It’s that time of year again for all NFL teams. The off-season is officially over, and it’s time to put everything together on the field. For the Miami Dolphins, they had a lot of change this off-season. They hired a new head coach in Mike McDaniel. They also made a lot of bold, aggressive moves to upgrade the offense that has been average for most of the last two decades. They added more speed and the potential to make big plays this year. Now, it’s time to put it all together, and I’m optimistic for the first time in years with this offense to complement their defense, which has been the backbone of this team the last few years. I have concerns about the team, such as our first-year head coach and how he will lead a group of players for the first time ever, but it doesn’t overshadow how excited I am for the team going into the season. 

As concerned as I am about coach McDaniel being a first-time head coach, he brings a new energy and, more importantly, a structure on offense that has been lacking with this team. I loved coach Brian Flores, but if there was one criticism about him as a head coach, it’s that his team didn’t have a structure on offense. That’s evident by his three different offensive coordinators, and four different offensive line coaches in his three years as head coach. With that type of turnover, players can’t develop properly with that change. McDaniel is bringing in quality assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball, specializing in teaching and developing young players. Most of his offensive coaches specialize in blocking, which this offense needs, as evident by the offense being ranked last in the league in blocking. He also uses the zone blocking scheme, emphasizing moving linemen, pulling, and trapping. It also gets your playmakers out in space. The hope is this will help get the most out of our young offensive line, which has struggled to put it nicely. Having three different coordinators and different line coaches every year certainly doesn’t help either. I am concerned about McDaniel being a first-time head coach and his corky personality, which is different from coach Flores, but he brings an energy that has rubbed off on the players this off-season. It will be a great success if it can get the most out of the players and they perform on the field. All head coaches started somewhere as head coaches; some did well, and some didn’t. Some didn’t do well in their first head coaching stint and succeeded in their second opportunity, such as Bill Belichick.  

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross since becoming the owner in 2009, has always hired first-time head coaches, and he hasn’t had good results. Joe Philbin and Adam Gase were flops as head coaches. While he got the most out of his players and had back-to-back winning seasons, Flores constantly clashed with players and coaches because of his disciplinary style, and after a while, it rubbed people the wrong way. McDaniel is the opposite of Flores, and I wonder if the team will lose their discipline on the field as they were one of the least penalized teams with Flores. 

I’m optimistic about the fresh start for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He was the number 5 pick in the 2020 NFL draft and started the second half of his rookie season. He might not have been ready physically to play as he was not even a year removed from a broken hip injury he suffered at Alabama, and he was benched twice in his rookie season. Two other quarterbacks drafted the same year, Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, have had success in their two seasons. Burrow, drafted first in 2020, rebounded from a torn ACL his rookie season and led the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl this past season, where they were one score away from winning. Herbert was drafted after Tagovailoa and has put up big numbers with the Los Angeles Chargers. Herbert’s play has questioned the Dolphins whether they picked the right quarterback as Tagovailoa hasn’t put up better numbers. Tagovailoa put up great numbers at Alabama and had great talent around him, but in the NFL, defenses catch on and tighten up, especially if your skills positions aren’t a threat. In Tagvailoa’s defense, he hasn’t been surrounded by an excellent supporting cast. His offensive line has been one of the worst in the league, the Dolphins have had no running game, and most of his receivers were injured or not getting open on the field. 

This off-season, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier made a conscious decision to upgrade the offense around Tagovailoa. He made a bold trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in trading five draft picks for wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is considered the most explosive receiver in the game. Hill brings an element the Dolphins haven’t had in years. He can beat you deep or take a quick slant and take it the distance, as he did in the playoff game against the Buffalo Bills last year. His presence will open things up for second-year wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who set the rookie record in receptions last year, who flashed big plays last year but was the only real threat on offense, and defenses were able to surround him when he caught the ball most of the time. The expectation is that tight end Mike Gesicki will be able to flourish in this offense with Hill and Waddle. The Dolphins also added Cedric Wilson in the slot, who has speed as well and can open things up. Tagovailoa has more weapons at the receiver position than he has in his previous two years, so now it’s time for him to take his game to another level, and I believe he can. 

Grier also restacked the running back position. Grier has been pretty cheap at the running back position in the last few years. He signs a low-ball contract to a free agent or picks a running back late in the draft or after. He has had plenty of opportunities to draft running back, only to pass on them; like in 2020, he passed on Jonathan Taylor, JK Dobbins, and others. McDaniel wants to establish a running game and be a physical football team. The Dolphins signed Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Sony Michel in free agency to compete with incumbents Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. They all have speed and can catch passes out of the backfield. The Dolphins also brought in a fullback in Alec Ingold as McDaniel will incorporate a fullback into the offense, which is basically a dying breed position. However, it’s a valuable position, and one way to slow down a high-powered offense is a physical running game to control the clock.  

This new offensive scheme and added players have excited me as a fan. My concern is how long will it take for the players to learn the new system? Hopefully, with a new scheme and player turnover, patience will be required so that things will go smoothly. This offense needed an influx of new talent because Grier has done a horrible job of getting playmakers to surround his quarterback. With the rules focused on offense, the Dolphins have been lagging. This team hasn’t had an offense ranked in the top 10 since Dan Marino was the quarterback, and that’s just sad and pathetic. Tagovailoa has to play better, but he also needs players around him. Josh Allen didn’t become a better passer until his 3rd season after his team acquired Stefon Diggs. The hope is that Tagovailoa will benefit from this supporting cast.  

The Dolphins’ defense returns pretty much everyone. They have been an excellent defense and been the backbone of this team. I expect them to continue and hopefully become even better.  

The start of training camp is a new season and a clean slate. There should be optimism for everyone this time of the year. With the off-season the Dolphins had, optimism should be high for all Dolphins fans as they embark on a new journey with coach McDaniel.