The 2020 season came to an end for the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It wasn’t the ending any Dolphins fan imagined as they got their ass beat by the Buffalo Bills 56-26. It was a performance I certainly didn’t expect from the Dolphins especially considering they needed a win to be in the playoffs, and some questions were coming into the game of how much the Bills would play their players considering they really didn’t have to play for much with a playoff spot secured.  Sure, the Bills were playing for the number 2 seed in the playoffs, but the new playoff format only gives the number 1 seed the first-round bye, so the thought was maybe the Bills would play guys sparingly and use this as a bye week.

However, the Bills did play their starters sparingly and then their backups, but Sundays beat down showed just how far behind the Dolphins are compared to the Bills. The Bills are a much more talented and deeper roster than the Dolphins. The Bills showed why some consider them as a potential Super Bowl favorite. That’s hard for a Dolphins fan, like me, to accept, considering they played the Bills to the bitter end in week 2 only to fall short 31-28. I felt going into the game the Dolphins were better than in week 2, but the Bills are even better, as evidenced by their play the last month, beating their opponents by double digits. They also exposed a lot of the Dolphins’ shortcomings in talent.

There was nothing good that came out of Sunday’s game. The most disappointing part of Sunday’s game was their defense. They didn’t even show up to play. They came into the game giving up the fewest points in the NFL, but with the beat down on Sunday, I came away wondering just how good our defense is. The Dolphins didn’t provide any pass rush during the game, no matter who was playing quarterback. Josh Allen picked apart our secondary at will. One of the reasons I thought the Dolphins could match up with the Bills well is because of our secondary. The secondary improved so much from week 2 and was healthier with Byron Jones playing and Xavien Howard backed to 100% from his knee injury, after working through some rust. The Dolphins’ defensive front got no push on the Bills’ offensive line. The Bills don’t run the ball particularly well, but their 4th running back, who hadn’t taken an offensive snap all season, ran through the Dolphins defense like an all-pro. It was very depressing and frustrating to watch after the Dolphins made so much improvement this year.

One of the biggest things for me coming out of the Bills game, other than the difference in talent on both rosters, is that the Bills have the Dolphins number. Think about in the last 4 years; the Dolphins are 1-7 against the Bills, should be 0-8 if Charles Clay doesn’t drop the pass in the end zone at the end of the game the Dolphins won. The Dolphins have particularly struggled against Josh Allen in the last 3 years. In 6 games against the Dolphins, Allen has 17 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions. That’s not good. The Dolphins haven’t found ways to pressure him or really confuse him, and he’s only getting better. It’s not a good sign for the foreseeable future that the Dolphins will compete with the Bills if they can’t defend Allen better. It was particularly frustrating that the Dolphins’ defense, which has been the strength of this team, laid an egg badly against the Bills. I thought that the Dolphins’ defense could match up well with the Bills’ potent offense, but I was wrong. Allen has been a Dolphins killer in his 6 games against them, and the Dolphins will have to add more talent on defense.

The Dolphins’ offense was nowhere to be found as well. Rookie Tua Tagovailoa continues to go through the growing pains of a rookie quarterback. Yes, he has to play better, but he needs help on offense. The Dolphins were dropping passes consistently. They have no running game to speak of. The offensive line, which is better from a year ago, needs to continue to get better. The Dolphins don’t have anybody on their offense that defenses have to focus on. Simultaneously, the Bills have receivers in Stefon Diggs and John Brown and Cole Beasley, who didn’t play. They have other receivers who step up when their number is called on Sunday in Isaiah McKenzie and Gabriel Davis. The Dolphins don’t have that depth at receiver. This isn’t to excuse Tagovailoa. He has to play better no matter who is on offense, but he also needs more talent around him to maximize his potential, as the Bills have done with Allen.

The Bills are a team the Dolphins would like to aspire to become. The Bills did what the Dolphins are doing, going through a full-blown rebuild of their football team. The Bills are in year 4, where the Dolphins just completed their 2nd year. The Dolphins have to continue to add talent they are missing. They spent the last offseason building their defense and adding talent in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines. The Dolphins need to continue developing their young talent and adding more players on the offensive and defensive lines. The biggest thing the Dolphins need to do is add playmakers on offense. They need receivers that can stretch the field and get yards after the catch. Allen benefitted from having a number 1 receiver in Diggs this year to go with his arm talent. Before this year, Allen didn’t have one 300 yard passing game in his 44 career starts, but this year he had 8 games where he threw for over 300 yards. If the Dolphins can add some playmakers at wide receiver, maybe we can see Tagovailoa throw the ball down the field more. Now Tagovailoa also has to do a better job of reading defenses and trusting his receivers, but that takes time to gain more experience. 9 games for a rookie is too small a sample size.

Coach Flores would like to be a physical football team on offense, and to do that; you need a physical offensive line and a power running back. The Dolphins did a good job of adding offensive linemen last year, and they played better. Still, they need to continue to improve, and they also need to add another player or two upfront and not rely on the offensive line continuing growth from their young offensive linemen. The Dolphins have done that in the past and have gotten burned by relying on young linemen like Dallas Thomas, Jonathan Martin, and others. The Dolphins should continue to upgrade to the offensive line and bring in players to compete with their younger players up front. The Dolphins also need to add a running back that defenses have to key on. The only running back on the roster that should be a sure thing to come back is Myles Gaskin. He is a good complementary back, but he’s not a guy who can carry the load. The Dolphins had chances to address the running back position in the draft last year. Still, they passed on talented players like Jonathan Taylor and JK Dobbins in the 2nd, both contributing to their team’s success going to the postseason. The Dolphins have to draft one and not settle for what they have.

I’m amazed the Dolphins won 10 games this year with the lack of playmakers on offense. They don’t have anyone who commands double teams, take the top of the defense off, or creates separation consistently. That was clear from the first game of the year against the New England Patriots, and while the offense had moments at times, it wasn’t consistent enough, especially against better teams like the Bills.

Some people pointed at the Dolphins’ schedule and that they only beat 1 team that made the playoffs; while that is true, don’t nitpick the schedule and who the Dolphins beat. They played on their schedule, and it was the last place schedule. They also played 4 games against the toughest division in the NFC West. Last year the Dolphins won 5 games and beat 2 playoff teams, while the Bills won 10 games and only beat 1 playoff team, so we’re splitting hairs if you are going to look at who they have beaten. The Dolphins did a good job of beating bad teams, like the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, and others. However, when they played some of the better teams, like the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Seattle Seahawks, the Dolphins proved they could compete with them in most of those games but couldn’t get over the hump in beating them. It also proved the Dolphins have more work to upgrade the roster to get where they want to get, competing for the playoffs and championships. Sunday’s game was a harsh reality for the team.

The Dolphins are clearly a better football team from a year and made tremendous progress, but there is still a lot of work. The Dolphins, despite the salary cap crunch due to the pandemic, are in good shape salary cap-wise. They have 4 picks in the top 50 of the NFL draft this year, including the number 3 pick overall, so they have enough resources to upgrade the team to potentially take the next step, becoming a playoff team and a potential contender. It’s going to be a big year next year to see if coach Brian Flores can lead this team into the playoffs and beyond, but more importantly, they have to close the gap on the Bills. If they don’t, the rest is irrelevant, honestly. It starts with your division, and the Bills proved this year they are the class of the division in the post Tom Brady era, as evidenced by their sweep of the New England Patriots. The Dolphins have to find a way to change their fortune against the Bills. The Bills found a way to get over the hump. Now it’s time for the Dolphins to, and this off-season will be critical if the Dolphins will take the next step.