The NFL Draft is in the books and now the Fins enter the next phase of what has already been a busy off-season.  The Dolphins kicked off their virtual off-season program on Monday 27th April which will include virtual workouts and classroom video-conferencing.  This is the ‘new normal’ for all teams until facilities reopen.

The team rebuild was primarily implemented to ensure we avoid mediocrity.  This has to be achieved in an assured, thorough, and sustainable way.  It’s hard to know what will constitute success or failure in 2020, but I know I want and expect us to win more than 5 games.

Whilst most of us will consider the off-season to be a success so far, we will all agree that you don’t win championships in March and April.  I want to look at what the Dolphins need to do from now until September to ensure that the season is as much of a success as we hope it will be.  I also want to look at the decisions that will need to be made to ensure sustained and long-term success for the team.


Have a plan for Tua

I suspect that Chris Grier and Brian Flores have already discussed, at great length, the optimal plan for Tua.  However, until they get to see Tua up close they cannot fully have expectations of how healthy he is or how capable he can be as a rookie.  For now, it’s safe to say that Fitzpatrick is the starter, and Tua can sit and learn behind the bearded wonder.  I worry if we start 0-4, that the team will deviate from the plan and throw Tua in before he’s ready (mentally and physically.)  I would expect the team to keep Josh Rosen on the roster to cover for any eventuality.  Rosen, at this stage, wouldn’t get us much in the way of trade compensation, so there’s no harm in having him as a fall-back option.


Sort out the Offensive Line early

After drafting 3 Offensive Linemen, the Dolphins now have 10 players that will be vying for starting spots on the 2020 version of the Offensive Line.  In 2019, we rarely had the same starting line week on week, so I’d like to see a concerted effort to establish who the starters will be by the end of the pre-season.  After that point, injuries aside, I hope that we stick with the same line for as long as possible to establish cohesion.  We can’t go into the 2021 off-season with the line yet again being the area we need to improve on the most.  We should give the rookies every chance to challenge for a starting spot although I have concerns about Austin Jackson’s ability to be ready to start Week 1.


Bring in another Tight End

Mike Gesicki played very well towards the end of last season and there’s great optimism that he can take another Gesicki sized stride forward in 2020.  The pessimist in me still has concerns about Gesicki’s toughness and mental processing.  I like the addition of Michael Roberts, but I feel we need another veteran TE to push Gesicki and give Fitz, or Tua, another receiving weapon in the early part of the season.  I was surprised we didn’t add another TE in the draft, but it wasn’t a stacked class at the position and I do feel a veteran signing would be the better option.

Find a way to get Malcolm Perry involved in the offense

Although somewhat of a luxury pick in RD7, Malcolm Perry’s selection may well end up being a master-stroke.  The Naval Academy prospect is a do-it-all type of player and could be used to great effect on both offense and special teams.  He’s probably no Taysom Hill, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t design some packages with maximizing Perry’s potential in mind.  Regardless, Malcolm Perry is the kind of character that will work hard and do everything he can to get on the field in any capacity.  Perry’s the kind of player you can easily root for and I wouldn’t bet against him.


Bring in another Punter

OK, Punter may not be the most important position on the team and Matt Haack is certainly capable of playing the role well enough, but there were times in 2019 that Haack did not perform well and we should always look to add some competition.  I have been surprised so far that we haven’t added a UDFA Punter, but that may suggest the team are happy with Haack.  Longtime Chief, Dustin Colquitt, has just been released by them and could be a decent option to challenge Haack.  I wonder if Miami is waiting to see which veteran Punters are available, closer to the season, before making a move.


Continue to add if players become available

Last off-season, it seemed like we were signing every player that was cut in a desperate attempt to build the roster around potential, second chances, and crossed fingers.  The emphasis has quickly changed, but we shouldn’t shy away from continuing to add to the roster if the right player becomes available.  Brian Flores will tell us he’s happy with his roster, but he will know that there’s not one positional group that cannot be improved.  I expect the team to be active around the waiver wire when we get close to naming the final 53.


Devise ways to pressure the opposing QB

Miami’s pass-rush needs to be better in 2020.  The addition of Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson in free agency should help.  In the draft, Curtis Weaver and Jason Strowbridge were added on Day-3.  The most interesting facet of this situation is how Brian Flores will use Kyle Van Noy.  Van Noy isn’t your prototypical pass-rusher, but he should be often used as such this year.  I expect Flores to find creative ways of bringing pressure from the edge, the interior, and the secondary.  In this regard, quantity over quality may win the day as Miami should have enough fresh legs to get after the opposing QB more successfully this year.


Turn potential into production

Last season, we got some great production from unexpected sources (e.g. Nik Needham.) This, in no small part, has helped lay the foundation for a roster that now has impressive depth.  However, we still have a lot of highly drafted players that have not reached their full potential.  We’d like to see more from Christian Wilkins in terms of run-stopping and pass-rush.  Jerome Baker will need to forge out a role in what now appears to be a crowded linebacking group.  Michael Dieter may have to move to Center to have a chance of starting in 2020.  If these, and other players, perform as they are capable in 2020, the league should be put on notice.

Cut the dead weight

Miami has done exceptionally well in establishing which players they need to release from the roster in order to create cap space and to build for the future.  As it stands, there are only a handful of players on the roster that I don’t see being with the team for the long haul.  On defense, both Charles Harris and Taco Charlton are expendable.  Harris has not progressed as hoped or expected and Charlton seems the odd man out in what is now a stacked defensive line/pass-rusher group.  Both are free agents in 2021, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were both cut well before the start of this season.


Avoid extending any 2021 free agents

Miami will have a lot of free agents in 2021 with over 30 players, on the current roster, being out of contract at that time.  Some of the free agents are those that have signed this year on a 1-year ‘prove it’ deal.  However, there are some returning veterans that will also be pushing for a new contract between now and next March.  Albert Wilson is unlikely to be kept unless he has a monster 2020 season or accepts a smaller contract.  Ryan Fitzpatrick may only be retained as a back-up in the shiny new Tua era.  The two that I’d like to retain are Davon Godchaux and Raekwon McMillan.  As much as I like both Godchaux and McMillan, they’ll need to have impressive 2020 seasons to justify extending them on larger contracts for future years.


Pray that key players get healthy and stay healthy

Lastly, get on your knees and pray that the Fins manage to avoid any prolonged injuries to their key players.  Obviously, we all hope that Tua stays healthy for the next 15 years, but we also need other injury-prone guys like DeVante Parker and Xavien Howard to remain on the field for full seasons.  Our strength in depth appears better now than it has been for years, but we can’t compete without these key guys staying fit.  It feels like we’re due a healthy season, so let’s hope that’s the case.