Much time and money have been spent on painting the 2022 season as a do-or-die for Miami’s titular starting quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. 

While I agree with that assertion (regardless of whether or not it’s fair, it’s reality), there are other players on Miami’s roster that need to have big 2022 seasons if they want to be a part of the team’s long-term outlook. 

Let’s take a look at some of the other players on Miami’s roster facing some pressure this coming season. 

 

Hunter Long, Tight End 

Long was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft and barely played last season as a rookie. It might seem harsh to put Long on the clock this early in his career, but his path to consistently getting reps in Miami is murky at best. 

He’s sitting behind Durham Smythe (signed a new contract), Mike Gesicki (playing on the franchise tag), and Adam Shaheen (FA after this season). Not only is Long the likely TE4 for a second straight season, but the coaching staff that drafted him is also gone. 

Long’s skillset as a tight end capable of winning as a blocker and receiver does project well to Mike McDaniel’s scheme, but he might have another player in mind for that spot that he’s more comfortable with.

Some coaches just want their own guy.  

Dolphins’ general manager Chris Grier put Long in a bad spot by drafting to a team with so many tight ends in front of him in the first place, but this might be Long’s last chance to prove he can unseat any of them. 

Long is still a young player and won’t cost the team much in the future, which could be his saving grace. Additionally, there is a scenario where Gesicki and Shaheen don’t return next season, meaning Long could get his shot then. 

Although, assuming Long doesn’t play much again this season, would anyone be comfortable with him filling one of their roles? 

Pressure Meter: Medium 

Austin Jackson, Offensive Tackle

This is an obvious one, but it has to be discussed. Austin Jackson is officially on the clock to shake the bust label after being selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Jackson entered the 2020 season as Miami’s starting left tackle and was *checks notes* bad. He then got a second chance in 2021 but was quickly replaced at left tackle — he got kicked inside to left guard — after being *checks notes again* even worse. 

However, after switching to left guard, there was at least a glimpse of a starting-caliber player, especially during the back half of the season when Miami’s line played marginally better. 

Jackson is getting a third chance in 2022 under McDaniel and new offensive line coach Matt Applebaum to revive his career. This time, all signs point to him playing right tackle for the Dolphins. 

Jackson’s natural athletic ability and overall skill set project very well to McDaniel’s outside zone scheme. If he doesn’t succeed with this coaching staff this season, it’s hard to imagine a scenario he would be successful in. 

The coaching staff has spoken glowingly of Jackson’s performance during OTAs, which should be taken with a grain of salt, but hey, it’s something! 

Jackson is set up for success this season, meaning there are no more excuses. 

Pressure Meter: High as it can get 

Elandon Roberts and every other LB playing next to Jerome Baker 

It’s hard to pinpoint a definite weakness on the Dolphins’ defense. Miami is returning all of its starters from last season, which in most cases is a smart strategy — besides one. 

The linebacker running next to Jerome Baker is one of the few cracks in Miami’s defensive armor. Elandon Roberts is the player who gets the most reps in that spot, but the team brought back Duke Riley and Brennan Scarlett too. 

Roberts has some flashy plays where he comes downhill and lays the boom on an opposing running back, but he’s an absolute liability against the passing game, and the same can be said for his two compatriots. 

Besides being outdated prototype linebackers, none of them have long-term deals, and the team drafted Georgia linebacker Channing Tindall in the third round of this year’s draft. 

Tindall projects as a moving piece that should be utilized more as a Blitzer than a traditional three-down linebacker his rookie season. Still, his ceiling is undoubtedly to become the player to sure up Miami’s blindspot next to Baker. 

If Tindall gets off to a hot start, it’s not hard to imagine that timeline getting moved up either. 

Pressure Meter: Pretty High