To quote the great philosopher George Santayana “to know your future, you must know your past.” The Dolphins finished the 2020 season with a strong 10-6 record, while narrowly missing the playoffs. They ranked 22nd in total offense and 15th in points scored after finishing the 2019 season in the bottom half of the league in both metrics Miami’s success can be largely attributed to their much-improved defense, which finished sixth in points allowed. The team largely exceeded expectations, but still left much to be desired.
“You can get with Fitz, or you can get with that.”
Despite being much improved from the 2019 season, the Dolphin’s passing offense was often lackluster. The team went from the 12th ranked passing offense in 2019, to the 20th ranked in 2020. Former Dolphins’ quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, had a promising start to the season finishing as the QB8 through the first six games of the season. Unfortunately or fortunately, after the bye week, the team decided to bench Fitzpatrick for Tua Tagovailoa, who was drafted as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Tagovalioa was coming off rehab from a serious hip injury with virtually no offseason to prepare. The move was controversial due to Fitzpatrick playing well and led the Dolphins to a 3-3 record while competing for a playoff spot. Tagovalioa finished the season with a 64% completion rate ,1814 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. He went 6-3 as a starter, but struggled with inconsistent play and was benched multiple times for Fitzpatrick in order to give the offense a “spark.”
“We’re in the Air, We’re on the Ground” (Miami Dolphins Fight Song)
One of the key factors to the Dolphins’ offensive struggles was their plethora of injuries to the wide receiver position. On many occasions, Miami was left to rely on wide receivers such as Jakeem Grant and Mack Hollins to support their passing game. Promising second-year wide receiver, Preston Williams suffered the second season-ending injury of his career. After returning from his ACL injury sustained during his rookie year, Williams played in eight games scoring four touchdowns and posting 18 recs for 244 yards. The Dolphin’s leading wide receiver, Devante Parker, also battled through injuries but was able to post 73 receptions for 793 yards and four touchdowns. The leading touchdown scorer on the team was star tight-end Mike Gesicki, who finished the season TE11 while posting 53 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns. One of the surprising bright spots in their passing game was the emergence of WR/RB Lynn Bowden Jr. From weeks 13-17, Bowden was primarily used as a receiver, posting 27 receptions for 212 yards. It is yet to be determined if Bowden has impressed enough to play the primary slot in 2021.
The Dolphins had nowhere to go but up after being ranked the 32nd rushing offense in 2019. They finished as the 22nd ranked rushing offense thanks primarily to running back Myles Gaskin. The expectation going into the season was the rushing attack being led by Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. Gaskin was a surprise star for the Dolphins after being a non-factor in 2019 when he was drafted as a seventh-round pick. In 10 games, Gaskin posted 142 attempts for 584 yards and three touchdowns, finishing RB13 in fantasy points per game. He also added 41 receptions on 47 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Salvon Ahmed, also played a factor in a few games where Gaskin missed due to injury. In the three games where Ahmed played over 60% of snaps, he averaged 18 attempts, 83 yards, and scored two total rushing touchdowns. The hope is that the rushing attack will take a step forward in 2021 with the combination.
Many “Fish” in the Sea
The most notable departure was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who this off-season signed a one-year $10 million contract with the Washington Football Team. Another important change is that former offensive coordinator Chan Gailey resigned after one year. The team has announced they will be taking a co-offensive coordinator approach promoting former tight end coach George Godsey and running back coach Eric Studesville to fill the role.
Some recent free agency acquisitions involve former Los Angeles Rams running back Malcolm Brown and former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brown will serve as a depth piece and should be utilized in short-yardage situations given he is a bigger body back in comparison to Gaskin and Ahmed. Brissett will serve as the back-up to Tagovailoa and provides a solid veteran presence in the quarterback room.
The most noteworthy acquisition involves former Houston Texans wide receiver, Will Fuller V. In his five seasons with the Texans, he totaled 209 receptions for 3,110 yards and 24 touchdowns. Fuller has struggled with injuries throughout his career; however, he has proven to be an explosive deep-play threat when healthy. According to Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, Fuller excelled as the Texan’s number-one receiver with former Texan’s wide receiver Deandre Hopkins being traded to the Arizona Cardinals. He is currently facing a suspension due to violating the NFL’s PED policy last season and is eligible to suit up as early as Week 2 of the 2021 season.
New Dolphins WR Will Fuller V was asked to be an alpha receiver last year and absolutely crushed it.— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 18, 2021
- At least an average success rate on all but one route
- 74.2% success rate vs. press
Full 2020 and 2019 #ReceptionPerception profiles up on *the* website:https://t.co/mOxwyRqmoW pic.twitter.com/VUMjWMwhjy
The Dolphins’ biggest offensive needs are offensive lineman, wide receiver, and running back. The Dolphins have the No. 3, No. 18, No. 36., and No. 50 picks in this year’s draft. It has been rumored that the Dolphins could beef up their offensive line by drafting the University of Oregon Penei Sewell, who is considered the best lineman in the draft. There is also a possibility of the Dolphins trading back or attempting to acquire a top receiver at either No. 3 or No. 18. The rumored wide receivers include LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s Devonta Smith, or Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle. Running back is also a position the Dolphins are likely to target in the draft. Alabama’s Najee Harris, Clemson’s Travis Etienne, and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams have been rumored as potential targets for the team either in the first or second round.
For the 2021 season, the goal is to make the offense more dynamic and less predictable. Allowing Tagovailoa to take more downfield shots is crucial as his aDOT in 2020 was only 7.8 yards. The free-agent acquisitions and projected draft prospects should assist in making the offense more explosive. The health of the Dolphins’ starting skill players will also play a factor as it was a major detriment last year. The expectations are that the Dolphins will take a significant step forward and will have multiple fantasy-relevant contributors.