The Miami Dolphins are heading into one of their most crucial seasons in decades, and three players appear poised for a breakout year.
The Miami Dolphins are entering a pivotal year in their history. Mike McDaniel enters his first season as head coach, and the team arguably has the most talent we’ve seen since the Dan Marino era. However, many players’ fates lie in their production this year.
Namely, this is considered a make-or-break year for Tua Tagovailoa, who has had a divisive first two seasons. If he fails to take the next step, there is a high chance we see him replaced before the 2023 season.
There are several players on the team who appear ready to take the next step. It’s difficult to predict Miami Dolphins breakout players, but the stars seem to be aligning for these three players in particular.
Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis had an up-and-down start to last season. Miami had given up significant yardage on the ground in the first two weeks, but after he went down with a knee injury, the impact he had on the team began to show.
After week one, Miami lost seven straight games, and their run defense was a large part of it. Even though he only missed three games, it was clear that he wasn’t 100 percent. However, as he became closer to full form, Miami’s defense transformed itself. They won significantly more up front. However, it was others who reaped the benefits.
It’s possible, however, that production and numbers align for Davis this year. Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, and Andrew Van Ginkel have all improved in their time here. Thus, they will all garner more attention from offensive coordinators and O-lines. If they see more double teams, it’s likely Miami’s interior lineman, namely Davis, get free more often, wreaking havoc in the run and pass game.
Safety Jevon Holland had one of the best rookie seasons Dolphins fans have seen in quite some time. Playing in centerfield, Holland had the middle of the field on lockdown. He showed the ball-hawking ability that he was praised for at Oregon, and even snagged two interceptions. However, there is still room for improvement.
Holland passed the eye test, but his stats were a primary reason that he didn’t gain the attention of the national media. If he is able to turn more of his PBUs into INTs, it’s very possible he’s in the same conversation as All-Pro safeties like Kevin Byard and Jordan Poyer.
Entering his second year in Miami’s defensive scheme, there will be a new level of comfort for Holland. When you combine that with his supporting cast, it raises the likelihood of a breakout season for one of the Dolphins most promising young players.
The dark horse pick of the group, a breakout season for Noah Igbinoghene is likely just wishful thinking. Miami’s cornerbacks are arguably their strongest group, and the first round pick has struggled to see the field. Furthermore, his play, in limited opportunity, hasn’t been promising.
However, the tools with Igbinoghene are all there, and it was known that he would take some time to develop. Over the last two years, the 22 year old has sat under two of the best corners in the league: Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Being able to learn from them without the pressure of stepping in right away allows for a focus on improvement.
Igbinoghene likely won’t see significant snaps outside, but if slated nickel starter Nik Needham struggles, it’s possible they look in the former Auburn Tiger’s direction. He has all of the athletic tools and is one of the youngest players on the team, so a major leap isn’t out of the question.
The Miami Dolphins’ breakout potential is the highest we’ve seen in years, and Igbinoghene, as well as Davis and Holland, show a potential to help this team reach new heights in 2022.
Tracing the the continuing effect of the blockbuster trade that saw Laremy Tunsil go to Houston and hope come to South Florida.
September 1st 2019. A date to remember for Dolphins fans. A date that signaled the start of another Dolphins rebuild that has today culminated in Miami trading for Tyreek Hill. In fact it is hard to remember what players have actually come about through this trade, due to Chris Grier’s ability to commit daylight robbery on the rest of the NFL. This article will trace all of the moves and trades that have come about through by the Laremy Tunsil trade.
Noah Igbinoghene 2020 Round 1 Pick 30
While the Laremy Tunsil trade and all that followed has undoubtedly been the best thing to happen to Miami for a very long period of time, it didn’t exactly start off well. Noah Igbinoghene has been underwhelming to say the least, hardly seeing the field behind a very strong Dolphins’ secondary.
Noah is an athletic freak, but is far from competing for a starting position in this defense. However, we may be proven wrong.
Solomon Kindley 2020 Round 4 Pick 111 (via GB)
Perhaps it was a trend in 2020 that the Dolphins didn’t necessarily have the best draft. Solomon Kindley was a starter throughout his rookie season switching between right and left guard.
However, Kindley spent much of 2021 watching a historically bad offensive line from the side lines. Kindley started the 2021 season very much on the wrong foot, showing up to training camp overweight and playing with the third string players.
However, all hope for Kindley may not be lost. He is clearly making a big push in his offseason program to bring himself back into contention this season. With the left side of the line now solidified with the introduction of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, could Kindley go back to right guard and push Robert Hunt to right tackle?
Jaylen Waddle 2021 Round 1 Pick 6
Jaylen Waddle is a bona fide star, nothing more needs to be said. Despite all the moving around in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dolphins eventually got their guy and more.
PFWA All Rookie Honors, most catches by a player in their rookie season, over 1000 yards receiving and six TDs, Waddle is a sure-fire home run pick.
Waddle was the Dolphins offense in 2021, and will likely feast just as much with a greatly improved Dolphins’ offense system in store for 2022.
Jevon Holland 2021 Round 2 Pick 36
Jevon Holland quickly established himself as an elite talent in the Dolphins’ secondary — and one of the best young defenders in the NFL.
Holland finished his rookie season with 69 tackles, 10 passes defended, three fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Not bad for a rookie. Like Waddle, Holland earned All Rookie honors and is a sure-fire home run pick.
Tyreek Hill Trade
All season, fans were discontent as they saw their 2022 draft pick get worse and worse. Miami traded away their own first round pick in 2022, electing to keep that of the 49ers that they gained when trading from 3 to 12 and then back to 6 in the 2021 NFL Draft to take Waddle.
Today that rhetoric has changed dramatically. Miami has traded the 29th pick, together with other picks, for Tyreek Hill. Yes that’s right, Tyreek Hill.
In his career with the Chiefs the Cheetah produced all over the field. Hill amassed 479 receptions for 6,630 rec yards, 56 rec TD’s, 93 rushes for 719 rushing yards, and six rushing TD’s. Hill also added 100 returns, 1393 return yards and five return TD’s as a primary returner for the Chiefs.
Now of course, there will be some wise crack somewhere that will say that the Dolphins had to give up more than just the pick that they got from the Tunsil trade.
They would be correct. Miami gave up an additional 2nd round pick, two fourth rounders and a 6th rounder. All for a top-10 talent in the NFL.
Tunsil to Tyreek
As if three Pro Bowl-caliber players were not enough, Miami still nearly three years later holds an additional first rounder and third rounder in the 2023 Draft that have come about from the Laremy Tunsil trade.
Chris Grier ought to be applauded for the job that he has done in turning two firsts and a second round pick into the collection of players that he has. All while retaining flexibility for the Dolphins to do as they please in the future. The future looks very bright indeed.
The offseason is a little over halfway done. This offseason has been extra important because this was the first real offseason for second year players. Throughout this offseason, the Dolphins as a whole have looked up and down. Some days the offense looks light years ahead of the defense and other days vise versa. Below are some Dolphins who have been disappointments. These Miami Dolphins disappointments are either having a very quiet offseason, or players who just haven’t lived up to our expectations this offseason.
When Miami signed Skura in the offseason, fans immediately thought he would be the starting center. Although he was the starter week one in camp, shortly after he lost the job to Michael Deiter. Early on in camp there were reports of Skura having bad footwork. To many Dolphin fans this was disappointing to hear. Skura was the Ravens starting center for the past couple years and last season had a shaky year due to injuries. It seems like Skura is not going to be able to bounce back this season with Miami as Deiter seems to have locked up the starting spot.
Lynn Bowden Jr.
Bowden is a Miami fan favorite, which is why it hurts to say his camp has been disappointing. After trading for Bowden last season, he became one of Tua’s favorite targets later on. His ability to make people miss and create yards after the catch is what separated him from other Miami receivers. That being said, Bowden has been invisible this camp. During the early stages of camp, we heard nothing about Bowden besides a few bad plays. This made some people think that he was moving down the depth chart. Others thought that the Dolphins could just be hiding Bowden so teams just “forget” about him. In preseason Bowden has been visible so maybe Miami is just hiding him and have plans for him when the season starts.
Last season Kindley was one of Miam’s starting offensive lineman. This offseason, Kindley started with the third team. This shocked a ton of people especially because Miami did not focus on guard in the draft or free agency. People speculated that Kindley was over weight or out of shape but nothing has been confirmed. Kindley did work his way back up to the starting lineup. During camp, Kindley has not been blown off the line and has not looked like himself. He has shown flashes but it seems like his starting spot is not guaranteed. His pass blocking has been a big question mark since last year and Kindley has not shown any improvement to that. As the year goes on Kindley’s play and whether he wil remain a starter will be something to look at.
It has been quite the roller coaster for the Miami Dolphins cornerback room this offseason. Xavien Howard held out of OTAs and eventually requested a trade and on top of that had an ankle injury early in camp. This allowed both Nik Needham and Iggy to replace X in the starting lineup. While Iggy has shown flashes in both camp and in the first preseason game, he still looks like a very raw prospect. When Iggy was drafted we all knew it would take time for him to adjust to the NFL, but so far it seems like it may take longer than expected. Needham has solidified himself as the now backup corner behind Byron Jones and X while Iggy is on the outside looking in. I am not saying that Iggy will not develop into a good player, it is just disappointing to see no huge improvements from one year to the next.
Dolphins ATB and Bears ATB break down their respective offseasons, training camp and expectations ahead of Week 1 of preseason.
Before we delve into the game preview, I would just like to thank and credit Julian Parker of Bears ATB for his contributions and insights in putting together this Dolphins preseason matchup article.
Q. Which players have stood out during camp? Who needs to improve? Has any side of the ball got the advantage over the other?
JP: “Alec Ogletree has been the biggest training camp surprise by far. There is no chance he does not make the 53-man roster by the end of preseason. I want to see improvement from Eddie Jackson. I think he is still a top five safety in the league and in Sean Desai’s defense. The defense easily has the advantage over the offense and it has been this way for a while. I think the Bears defense really has too many stars, especially in this defensive scheme Desai brings to the team.”
From a Miami Dolphins perspective, Albert Wilson has undoubtedly been one of the biggest surprises coming into camp. Having opted out of the 2020 season, it was predicted that he would be a player on the outside looking in, with a good chance of being cut. However, ever since he has come back stronger than ever consistently balling throughout training camp and has quickly become one of Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite targets. Wilson’s production and most importantly consistency has resulted in him being named a starting receiver in the Dolphins’ first official depth chart.
There is no doubt that the player who needs to improve the most is Noah Igbinoghene. A player deemed by many to be a potential replacement for Xavien Howard (had relations broke down), Igbinoghene has certainly not lived up to expectations. He has gone from a presumed starter to being torched by practice squad players, including Kirk Merritt and Isaiah Ford. I fully expect Noah to get a good amount of playtime against the Bears.
In comparison with the Bears though however, it is very refreshing for Dolphins fans that neither side really seems to have the advantage over the other. If you had to choose though, it would have to be the offense. Tua’s grip of the playbook and overall development throughout the first two weeks in camp, has been bigger than even the most avid of Tua fans could have hoped for.
Q. What do you hope that the Bears will gain from joint practices with the Dolphins?
JP: “I think Fields and Tua Tagovailoa are going to gain a lot from each other. Both quarterbacks had outstanding college careers and similar play styles. Not to mention they both have something to prove. I would hope that Dalton and Fields can also read other defenses and be more ready for the regular season.”
While the Dolphins may have a top defense in the NFL, they have always struggled against mobile quarterbacks. In last seasons win against the Cardinals, Kyler Murray was able to rush for over 100 yards. The team struggled against Josh Allen, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson, essentially any QB who is not going to stand in the pocket. If this Dolphins’ team hopes to become a legitimate contender in the AFC, they need to learn to deal with their biggest weakness and stop a mobile QB. Justin Fields is the perfect example of such a dual threat, and it will be interesting to see whether the offseason acquisitions can help contain him behind a shaky offensive line.
Q. Which positional group is considered to be your strongest in terms of talent and depth, and where is the weakness on the team?
JP: “The Bears’ strongest positional group would have to be our linebackers and defensive line. Khalil Mack is still a premiere superstar who strikes fear into offenses, despite having a down year last season. Roquan Smith is incredibly underrated as a middle linebacker and should really be considered as a top five inside linebacker. Danny Trevathan adds a great football IQ to the defense.
Robert Quinn did not impress me too much last season. I could see him making a comeback with the new defensive coordinator, Sean Desai. Even rookie Charles Snowden is getting praised, some even calling him “Leonard Floyd 2.0”. For the Bears’ defensive line, nose tackle Eddie Goldman returning this season is a massive improvement. Like Mack, Akiem Hicks has always been another consistent force in the defense. Bilal Nichols is another lineman to look out for as well.”
“The biggest weakness for the Bears is the offensive line problem. Tackle Teven Jenkins being injured really hurts us as we drafted him to be an anchor for our line. The depth was already shallow considering we expected two rookies to start. Jenkins and Larry Borom were supposed to really help out our line. Without them, it’s going to be a struggle. Germain Ifedi does not impress me. Cody Whitehair and James Daniels are solid, but offensive tackles are a massive concern for Chicago. There is not a lot I think the Bears can really do to improve the offensive line due to their salary cap situation and tackles that are currently in free agency.”
The Dolphins strongest positional group very much depends on how you choose to look at it. In terms of outright talent, the Dolphins’ secondary is the best positional group on the roster. The duo of Howard and Jones, along with the emergence of Jevon Holland as a ball hawk to complement the already reliable Eric Rowe, gives the Dolphins a truly elite secondary. However, if one of the starting players goes down, at this moment in time there is a considerable drop off in talent.
Thus, it is the wide receiving unit that appears the strongest in terms of depth, as despite injuries to presumed starter Will Fuller and the absence of DeVante Parker, many players have stepped up throughout camp. The Dolphins have a dilemma that they could have only have dreamed off last season, as many players appear to have made a big jump over the offseason. Who would have thought that it would be Mack Hollins ripping apart the Bears defense during camp?
The Dolphins biggest weakness going into the Bears game remains the offensive line. From the nightmare of 2019 to positive developments in 2020, it appears some positions on the line have regressed during training camp. The days of the presumed starting line being set in stone are no more. Such weaknesses were made blatantly clear following the first day of joint practice.
Bears fans be reassured Dolphins fans feel your pain. A day filled with players getting in the backfield, both teams pass rushers showed promise against shambolic offensive line play.
Q. What are your expectations going into the game? What do you hope the team takes away from it?
JP: “It’s tough for me to have expectations on one preseason game and not the whole preseason. Of course, I want to see Andy Dalton show flashes of what he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. Bears head coach Matt Nagy signed him this offseason for a reason. If Justin Fields wasn’t drafted, he would be the face of our offense. I am also looking forward to seeing undrafted free agent, Charles Snowden and newly signed linebacker, Alec Ogletree. Ogletree has been a nightmare for the Bears offense in training camp, racking up multiple interceptions against all of the Bears quarterbacks. Snowden has also drawn praise from multiple Bears’ coaches so far this training camp. I’m hoping more wide receivers will get chances after Anthony Miller was traded. I would keep your eyes on Riley Ridley and rookie Dazz Newsome.”
I anticipate this game as being rather close, both teams with relatively similar strengths and weaknesses. Of course I would like to see Tua Tagovailoa get the Dolphins preseason off to a good start with a couple of solid drives down field, consistently moving the chains like he has in practice. Whether the offensive line can provide him with the time to do that is the ultimate question.
As aforementioned, to see the Dolphins defense shut down Justin Fields and not allow him to escape the pocket will be a big win coming out of this game. The key factor I see in this game is the ability of Nick Foles in comparison with Reid Sinnett. As the game enters the second half I am interested to see how the depth in the Dolphins secondary can deal with a Super Bowl winning veteran QB. Keep your eyes out for how the likes of Trill Williams, Jamal Perry, Terrell Bonds and Jaytlin Askew perform, as they battle it out for the final roster spot.
Q. What players that opposition fans may not know about should we keep a close eye on?
JP: “Darnell Mooney against the Dolphins secondary is gonna be a matchup to watch. Most of his highlights are just breaking off receivers and not actual catches. Then again, the Bears quarterbacks last season were not exactly competent. Mooney is someone to watch out for on the field. He is going to be a great complement to Allen Robinson in the slot. I would also watch out for cornerback Jaylon Johnson. He had a solid rookie season and I think he’s going to expand on that this season as CB1.”
With Albert Wilson and Jaylen Waddle unlikely to get a lot of snaps in this first Dolphins preseason game, I foresee Lynn Bowden Jr playing a big role in the slot. Expectations were high with Bowden coming into camp, especially after his offseason workouts with Tua. However, he has not had the best of starts to this training camp, being pushed down the depth chart, with his roster spot very much in question. I can see Bowden getting a lot of playtime against the Bears. Lets hope he can impress and get his offseason back on track.
Q. How many series do you foresee that we will see out of the QBs during the game?
JP: ” From what I have heard, it is going to be hard to keep Fields off the field. He’s just been more impressive than Dalton has been. I think for the game against the Dolphins, you’ll see a quarter of Dalton, and maybe a quarter or two of Fields. The remainder of the game most likely being Nick Foles. I would love to see Dalton play the first half, and then Fields plays the second half.”
As much as we would all love to see as much of Tua’s development for as long as possible, I do not envisage him getting anymore than a couple of series during the first Dolphins preseason game. I believe this week the emphasis for Tua will be on the joint practices and how he deals with facing the pressure of a dominant defensive line, offering a different look to what he sees against the Dolphins defense every day.
Therefore, I then see Jacoby Brissett seeing out the rest of the first half before then handing the keys over to Reid Sinnett who unfortunately has struggled throughout camp.
Q. Which player on the other team scares you the most?
JP: “Xavien Howard. Dude is a ball hawk. There’s not much I can really say about him. He’s a top 3 cornerback in the league, great hands, and can lock down receivers. I think Allen Robinson is going to struggle getting separation from him. Mike Gesicki is also a great piece to the Dolphins offense. I think he is going to be Tua’s favorite target. A Dolphins player I am not worried about is any running back on the team. I don’t know if that is an issue Dolphins fans are worried about but if the Bears stop their run game, Tua is going to really struggle.”
There is only one right answer here. Khalil Mack. The man is a force of nature and if he features in the Dolphins preseason game he will very much like Aaron Donald give Tua immediate problems behind this offensive line. Allen Robinson is a player many fans hoped could be an option in free agency. However, if Xavien Howard plays, I feel confident enough that Howard can lock him down like Julian eluded to above.
After 8 months of waiting, endless dramas, new acquisitions, surprise cuts and trades, Dolphins football is finally back. While it may only be preseason, I for one cannot contain my excitement. Once again I would like to thank Julian for his help throughout his article. Be sure to go and follow him on Twitter.
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News and Notes from Day 7 of Dolphins Training Camp
Will Fuller, who suffered a foot injury last week was held out of practice today. Xavien Howard, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, was also not at practice today.
OLB Andrew Van Ginkel who left practice Tuesday is considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.
Will Fuller and Jaelan Phillips were seen on the stationary bikes.
As for Devante Parker, he returned to practice today and got off to a quick start. DVP caught multiple balls over the middle from Tua Tagovailoa.
Towards the middle of practice, Allen Hurns landed hard on the sideline. He was slow to get up and walked off the field with a trainer. That may be a situation to monitor for a guy on the bubble.
Tua Dropping Dimes
The offense got off to a very fast start. Tua and the WRs got off to a great start. In 1v1 redzone work, Tua connected with Grant, Waddle, Ford, and Merritt.
In that session, Tagovailoa threw plenty of touch passes and fit them in perfectly over defenders.
Tagovailoa connected on a 50-yard ball to Isaiah Ford, who flew by Noah Igbinoghene. He also threw a TD on a wheel route to Myles Gaskin.
In both padded practices, Tua has 6 TDs and no INTs in redzone work. He hasn’t thrown an INT in 11 on 11 situations since last Wednesday.
Kirk Merritt had another good day. He got open deep and over the middle and has been hard to cover as of late. Albert Wilson, who has been showing out since Day 1 had another solid day.
Devante Parker returned from injury. He got off to a quick start but didn’t have a huge day. Regardless, it’s good to see him back and making plays.
OL and Running Game
Rookie Liam Eichenberg started at LG today next to 2nd year LT, Austin Jackson. Veteran Jesse Davis was protecting Tua’s blindside.
The running game was lackluster once again. Myles Gaskin had a few decent runs, but overall not a great day on the ground.
2nd-year OL Solomon Kindley has struggled. He came into camp as a projected starter but he’s working with the third team.
His weight has been an issue. If he can lose some weight he may move up the depth chart soon.
Larnel Coleman had some solid reps when plugged in as the starting RT today, did a good job holding onto Vince Biegel for some time before Biegel figured Coleman out.
The versatility in the secondary was on display today. With Xavien Howard missing another day, Jason McCourty started at CB. With McCourty at CB, rookie Jevon Holland was at FS.
The run defense started where they left off. On the first run of the day, Raekwon Davis and Benardrick McKinney were there for a stop. Duke Riley and Sam Eguavoen all shot their gaps for a stop on Malcolm Brown. Emannuel Ogbah also stuffed RB Patrick Laird at the line.
Nik Needham has looked very good the past week. He had a few PBUs today. However, Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t great today.
Rookie Jevon Holland grabbed INT on an overthrown deep ball from Tua in 7 on 7s.
John Jenkins got to work with the first team today as Christian Wilkins didn’t take all the first-team reps.
Sam Eguavoen had a solid day as he tries to make a push on the bubble.
Vince Biegel gets a sack on the 2 minute drill and a force on 1 on 1s, was also sent inside the facility for a hit on Tua Tagovailoa.
Michael Palardy is one of the underrated FA signings. He’s been on point all camp and had another great day today.
Jason Sanders had been perfect all of camp. He missed his first kick today off the post. It’s nothing to worry about for one of the best kickers in the league.
Tua Tagovailoa had his best day so far in camp. Ball placement was great today. The connection of Tua to Waddle and Tua to Wilson gets stronger by the day.
Allen Hurns was hurt earlier at camp but later came back.
Noah Igbinoghene is still struggling at camp, he’s only into his sophomore year and 12 total games at DB in his Auburn career.
Matt Skura was back playing with the 2nd team OL after being demoted to third team.
Lynn Bowden Jr. is still unnoticeable at camp as he hasn’t made any noteworthy plays, could be on the bubble.