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NFL Dolphins’ fate will be linked to Tua’s
July 27, 2023
The Miami Dolphins enter the 2023 season with sky-high expectations, fueled by their wild-card berth last year and their valiant performance against the second-seeded Bills, despite being forced to start third-string quarterback Skylar Thompson. Now, with Tua Tagovailoa back to full health, the lingering question revolves around his ability to avoid further concussions after being diagnosed with two (and likely a third) last season. His frequent injuries have affected NFL Lines the past seasons.
If Tagovailoa’s health remains intact, the Dolphins possess legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Their offseason splash included trading for former All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, teaming him up with Pro Bowler Xavien Howard on the perimeter. Additionally, the defense welcomes Vic Fangio as its new coordinator, a highly underrated addition.
Under Fangio’s guidance, the Dolphins anticipate a significant defensive improvement from their 18th-ranked unit last season. Furthermore, if Tagovailoa can stay on the field, he has arguably the best wide receiver tandem in football with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
All things considered, the Dolphins are a formidable threat to make a deep playoff run, even if they must navigate through the challenging AFC East division that will have changing NFL Odds all year.
They didn’t upgrade the backup QB
Last season, the Dolphins were without Tagovailoa for five games, including their playoff loss to Buffalo. While it’s understandable that general manager Chris Grier chose not to re-sign the oft-injured Teddy Bridgewater, the backup quarterback position in Miami seems inadequately addressed.
With the departure of Bridgewater, the Dolphins opted to bolster their quarterback depth by signing former New York Jets backup, Mike White, to compete with Thompson for the role. White brings a mix of experience and potential to the table, having started seven games in his career and showing flashes of promise. While his numbers may not be overly impressive, White has the opportunity to prove himself in Miami’s system and vie for the backup quarterback spot. The competition between White and Thompson will be one to watch as the Dolphins aim to solidify their quarterback depth chart.
During the offseason, Grier could have allocated funds to pursue more experienced and promising options like Andy Dalton, Taylor Heinicke, or Gardner Minshew. Dalton and Heinicke, in particular, are former starters who have even seen playoff action. Instead, Miami is banking on the combination of Thompson and White, a risky move that borders on recklessness.
A hard start to the year
The Dolphins face a challenging start to the 2023 season, with three road games in the first four weeks. Their campaign kicks off with a matchup against the Chargers at SoFi Stadium, followed by a Sunday night showdown against Bill Belichick and the Patriots in Foxborough.
In Week 3, the Dolphins host the revamped Broncos before heading to Orchard Park, New York, for a divisional clash against the Bills. This stretch provides an opportunity for the Dolphins to establish momentum in the competitive AFC East division, but it also carries the risk of falling behind early.
Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips will make defense shine
While the Dolphins made headlines by acquiring edge rusher Bradley Chubb from the Broncos and securing his services with a lucrative extension, it’s essential not to overlook the impact of Jaelan Phillips, the talented pass rusher on the opposite side.
Phillips has recorded an impressive 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons. With an imposing stature of 6’5″ and a weight of 265 pounds, he boasts the perfect blend of size and strength, enabling him to anchor against the run and deftly navigate around offensive tackles with impressive agility and overpowering force. His physical dimensions and skill set make him a formidable presence, capable of disrupting opposing offenses and asserting his dominance in the trenches.
As a rookie, Phillips saw limited playing time, participating in just 54% of defensive snaps. However, his snap count increased to 73% in 2022, and it wouldn’t be surprising to witness further growth in his role, leading to double-digit sacks.
Offensive Line needs to be improved
While the Dolphins’ offensive line isn’t terrible, it does have its weak points and carries a significant injury risk. Left tackle Terron Armstead arrived from New Orleans last offseason on a five-year deal, but his durability remains a concern. He has missed 48 games over his nine seasons with the Saints and sat out four more contests in 2022 while battling injuries.
The right tackle position also raises questions, particularly regarding Austin Jackson, a 2020 first-round pick whose performance has been relatively underwhelming. Jackson only played in two games last season due to an ankle injury.
Given the precariousness of Tagovailoa’s situation, the Dolphins’ concerns about both tackle positions are indeed worrisome and need to be addressed.