Fans may have to wait a little longer for this Miami Dolphins team to have a realistic shot of making a deep playoff push.
Although the Dolphins look like the most improved team this offseason, it still doesn’t mean they have caught up to the rest of the AFC or the NFL. Teams that were already further along than the Dolphins in 2019, all got better as well over this 2020 offseason.
But it doesn’t mean the Dolphins can’t show that they have drastically improved.
2019, was the “Tank for Tua” season.
Yes, it will be about taking a step up in the win column from 5-10 the year before, but it will also be about grooming a young group of core rookies. The Dolphins are planning to get all their draft picks up to starting-caliber by the 2021 season.
Because most of the key free-agent pieces the Dolphins have signed this offseason — guard, center, running back, defensive end, and linebacker — are on short-term deals. And knowing the Dolphins past history of adding key players through free agency, a lot of them are released before their final year.
Some of these players could be re-signed, but it feels like the Dolphins are grooming their replacements before these veteran contracts expire. That’s why the team reinforced a portion of the same positions through the draft.
5th overall selection, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, will have to sit behind aged-veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick (1-year remaining) on contract) until the Dolphins feel Tua is worthy to start.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 29, 2020
18th overall selection and the future left tackle of the team, Austin Jackson, will probably be playing from behind current starter Julien Davenport (1-year remaining). Davenport isn’t anyone’s idea of a quality starting left tackle, but Jackson could learn a thing or two from a veteran with years of experience. Flores also wants players to earn their jobs, not be given their spots on the roster.
30th overall selection, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, won’t be this team’s boundary corner anytime soon. Byron Jones and Xavien Howard have those spots locked up. Igbinoghene will be in competition with Nik Needham (1-year remaining) and fellow rookie Brandon Jones for the nickel spot. Both Igbinoghene and Jones can learn from Needham who had a degree of success playing on the boundary as a fill-in corner for the Dolphins last year.
Rookie guards, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley can learn from veterans Ereck Flowers (signed through 2022) and the versatile Jesse Davis (signed through 2022). Flowers’ future playing tackle in the league vanished after poor play on the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars but found a new future playing guard for the Washington Redskins which earned him a big contract with the Dolphins. Davis, originally, was an undrafted free agent, he’s found a starting job with Miami since 2017 and an extension in 2019.
Flowers and Davis can teach Hunt and Kindley how to not only be positionally successful but teach them how to rise from adversity during tough times as a backup or a fallen starter. “Keep fighting” would probably be their motto.
****NEW*** https://t.co/jTLjtUE3tr Podcast w/Special Guest Alabama Football Beat Reporter @Charlie_Potter from @BamaOnLine247 and @247Sports to talk about Tua and Raekwon Davis two of the newest Dolphins Draft Picks! #RollTide https://t.co/RevntZ1kYd
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 28, 2020
Rookie defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver will learn behind established multi-positional veterans— Kyle Van Noy (signed through 2023), Emmanuel Ogbah (signed through 2021), Shaq Lawson (signed through 2022), and Davon Godchaux (1-year remaining).
A former 1st-rounder, Lawson turned his career around during his 3rd season as a Buffalo Bill. He was headed towards Bust-ville but then learned how to take his work in the NFL seriously. He became one of 2020’s hottest free-agents at his position. Lawson can use his story to bring along defensive ends Strowbridge and Weaver. Van Noy and Ogbah will be hovering around the youngsters as well.
Godchaux could use his story of being a late-round selection to mentor fellow defensive tackle Davis, whose stats trended downward as his collegiate career went along. If Davis wants to use his lack of statistical production as a chip on his shoulder, he should know that few of his teammates play with a bigger chip on their shoulder than Godchaux. Godchaux’s 163 career tackles are the most by any defensive lineman in his 2017 draft class, despite there being 28 defensive linemen drafted ahead of him.
Running backs Jordan Howard (signed through 2021) and Matt Breida (1-year remaining), have found established roles as committee backs over their careers. If I were Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, Myles Gaskin, or Malcolm Perry, I would be following Breida around like a bunch of baby ducks trying to learn everything I can to be both a runner inside the tackles and on how to receive the ball out of the backfield.
So although the Dolphins acquirement and increase of talent should bring more wins this year, this season is more about seeing how these rookies grow, if they can contribute, and can they project to be viable replacements after a number of these veterans move on in the coming years.