2018 NFL Season Preview- Miami Dolphins
2017 proved to be a year of struggles for the Miami Dolphins.
The season opener against Tampa Bay was rescheduled to November 19 due to Hurricane Irma. Week 11 was originally the two teams' bye week. Week 1 would become the bye week for both teams and they wouldn’t play until Week 2. Also, offensive line coach Chris Foerster resigned after a video surfaced of him snorting cocaine while talking to a Las Vegas escort. The team went on a five game losing streak in the middle of the season which ended their hopes of getting back to the postseason.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill tore his ACL in training camp and was lost for the season. This caused the team to sign Jay Cutler out of retirement, who finished with a 6-8 record as a starter throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. What looked to be the team's strongest position group, the running backs look to he lacking. After the team traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia midseason, Kenyan Drake became the starting running back. Drake did what he could, but he needs a lot more help. Tight end Julius Thomas failed to live up to expectations while Anthony Fasano was serviceable in his 12th season. Wide receiver Kenny Stills remains one of the leagues top deep threats but DaVante Parker continues to underperform. The offensive line was decent for the most part. The unit struggled run blocking but were solid in pass protection. Center Mike Pouncey played in all 16 games after being limited to five in 2016.
Even though the defensive line only produced 30 sacks on the year, they were much better against the run. Defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh are a nice tandem with Wake finishing with 10.5 sacks and Suh registering 4.5 sacks. The linebacker corps was a mess. Lawrence Timmons was missing in action before the season opener and Ray Maualuga was cut after an arrest stemming from a night club incident in mid November. Kiko Alonso struggled in pass coverage and needs to make more impactful plays. The secondary needs a lot of improvement. Safety T.J. McDonald isn't built to play free safety. Cornerbacks Xavien Howard showed some promise but Tony Lippett was missed after he landed on injured reserve.
The team had two Pro Bowlers in wide receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones. Landry set a franchise record with 112 receptions and a team leading nine touchdowns. Jones remains one of the league's most versatile safeties and had a nice rebound year after tearing his rotator cuff in 2016.
The rookie class dealt with injuries and poor performance. Defensive end Charles Harris only managed two sacks and didn't make much of an impact. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan was put on injured reserve after the first preseason game and was expected to be the starter in the middle. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley did well overall despite dealing with ankle and shoulder injuries. Wide receiver Isaiah Ford injured his knee in the preseason and never saw the field.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
Going from 10-6 to 6-10, head coach Adam Gase has to do a better job of managing adversity and dysfunction if he expects to keep his job moving forward.
The team hired former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Louganis to the same position. The team's former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen was then named the team's Director of Football/Player Development.
Notable Additions- QB Brock Osweiler, QB Bryce Petty, RB Frank Gore, WR Danny Amendola, WR Albert Wilson, G Josh Sitton, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Robert Quinn, DT Akeem Spence
Notable Departures- QB Jay Cutler, QB Matt Moore, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Julius Thomas, TE Anthony Fasano, C Mike Pouncey, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Lawrence Timmons, CB Alterraun Verner, S Nate Allen, K Cody Parkey
Dolphins 2017 Highlights
2018 NFL Draft
The Dolphins held the 11th overall pick going into the draft and had to make adjustments to key spots. Most notably at running back, tight end, and linebacker.
Frank Gore has shown he can still put up yards in the latter part of his career, but Kenyan Drake needs a well rounded backfield mate to pair with once Gore retires.
The team had buyers remorse acquiring Julius Thomas and Anthony Fasano decided to retire. Adam Gase's offense is better when the team has an athletic, seam running tight end to stretch the field.
The linebackers failed to make many impact plays, which is weird considering Lawrence Timmons was a former Pro Bowler and Kiko Alonso averages 100+ tackles a year when healthy. The team hopes Raekwon McMillan can be an impact player but they could still use another backer now that Timmons is gone.
On draft day, Miami ended up selecting Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick. Fitzpatrick has all the skills to be a playmaker at cornerback or safety, but needs to develop a short memory to forget his mistakes.
The Dolphins also notably drafted Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round, Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker in the third, and Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe in the fourth. Gesicki was viewed as the top route running tight end in the draft, but lacks great strength to be an inline blocker. Baker has the athleticism and aggression that NFL teams crave in linebackers, but struggles with the mental aspect of the game to play at a high level. Smythe looks like the next ideal Notre Dame tight end, but missed 10 games during his Fighting Irish career and was rarely used in the passing game.
Minkah Fitzpatrick Highlights
What To Expect
Considering all the bad breaks this team dealt with last year, It would be assumed that the Dolphins can bounce back from the season of regret.
Ryan Tannehill will be back healthy and showed he can play well in Adam Gase's system. This will likely be Frank Gore's final NFL season and while he isn't the back he was in San Francisco, he still has shown he can get yards when needed which will make him a nice compliment to Kenyan Drake. Drafting Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe gives the offense an elite route running tight end and one who is a capable inline blocker. The team will miss the reliability of Jarvis Landry on offense and in the return game, but Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson are more than capable slot receivers. The big question will be if DaVante Parker is capable of playing like a true number one receiver now that Tannehill is back at quarterback. Bringing in Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore should help the team improve the running game.
The team will miss Ndamukong Suh, but Akeem Spence is a nice complement to Jordan Phillips and the addition of Robert Quinn to pair with Cameron Wake gives the defensive line two guys who are capable of 10+ sacks a year. Raekwon McMillan coming back will help out the linebackers a lot and Jerome Baker and Kiko Alonso make this a strong corps on paper. Tony Lippett coming back gives the team their starting cornerback back who will pair nicely with Xavien Howard. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones look to be a safety tandem that quarterbacks will hate to test and throw at.
The team took risks that didn't pay off last season and that ultimately doomed them to a sub .500 record. If the team can recapture the formula that made them a wildcard team in 2016, it's not hard to picture them as the second best team in the AFC East behind New England.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 9-7