Miami Dolphins football is finally around the corner, and I struggle to contain my excitement. The new head coach has brought a new vibe to the camp, the fanbase, and the franchise. He has been backed by the GM, who went out and spent on two new offensive line pieces and made a monster trade, followed by a monster contract for elite Wide Receiver Tyreek Hill.

We have been defending our QB1 since he entered the league. He needs a complete off-season injury free, he needs a coach to back him publicly, he needs weapons, he needs a stronger offensive line, he needs a run game… well, QB1 has ALL those things now. And if practice footage is anything to go by, it seems to be working. As he says to himself, it looks like money!

We didn’t pick many players this draft after the trade for Hill, but the ones we did get looked exciting. Channing Tindall looks as fast and agile as promised. Erik Ezukanma seems to fit in with those elite WR groups; undrafted guys Tanner Conner and Kader Kohou made the roster, and Skyler Thompson forced Miami’s hand into keeping 3 QBs.

Then there is last year’s class, Jaylon Waddle, Jaelen Phillips, Jevon Holland… all three look like monsters out there. All three made a splash in year one and looked primed for improvement in year two. Hell, even Liam Eichenberg is giving cautious cause for optimism, learning from playing next to Terron Armstead and learning from new offensive coordinator Frank Smith.

So there is plenty of talking points and plenty to be optimistic about. So I sat here, thinking about all these things, and I would share my personal Top 5 “Ones to Watch” for this matchup vs. the Patriots.

 

  1. Tua Tagovailoa

Is there a more scrutinized quarterback in the league than our own QB1? I doubt it. And I don’t think that is going to change any time soon. This time, I am jumping on the bandwagon. I can’t help it.

I am a big fan of QB1 and have been a staunch defender of our boy ever since the commissioner announced his name from his swanky basement during the Covid Draft. I love that we have kept his TE targets, we have added weapons, and we have given him some dynamic playmakers in the running back room.

But most of all, l I love the new energy and swagger he is showing in press conferences and in the media. He’s finally got that “C” on his chest and it looks like the training wheels are off like he isn’t being micro-managed and doctored every step of the way. The world’s eyes will be on Tua and if he can make these offensive weapons count, or whether all those doubters will be proven right. He is going against a Patriot side who will be smelling blood and thinking they can get to him. After all, there were comments from Patriot defenders last season about what they perceived to be Tua’s faults. The world’s all of this, Tua is 3-0 against the Patriots since he entered the league, and I am FULLY INVESTED in him making that 4-0 this Sunday. Let’s see how this new, improved Uno looks in a real game environment.

  1. Austin Jackson

I can’t help but be drawn to watching Austin Jackson this weekend. Let’s face it, the straight-up guy STANK at points last year. Now he’s been moved to RT and to protecting Tua’s blindside, he just can’t afford to play at that same level again. That could undo all the positive work we have done in other areas.

But AJ seems to be another player who has renewed confidence this year. He seems to hold more swagger; he seems to save himself with purpose and look like he belongs. If that attitude translates into a positive game rep, the key will come in his plays.

During pre-season, odd plays made me wince, but they were far from as regular as we were used to. Now I understand he was primarily up against depth guys, but on the whole, we were not talking about Austin Jackson.

If we are in that position again on Sunda and have no reason to talk about him, then that will mean he has done a pretty good job. And if he and his offensive line buddies do a good job, then I believe we will win this game.

 

  1. Tyreek Hill

OF COURSE, the eyes of the world are on Tyreek Hill this weekend.

Can Tua find him with the deep ball? Is Tua as accurate as Tyreek has made him out to be? Is Tyreek going to be worth that mammoth contract he was given? How will an offense with Tyreek and Waddle line up, and how can we make use of both of those guys?

There are many exciting options and questions surrounding Tyreek Hill in this offense and whether Tua can maximize the talent and potential. Tyreek has fully bought into this franchise and his QB; now, all eyes will be on him to see his explosive play style in this Mike McDaniel offense.

Against divisional rivals, if our fanbase weren’t ready buying into Hill as much as he was buying into us, we surely would be should he put the Patriots to the sword.

Plus… who doesn’t like watching ELITE players?!? Tyreek Hill is as elite as they come at wide receiver and I can’t wait to see him showcase those talents in Aqua and Orange.

  1. Jevon Holland

First-year – what a success. What a rookie campaign; people already know all about him. With the eyes of the fanbase looking at Running Backs, Centres, and Linebackers, Jevon Holland was somewhat of a surprise pick last year. But man has he earned our trust and support since then.

Coming into this season, he’s now approaching his second yea,r having been voted captain by his peers. So not only do we analysts love him, but his teammates love him, trust him and follow him—such a significant thing.

Looking at the secondary as a whole, we are somewhat depleted. Byron Jones’ injury being the key one, but Nik Needham not starting as 100% either, eyes and faith will look towards our significant players in that position to lead by example and lock up that deep field. You may not naturally expect a second-year pro to be in that category alongside Xavien Howard. Still, Holland has earned that respect, and it will be interesting to see his growth and leadership in this vital season opener.

 

  1. Noah Igbinoghene

Many people are surprised that Noah is still on the roster even. His first two years have been dramatically underwhelming. He is being outplayed by almost everyone and being made to look amateurish in games such as the one against the Bills, where he faced up to Stefon Diggs.

But just this week, Mike McDaniel has had some positive words to say about Noah, and as is always pointed out, he is one of the youngest pros we have, despite going into his third season. Given our cornerback situation, we will have to turn to Igbinoghene in some critical situations and matchups over the next four weeks, and most pressingly in this season opener.

Throw in that he could easily be lining up against ex-Dolphin Devante Parker, who, with a point to prove, will look to exploit Igbinoghene and the frailties he has demonstrated in his early career.

This is a wonderful opportunity for him and necessary if he is to salvage his NFL career, or at least his career in Miami. Whether you believe he will get there or whether you think he is cooked, we will all have our eyes and fingers crossed.

So there you have my top 5 for this week. Honorary mentions go to Mike Gesicki and how he fits into this offense, Chase Edmunds and Raheem Mostert and their impact on a quality run game, and Connor Williams to see if he can show levels of play at Centre to put that talking point to bed finally.

But the upshot is that there is so much to talk about, so much to be excited about, and so much that we can invest in heading into the season. So good to be back in that position, and I’m sure my top 5 to watch will change weekly, but for now, these are the top 5, but no matter who makes the plays… win, baby!!!

FinsUp