As the Dolphins have entered the offseason, it’s time to review and grade the play of each position group of the team. In this edition, I’ll be focusing on the offensive side of the ball.
Let’s start with the most important position in Football, and with this team, also the most polarizing. It truly was a season of highs & lows for this position; Tua Tagovailoa played the position at a level the Dolphins hadn’t seen since Dan Marino. Still, unfortunately, he missed 33% of the team’s offensive snaps.
When Tua Tagovailoa played, he was nothing short of great; if his numbers were adjusted to fill out a full season, they’d look like this:
- 4639 yards
- 33 Touchdowns
- 10 Interceptions
Those are elite numbers that not everyone believed he was capable of. When he was under center for the Dolphins, they truly seemed like a team capable of contending amongst the best in the NFL. His roughest games were against San Francisco & Los Angeles, but he bounced back against Buffalo & Green Bay in the 1st half before his play dropped off due to playing while being concussed. Tua Tagovailoa is a good NFL starting QB, and that wasn’t a sure thing prior to this season.
As we know, the position wasn’t solely played by Tua; with the Dolphins having bad injury luck, there were plenty of snaps for Teddy Bridgewater & Skylar Thompson. It’s hard to win in the NFL without your starting Quarterback; it’s even harder to win when they perform as poorly as these two did. Including playoffs, Skylar & Teddy combined for six touchdowns & 9 interceptions in 5 games. That’s basically impossible to overcome.
Miami entered this season with more questions than answers regarding the QB, and while some questions were answered positively, different questions still remain. Tua’s health is now Miami’s #1 priority.
Upon the arrival of Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins immediately addressed this position by signing Chase Edmonds & Raheem Mostert.
Chase Edmonds arrived with lofty expectations after signing a 2-year contract worth up to $12 million, and it’s pretty apparent he didn’t meet them. He was ineffective when he played, as he averaged 2.9 yards per carry, and for that reason, he was shipped out to Denver after 8 games.
Since Raheem Mostert broke out in the 2019 playoffs with San Francisco, the conversation surrounding him was never about ability but more so about availability. That wasn’t much different in Miami. Mostert proved to be an effective back. He was 109 yards away from reaching the 1000-yard barrier, something Miami hasn’t had since Jay Ajayi. Unfortunately, he got injured before the biggest game of the season and wasn’t able to help out the team.
Jeff Wilson Jr was an addition made at the halfway point of the season after he lost his role in San Francisco. Being familiar with the Shanahan scheme, he was an easy fit, and he provided a spark to the running game, but that spark faded away quickly. In the final 7 games of the season, he rushed for more than 50 yards only once and took a backseat to Mostert.
In terms of the passing game, no back was truly a dynamic game changer, and the check-down game was an element of Miami’s passing game that never truly developed.
Miami’s running game was one of the bigger disappointments this year, and although that doesn’t all fall on the running backs, it’s clear they should seek an upgrade at the position this offseason.
Prior to the Draft, the Dolphins made their biggest “splash” move since acquiring Ricky Williams in 2002, trading for Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill in exchange for a sum of high draft picks. Tyreek’s first year in Miami was a definitive success; he posted a career-high in receiving yards and made 1st team All-Pro. He’s a unique playmaker who was a huge part of Miami having their most exciting offense in years.
Another important piece of the puzzle was second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle whose role changed significantly from his rookie year to his sophomore year. Last season he was one of the most reliable slot receivers in the league. He was Tua’s security blanket in the underneath passing game as he set the rookie record in receptions. Now despite having 29 fewer receptions, he became an explosive outside threat who posted 1356 yards with a league-leading 18.1 yards per reception. He’s one of the most dynamic receivers in the league, but he’s still got room to improve as he’s struggled with drops.
Another move, which has mostly been forgotten, is the Dolphins paid decent money for Cedrick Wilson. Upon arrival, he was slated to be the team’s #2 receiver, which changed after Miami traded for Hill. He failed to make any real impact on the team up until he became the team’s punt returner. Whether it was Trent Sherfield’s performance that made him jump Cedrick up the depth chart or Cedrick not learning the offense quickly. It’s hard not to categorize his season as a disappointment and his signing as a failure.
Trent Sherfield was one of the bigger surprises on the team, as he developed into a solid 3rd receiver, all while being a superior run blocker. River Cracraft gave the team some decent snaps, despite being in and out of the lineup all year. Neither of the 2 is really difference makers on the team, but they’re solid depth pieces that offer consistency.
There are things to nitpick with this bunch like there’s any position group in Football, but when your 1-2 punch totals more than 3000 combined yards, you have something special, and that’s exactly what Miami has in Tyreek Hill & Jaylen Waddle.
The moment Mike McDaniel was brought on as the Head Coach, I pointed out how Mike Gesicki was probably out the door due to being a poor scheme fit. I was then surprised when Miami placed the franchise tag on him, but that didn’t change the fact he wasn’t a fit for this offense. Gesicki posted the lowest receptions and yards since his rookie year and was only able to play 45% of the team’s offensive snaps. That wasn’t due to injury, just that the offense couldn’t really function in certain sets without a solid blocker.
As a receiver Gesicki is an above-average tight end, although I personally think he doesn’t play up to his physical skill set. He often falls down or is unable to make tough catches in contested spaces, and he’s unable to make players miss when he’s got the ball in his hands. Ultimately he was targeted on two 4th down plays to decide games for Miami, and both went incomplete. I’d be very surprised if he was on the team in 2023. He does deserve credit for never complaining publicly about his role being reduced and doing a good job in the red zone.
Durham Smythe became this team’s #1 Tight End, and frankly, that’s not a role he’s capable of filling. He’s an adequate blocker and a below-average receiver. As a depth piece on a team, he’s fine, but if he’s your starter then you have a deficiency at the position.
Once again, Hunter Long failed to see meaningful time on the field, and his career hadn’t turned out how the team probably envisioned when they used a 3rd round pick on him.
This is one of Miami’s biggest positions of need and something the McDaniel scheme badly needs. Unfortunately, there’s only one George Kittle in the league, but Miami could surely use a player with a similar skill set.
Before the Dolphins traded for Tyreek Hill, their big move of the offseason was signing veteran offensive tackle Terron Armstead to a hefty 5-year deal. After one season, I think it’s fair to say the results were mixed. That may sound harsh since he played at an incredibly high level when he was on the field. Unfortunately, he only played 65% of offensive snaps, which has been the story of his entire career.
Perhaps the most underrated move of the offseason was Miami signing Connor Williams, who made the transition to center. Despite a few snapping issues, he was a constant bright spot on the team, as his athleticism allowed him to be one of the best centers in Football. Robert Hunt took another jump from his sophomore year and became a top-level guard. Both of these players were also models of consistency and availability; between the two, they only missed one snap.
The right tackle spot was once again an issue in Miami. Austin Jackson was the starter all through training camp & the preseason, but an injury in Week 1 knocked him off the field, and he was unable to become a real contributor all year long. After Greg Little struggled in his place, Brandon Shell was signed to replace him, and he did a fine job. Shell wasn’t spectacular and struggled when playing the left side of the tackle position, but he’s a capable starter, although he wasn’t much help in the run game.
The left guard position has plagued Miami for years now; the last time they’ve had an above-average play, there was the rookie year of Laremy Tunsil. This year was no different, as Liam Eichenberg was the weak link in the offensive line, who truly held this line back from being good. When he went out later in the year with an injury, he was replaced by Robert Jones, who also had his own share of struggles. Unfortunately for Miami, they were never able to get adequate play in this position. This should be addressed this off-season. Entering with Liam Eichenberg as the penciled-in starter would be a mistake.
As a unit, this was definitely an improvement from the historically bad line the Dolphins had in 2021, but it’s still a below-average unit as a whole. Miami couldn’t consistently run the ball, and a lot of that falls on this group. Whenever Terron Armstead went out, they really struggled as a whole, both in pass protection and run blocking.
It’s seemingly the case every year for Miami, but they still need to upgrade this unit for 2023.