So I have a confession: I missed the schedule reveal last week.
I know, I know, my die-hard fan status is temporarily revoked. I’m in the middle of a move, and it’s been a doozy. At times I’ve felt like Kalen Ballage, falling forward for 1.8 yards a carry when I really just needed a lousy 3 to not get behind the chains in this crazy thing called life.
(At some point, I’ll move on from the low-hanging Kalen Ballage fruit… I’m just not there yet.)
So yes, I’m late posting this article, and I’ve let you all down by not staying current.
But I’ll make it up to you.
You see, the benefit of not catching the schedule right away was that I got to sit back and formulate some of my own opinions on it. And I got to really dig into some of the nuances other people uncovered.
That, and I’ve really stumbled across something no one seems to be talking about with the new rookies on the team. They wrapped up their rookie minicamp this past weekend, and a common theme struck me. It’s fascinating, and it’s wholesome.
But first, about the schedule.
Bookending the season with the Patriots will be an intriguing plot line to follow, especially because that final week of the season is in Miami, where the Dolphins have enjoyed success against the Pats for the last few years. That game might have serious implications for the playoffs (at least, I think we all hope it will). As for the week one game in Foxboro, I expect it to go differently than last season. It’s a game Miami should win, and unlike last season both teams will feature lots of new faces around the roster. Not just the Dolphins this time, so continuity doesn’t favor either team to open the season.
The first part of the season has been talked about a lot, and rightfully so. It’s pretty tough.
On the upside, though, we’ll learn pretty quickly if Brian Flores’ squad is ready to compete at a high level following a full offseason or if, by nature of being a young team, they’ll still need more time to gel. Games against the Patriots, Bills, Raiders, Colts, and Bucs will help reveal that. Of course, the Colts and Raiders are the most manageable matchups of that bunch, but it will be a telling first stretch of the season.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) May 17, 2021
Normally I’m a fan of late bye weeks, but Miami’s bye this week is REALLY late. Like, that one friend who always says he’s five minutes out even when he’s just leaving the house late. The bye doesn’t come until week 14 this year, leaving only four games afterward under the NFL’s new 18-week season.
Initially, I was a little perturbed by this, but there is a definite silver lining: The games after the off-week are against the Jets, Saints, Titans, and Patriots. Excluding maybe the Jets, those aren’t easy games (and to be fair, the Jets did have what looks to be a good offseason). However, especially against AFC adversaries like the Titans and Patriots, those games could be big at the end of that regular-season stretch where the postseason picture comes into focus. The late bye allows Miami to get healthy and freshen up going into those potentially big games.
One point discussed by Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald last week was that after the start of November, the Dolphins never play north of the Mason-Dixon line. So they should avoid any freezing weather this way. Of course, playing in snow or cold isn’t the end of the world, but this way, the South Florida crew won’t have to deal with unfamiliar elements like freezing temps, snow, or the abominable snowman.
Last note on the schedule that I uncovered, and my favorite observation: The Dolphins play 6 out of 8 games at home from weeks 7-14. With the exception of games against the Bills and Ravens, that’s also where the schedule softens considerably. It’s early, but I’m calling that Miami will go on a healthy run during that 8-week stretch and stack some serious wins headed into the bye week. Then, as I mentioned, it’ll be put up or shut up time as the postseason approaches.
I’ll make predictions later, but there’s my belated schedule-reveal reaction.
Now, onto my note about the rookies.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) May 17, 2021
Maybe it’s because I’m wrapping up college and about to venture into a new stage of my own life, but something struck me while looking at what the rookies had to say this past weekend. Check out some of these quotes:
“It’s been going amazing. Just getting out there and being with the team, being with my teammates and whatnot is an unbelievable experience.”
“The coolest thing for me was putting on the helmet for the first time… it was a cool, small first step of my NFL career….”
“It was a blessing. But, then, the offers started coming in… I couldn’t believe it. If they gave me $15,000 guaranteed, I was going to take it and run with it to a place I can complete.”
That last quote was from UDFA Robert Jones, who got $130,000 guaranteed from the Dolphins.
Anyone else see a theme here?
The small act of showing up to a rookie minicamp, of donning the helmet with the aqua and orange on the side, is life-changing for these players. Whether it’s Jaylen Waddle and his $27 million guaranteed or Jones and his $130,000 guaranteed (or other rookies who receive far less), they’ve reached a level that they could’ve only dreamed of years ago.
So in between all the schedule projections and analysis of where each rookie fits, take a minute to appreciate how much this opportunity, this new season of both life and football, means to these young men.
It’s huge. Monumental.
And there’s one other thing that these rookies share: a sense of focus that Flores seems to hone in on. Miami’s first-rounders this year demonstrated as much from their comments in interviews.
“Honestly, there’s no time to reflect right now,” Jaelan Phillips said. “Obviously, this training has been incredible, and I’m so blessed to even be in this position, but now is far from the time to rest.”
The other Jaylen struck a similar chord: “of course, it’s a blessing, but it was really time to get back to work,” Waddle said of the minicamp.
So these rookies are grateful, as they should be, but they’re not content, far from it. They’re hungry.
Fans should be, too — just don’t forget to appreciate what this chance means to these new Miami Dolphins.