in the thick of the Wild Card race. The Dolphins have an opportunity to gain a head-to-head advantage over them in December, and the Chiefs adding a loss to Los Angeles’ schedule would be even more beneficial.