WE’RE BAAAAACK!!!! It’s coming round to football season again. Rookies are already in the building, and the vets are due back any day now. Training Camp is upon us, preseason games are around the corner, and the season is now only weeks, not months, away. Oh, how I love our Miami Dolphins!

And what a season ahead, a new coach, a new staff, and with them a new philosophy. Already we feel like a different franchise. Freer with the media, more open with the fans, and more exposure to our team’s personality. Aggressive in the trade and free agent market, and some young players were returning ready to kick on to the next level. And finally, finally, a team built around Tua Tagovailoa. He’ll have a better offensive line, which will be better coached, he will have a run game, he will have weapons lined up around him every play, and his defense hasn’t lost a single player from that core group. There is much to be positive about from a Miami Dolphins fan perspective.

But behind enemy lines go beyond that. Behind Enemy Lines aims to discuss what faces our Dolphins. For those who haven’t seen this series last year, each week ahead of the next Dolphins matchup, I speak with someone from the opposition fanbase to find out how they view the season and, more importantly, the upcoming game.
In this mini-series, I will be doing preview articles with fans from our divisional rivals. Do they have similar levels of optimism to see their season and give us an indication of how they’re feeling ahead of the season? Are they expecting to walk over us?

This first piece of the new season is a sit-down with Buffalo Bills fan Greg Tompsett (@GregTompsett) of the Cover 1 Buffalo podcast (@Cover1), who I met with last year ahead of our second game. Today we sit down to discuss the Buffalo perspective on their season, our season, and the division as a whole.

 

The season is back, and I am here for it! Hello again, mate; good to connect again, and doesn’t it feel good to be talking about football again. But for any fans tuning in for the first time, re-introduce yourself and how you’re doing ahead of the upcoming season.

Hello again, JMR; thanks for asking me back. I’m always happy to talk football and even happier to talk about the Bills. I’m Grey Tompsett, Podcast host and co-owner of Cover 1. I’m a rabid Buffalo Bills fan and personally can’t wait for the 2022 season. We are not used to having this many people picking us to be the team to beat, and I could not be more excited!

I bet! For us, obviously, it is a whole new start and one that feels more positive than a lot of summers in recent years. We finally seem to be building strongly and finally have a coach who will engage with us outside of media soundbites and who lets the team do the same. But through all of this, we know to get anywhere that, we have to beat Buffalo. We look at signings and drafted players and ask ourselves, will they help us beat Buffalo. So yeah, we’re one of those teams looking at you as the team to beat.
All because the last few seasons, you have seemed to be really building something. What was the mood like at the end of last season, gutted with how it ended? Or excited for the future?

Obviously a lot of heartbreak with how it ended and how well Allen & the offense we’re playing. But yeah, it hurt for it to end the way it did after having all that momentum and positivity behind us. It’s been a fine line balancing the excitement vs. the frustration of “what could have been.” But yeah, a lot to be excited about for this year and a massive desire to put right the heartbreak of last year.

Yeah, I mean, it’s easy for me to say we’d be glad to have had even the chance of heartbreak in that way. I mean, to look at getting to the playoffs in that way is something we’d consider a success and a step forward, but once you’re there, you want to win. So I won’t belittle that pain; it must have been sickening. But the beauty of the NFL, there is always next season, and that is right around the corner. So what’s different? What will get you over the line, do you think? When you look at free agency, what players have you signed that can really make that impact?

Obviously, Von Miller is the headline. He gives our defense that star power and should be the spark to break those closer games. Hopefully, he can become a bit of a mentor to our young defenders like Rousseau to take their game to the next level too. However, we have also made some sneaky additions in the trenches with Rodger Saffold & David Quessenberry on OL & then DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle & Jordan Phillips at DT; these guys give our front row units a lift, and I believe THESE guys will make the real impacts.

O-Line, the cause of much distress in our own franchise. It graded out so badly last year and gave Tua next to no chance. The first game against you guys proved that in the worst way, I guess. We’ve made two key moves to try and correct it, so hopefully, that works, but it just goes to show I understand your viewpoint.
How about people you have lost? Is there anyone who left in free agency that you feel you will miss? Are there any holes remaining on the roster that concern you?

It’s crazy to say… but not really. I know that answer doesn’t help this answer, but honestly, I feel pretty comfortable with Dane Jackson & the draft replacing Levi Wallace, and they upgraded at DT from Harrison Phillips & from Jerry Hughes at DE. They were pretty fortunate, and I feel good about all aspects of our roster.

Well, that’s bleak for the rest of us. When you put it like that, it could be mistaken for preseason optimism, but considering the success you’ve had the last couple of seasons, it’s not hard for an impartial supporter to understand why you feel that way. So it’s pretty clear you guys are happy with how the roster build has gone this year, so what’s been the reaction to this year’s draft class?

To be honest, ecstatic to finally have another first-round, premium investment at Cornerback. The draft class overall was good, but locking in that extra talented option in the secondary has us excited. The fan base is crazy about seeing what a student of the game Kaiir Elam is for being a 6’1″ Cornerback who runs a 4.38 forty. He could be the total package with Tre White opposite him and Poyer/Hyde as his safety blanket.
Also, James Cook could be a nice added weapon to an already dangerous offense. Then for the once-a-game, they do punt… they drafted the Punt God, Matt Araiza. What more could we want.

Yeah, OK, rub it in. A great draft to add to everything else. This is becoming sickening, haha. I have to say, too, Cook and Araiza were two names I’d have loved when we were on the clock. That said, our draft picture was very different after the Hill addition; hopefully, he gives your rookie cornerback some difficulties, at least.
So rivalry aside for a second, what is the fanbase position on the Dolphins? Has there been any noise from your end about our off-season additions and changes?

Can’t argue with most of your additions; Tyreek Hill is a dangerous opponent. But speaking frankly, I think most Bills fans are lying to themselves that Tua won’t get it done. No one can argue that you have made many talented additions all over the roster this off-season; this is a dangerous roster in the other 52 spots. It’ll come down to Tua, and a lot of the fan base is convinced that will be where the Dolphins fall short.

The Bills and the rest of the NFL, it seems. Honestly, it feels like nothing can possibly change people’s opinion on Tua; I don’t understand why so much of the NFL world is against him. But of course, we feel differently. For the first time, Tua has a coaching staff that is set up to believe in him, trust in him and play football his way. They have built a roster around the key statistical ways that held him back, bringing in a whole new running back room, and obviously, the Tyreek Hill trade is a major upgrade. So we still believe in our QB1, and I think this year, he will turn more people into believers across the NFL landscape.
But what about the matchups, roster, v roster? How do you think these two games will go this year?

I think Josh Allen winning seven straight and last year being a lopsided 61-11 combined in the two games has tainted the view of how close these games can be. The run of games in the last few seasons has us dominant over you guys, and right now, I can’t see that changing. For now, I’ll believe the Dolphins can beat Josh Allen when I see it.

The matchup that concerns me is the MIA depth at DL vs. an unproven right side of the Bills OL. Spencer Brown is an elite athlete but has to be more consistent and could be an area your solid DLine group looks to exploit if they are to make an impact in this dominance.

Haha, OK, say it straight, why don’t you. No need to sugarcoat it for my feelings or anything. Ha! But no, to be serious, like we say, we’re under no illusions as to what we need to do to win this division, and that is to beat you, and maybe this season, just get closer to you. So we understand it; I just don’t like hearing it so bluntly haha.
Dump on some other teams for me; save my ego. What are your thoughts on the other two teams in the division and what they have done this off-season?

Ha! Sorry, but I got to call it how I see it, and I am yet to see Tua and the Dolphins get closer to this version of the Bills. Like I say, I’ll believe it when I see it. As for the other two, I think New England is in for a rude awakening, as I think Josh McDaniels was an underrated play caller and support for Mac Jones. To go into camp with no designated OC or DC, on top of McDaniels moving on, I just don’t see it playing out well.
And the Jets are… still the Jets. I do like some of the young talents they’re bringing in; they’ve drafted well recently, but as far as our perspective goes, we think they’re two years away from being two years away.

Haha, what a brilliant way of putting it. Don’t get me wrong; I think they have the best roster they have had for a while, with some talented aspects, especially that Offensive line which is sneakily shaping up quite nice, in my opinion. But yeah, I feel they just don’t have the depth to worry us for a while yet. And New England seem in implode mode. I don’t want to speak too soon; Bill could be pulling off his latest masterstroke, but to me, it seems like a man whose faithful group has left him, and he is clinging on to what’s left. Hopefully, New England and New York can comfortably occupy spots 3 and 4.
What about your season? What do you want to achieve this year?

To put it bluntly, I want to win it all. Last year ended in a way that stung bad, I want to go beyond that and win it all, and we have the players to do that. I’m expecting a Division Championship, 11+ wins, a home playoff game & multiple playoff wins. I hope for the #1 seed, and yeah, obviously, I am really seeing a Super Bowl as a possibility for the first time in my adult life. This is the best Bills roster of my lifetime and the best roster in the NFL.

Well, someone’s confident. Haha! Nah, it makes perfect sense that you are hoping for that. If you are ever going to do that, this year seems the best time to do that with star players all over the roster. You have to capitalize on that.
What are your expectations for the Dolphins? How do you view our chances this season?

I think the Dolphins would be a playoff lock on the NFC… in this loaded AFC? There will be some good teams that don’t make the playoffs. Multiple of Denver, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, New England, Miami are all thinking playoffs… and maybe 1 of them will make it (counting BUF, KC, LAC, IND, BAL, and CIN… who could get a rude awakening too). It’s a real gauntlet this year. So I am not saying you CAN’T do it, but there are a hell of a lot of teams in your way if you can’t beat us to winning the group… which you won’t.

Haha, alright, alright! But I take your point, but for me, these teams have to play each other in some instances; they can’t all win those same games. These teams will come unstuck against each other on a number of occasions. If they can all take wins off each other, then we could see those playoff spots opening up a little more. It’s not going to be an easy route, that’s for sure, and we have the hardest schedule we’ve has in a couple of seasons. But we also have the best roster we have had in that time, so for now, I still believe!!
So to wrap this up, how do you see the division playing out? 1st to 4th, give me your prediction…

I expect it to finish:

 

Buffalo

Miami

New England

NYJ

And if I had any guts, I’d pick New England 4th…

 

Well, there you go, the first Behind Enemy Lines in the bag for 2022, and its quite a demoralizing one which brings me crashing back to earth with a dose of reality for how tough this could be for us to make a playoff push.

That said, even the folks over in Buffalo see us pushing up and into second in the division; they recognize the talent amongst the roster and the positivity in the changes we have made; they just don’t see us close to their level yet. And who can blame them? Looking over our recent history against them, we haven’t even got close. So some positives hidden amongst the brazen confidence of the Bills fanbase, but it feels like a put our money where our mouth is season, where this rivalry is concerned.

Can we get closer to the Bills? Divisionally, that is going to be key to the future of this franchise, this Behind Enemy Lines feels like we could get closer, but it is still going to be very tough to tip the balance in our favor against a very good Bills team.

Hopefully, better reading when we go Behind Enemy Lines with the Patriots and Jets in the coming weeks…

Fins Up!