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Don’t Sleep on the Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins haven’t made the postseason since 2016, and their most recent playoff victory was in 2000. They have a chance to flip the script after wise hires and hefty spending this offseason.

The Miami Dolphins were the talk of the NFL offseason, and not always for the reasons you’d want. Yes, they brought in Tyreek Hill and signed him to a massive contract extension. They also brought in head coach Mike McDaniel, who has succeeded in injecting some hype into the organization. But there was also the “impermissible communications” the franchise had with Tom Brady and Sean Payton. Owner Stephen Ross was suspended and fined $1.5 million for tampering amid the fallout. Even worse, the Dolphins were named in the Brian Flores lawsuit in which their former coach alleged racist hiring practices in Miami and around the league.

Come Sunday afternoon, however, the attention will shift to the field. And even though the Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game in four presidential administrations, there’s real reason for hope in Miami.

The McDaniel Method

Miami hired the former 49ers offensive coordinator and 38-year-old offensive mastermind McDaniel, a Mike Shanahan disciple. Shanahan is known for developing young coaches —namely Matt LaFleur (Packers, three 13-win seasons), Sean McVay (Rams, 2022 SB Champs), and his son Kyle, who was head coach in San Francisco with McDaniel.

McDaniel is the brains behind the newfound “hybrid” role that Deebo Samuel flourished in as a running back and wide receiver, becoming a first-team All-Pro. Samuel credits McDaniel for helping optimize his talent.

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“I could write a book about Mike,” Samuel said in an interview with KNBR’s Papa and Lund show. “He’s just a great guy. He was one of the guys that I went to a lot. Every Monday and Tuesday after a game, it’s him and Kyle (Shanahan) that I go and talk to and just talk about the game plan, and then just talk about life. It’s not all about ball. Miami is getting a great guy.”

McDaniel’s offense in San Francisco — which ranked fifth in the league in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA last season—is a good sign for a Dolphins team that averaged only 20.1 points per game.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect is that McDaniel now has the personnel to use this “hybrid” style of play.

The Dolphins have three of the league’s fastest players and a quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who can also run the ball, so the possibilities are endless… and quite unique.

Speed Kills. Here’s who can fit the Deebo role:
  • Hill (WR) clocked in the fastest run recorded in a game during the 2016 season (23.24 mph) and executed the jet sweep with the Chiefs on several occasions. His four-year, $120 million deal makes him the highest-paid WR and non-QB in NFL history ($30M AAV).
  • Raheem Mostert (RB) recorded the two fastest runs during the 2020 season (23.09; 22.7 mph). The 30-year-old comes over from San Francisco where he played for McDaniel, and his knowledge of the innovative system — combined with his explosiveness — could make him Miami’s X-Factor.
  • Jaylen Waddle (WR) recorded the sixth-fastest run last season (21.8 mph), just one of many incredible feats during his rookie season. Last season, the 23-year-old surpassed Anquan Boldin for the most receptions by a rookie in NFL history with 104. He also had seven games with at least eight receptions — also an NFL record.

McDaniel shouldn’t limit his options, especially considering how bad the Dolphins’ run game has been the past three seasons. They ranked dead last in the league in rush yards in 2019, 22nd in 2020, and 30th in 2021.

Look for that to change.

Spending For Protection

The Dolphins went out and spent $512.2 million on offseason acquisitions — the fourth-highest among NFL teams, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams ($574.9 million), Oakland Raiders ($566.6 million), and Cleveland Browns ($529.9 million).

Of course, the driving force behind Fins’ season rides on the shoulders of third-year QB Tagovailoa, who hasn’t quite proven that he’s capable of staying healthy through a 17-game season. Thus, protection for him is the top priority. With that comes the dynamic of the run game — as in, these jet sweeps and a heavy run offense will also be dependent on how the line holds up.

Miami signed three-time Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead to a five-year, $87.5 million contract to protect the lefty quarterbacks front side. They’ve allocated 10.6% of their 2022 cap to the offensive line, which really isn’t a lot, but Armstead alone should be able to elevate the group with his experience and leadership.

Taking the Next Step

The Fins should have enough to get the job done. Defensively in 2021, they finished with the third-highest pressure rate (28.5%) and the seventh-lowest QB rating allowed (85.4). Even though Flores is no longer head coach, most of their defensive coaching staff returned and just about every starter is back.

They’re a resilient bunch, too. After starting last season 1-7, they won seven straight and improved to 8-7 — the first team in NFL history to lose seven straight and win seven straight in a single season.

They should have an improved offense with McDaniel instilling an unorthodox offensive system, plus star power with Hill and Waddle. But ultimately, it feels as if their success rides on Tua’s shoulders.

Week 1: Patriots at Dolphins (-3.5), 1 p.m. ET

All odds via FanDuel Sportsbook.

  • O/U win total: (8.5)
  • Win AFC East: (+500)
  • Make Playoffs: (+124)
  • Win Super Bowl: (+4000)
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