Nearly one month after Miami relieved Brian Flores of his duties, who’d had a 19-14 record over the past two seasons and subsequently sued the league for racial discrimination, the Fins hired Mike McDaniel as their new Head Coach. McDaniel had been with lauded offensive mind Kyle Shanahan in 5 different NFL franchises and was most recently credited for being the mastermind behind San Francisco’s potent rushing attack.
By all accounts, it seems Miami hired a young up-and-coming Head Coach with plenty of experience around the NFL and was even a part of the famed 2013 Washington Redskins staff that has already included three successful Head Coaches (Shanahan, McVay & LaFleur). Now that he’s in Miami, it’s fair to assume the Dolphins’ offense will go through a much-needed makeover. Here we take a look at what current Dolphins players may find themselves in a better position to succeed and what free agents Miami might look to bring in.
It’s been widely reported that the Dolphins will likely have the most cap space in the NFL as they head into free agency. Chris Grier, who somehow survives every cycle, is someone who delegates a lot to the Head Coach; he signed and drafted players Brian Flores wanted to play his scheme at a high level (Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy & Jason McCourty). Here are a few players who I expect the Dolphins to show interest in:
- Laken Tomlinson: The former Detroit Lions 1st round draft pick disappointed in Detroit, but he managed to turn his career around in San Francisco under the tutelage of Shanahan & McDaniel. He earned his first pro bowl berth in 2021, and he’d be a perfect scheme for the Dolphins. If San Francisco doesn’t sign him to an extension, expect him to receive heavy interest from Miami.
- Cordarrelle Patterson: Many people have speculated who could fill the Deebo Samuel role in Miami, and names like Waddle or Lynn Bowden Jr. have been thrown out, and nothing against those 2, but they’re different types of players to Bowden. Now, free agent Patterson is likely to stay in Atlanta as he had a career resurgence as an offensive player, and at age 31, he may be looking to cash out. Still, if he does reach free agency, I expect Miami would be interested in bringing him in due to his rushing ability, which is very similar to Deebo Samuel’s.
- Dalton Schultz: The Shanahan scheme requires a lot of run blocking, and as we know, Mike Gesicki isn’t particularly great at blocking (aside from Twitter, where he seemingly blocked all of Dolphins Twitter). Shultz is a more well-rounded TE, and while he may not be the receiving threat that Gesicki is, he’s still excellent in that area as he had a career year in 2021 with over 800 yards and 8TDs.
- Terron Armstead: In San Francisco, McDaniel typically had great offensive line play, and a big reason for this was tackle Trent Williams, whom they acquired after Joe Staley retired, meaning they always had an elite tackle on the roster, Armstead could fill that role for Miami. He’s 31, so he’ll look to cash out, and with the Saints in the worst salary cap situation in the NFL. Miami feels like a prime target to give the proverbial bag to Armstead. Armstead still plays at a very high level and would provide an immediate upgrade to the Dolphins’ offensive line.
- Raheem Mostert: Out of all the players I’ve presented, this would most likely be the cheapest as Mostert has been a career journeyman who found some success in San Francisco before injuries derailed his career. Mostert has experience playing with McDaniel and averages 5.7 yards per carry throughout his NFL career. He’ll likely not require a lot of money to sign, so bringing in someone who’s already acclimated to the system and has had success in it wouldn’t be a wrong move.
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If Miami were to acquire these players, they’d be in a much better situation than they were at the end of the 2020 season, and their running game would surely improve, which would then result in a better passing game. Miami’s offensive roster is nowhere near among the best currently, but that’s not to say they don’t have some players who could develop into stars. Here are three players who are likely to raise their stock under Mike McDaniel:
- Jaylen Waddle: He’s the obvious pick, as he’s the most talented player the Dolphins have on offense and their #1 weapon. Miami realized this last year and began playing Waddle all over the field, including in the backfield at times. Like I said previously, comparing his role to Deebo’s in San Francisco wouldn’t be fair since they have very different body frames, and Waddle probably wouldn’t be able to handle that workload. Still, an offensive coach like McDaniel will likely find creative ways to get Waddle the football. San Francisco also runs a higher percentage of screens than Miami did this past year, so those are other ways to get Waddle the football.
- Robert Hunt: Miami’s offensive line was the worst unit in football, but even a unit as bad as they were had a bright spot, and that happened to be Robert Hunt. Over the 2nd half of the season, Robert Hunt became one of the best guards in football, and in a zone running scheme like McDaniel’s, he’ll be a legitimate mauler. I won’t be shocked if he makes his first Pro Bowl next year.
- Tua Tagovailoa: The much-discussed Quarterback finally has an excellent offensive mind at the helm, and if this doesn’t lead to improvement from the former Alabama QB, then the Dolphins may need to start looking elsewhere. Tagovailoa has committed his fair share of mistakes (which are typical for a young QB). Still, it’s also true that he hasn’t been given any real support system, whether it be the coach & front office looking to trade for another QB, having the worst offensive line in football, or having multiple coordinators and play-callers. Hopefully, McDaniel can provide Tagovailoa the stability a young QB needs in order to have success in the NFL.
This preview explored the offensive side of the ball due to the fact we have no real answer who will be the defensive coordinator or what the scheme will be. If Josh Boyer stays in the role he occupied last year, I’d expect Miami to have a solid defense due to the Fins still having a very talented defensive roster. I still believe Miami needs to upgrade their linebacking unit and re-sign Emmanuel Ogbah, but aside from that, I think Miami’s defensive personnel stays mostly the same.
Like this writing . Defense, just sign back Ogbah and get an MLB in the draft to play in between Baker and Van Ginkel. Elandon Roberts is a keeper and can fill in and help in a situational role. Add a young DT to spell Davis and Wilkins, Zeiler.
Get Phillips to bulk up a little and be a full -time DE / Edge spot. That’s it on D. Offense, lots to do. First step is sign 2-3 free agents, two tackles and one center. Cannot draft them, so ? Sign them in free agency. Move Dieter to LG and train up Eichenberg to be the first option as a swing tackle. Jackson to the bench, Davis to the outhouse. How about : Armstead LT, Dieter LG, FA-C, Hunt- RG, FA- RT as the new oline ? Trade for Calvin Ridley WR, current Falcon, ex Alabama pal of Tua.
Keep Gesicki and make him a super threat in several new formations, like Kelce is used. The draft – MLB 1st, RB – Kenneth Walker, Hall or Z. White, WR, DT, CB. Trade Noah Ighbo-nobody if he shows nothing in training camp. Trade D. Parker,and
P. Williams, the “Glass Bros”. New WR room: Waddle, Ridley, Bowden, Rookie, Hollins. RB room: Walker, Duke, Lindsay, Gaskin, Doaks. Finally get a vet QB to push Tua, to work with McDaniel. Marcus Mariota would be a good choice. It’s lots to do but it can be done. Many teams make big jumps in one year with good decisions, hires. Grier and McDaniel may most likely “collaborate” much better than Flores and his ego, so there is hope.