Five Dolphins With the Most To Prove in 2023
5. Jaelan Phillips
The 2021 1st round pick has accumulated 15.5 sacks in his first two seasons. Now it’s time for him to take that next step. Phillips is one of Miami’s most physically imposing players, and his hustle and motor is truly impressive. If he’s hit his ceiling, he’s a good player, but a player of his size and talent should be among the game’s premier disruptors. With the Dolphins’ scheme change, relying less heavily on blitz packages, his impact must be felt for Miami’s defense to achieve its true potential.
4. Bradley Chubb
Halfway through the 2022 season, the Dolphins traded a 1st-round pick to acquire the pass-rusher from Denver and signed him to a massive extension. It was a bold move by Chris Grier, and the results have been mixed so far. Judging the trade after nine games would be unfair, but he has only recorded 3.5 sacks in that time frame. For Miami to feel good about their acquisition and signing, he must be someone capable of producing double-digit sacks every year. He’s practically in the same situation as the previously mentioned Jaelan Phillips, except he’s got a big contract to live up to.
3. Xavien Howard
The 30-year-old cornerback has arguably been Miami’s best player since he was drafted in 2015, earning two All-Pro honors and making four Pro Bowl appearances. While it’s challenging to suggest that someone with his resume needs to prove himself, his level of performance has declined over the past two seasons. In 2022, in particular, we failed to see him as a true ballhawk as he had been in years past, and he was frequently beaten in man coverage. Perhaps most importantly, Howard carries a $25 million cap hit in 2024, and Miami has a potential out in his contract. A bounce-back year could lead to a contract restructure in Miami, while a poor season could see him wearing a different uniform in 2024.
2. Raheem Mostert
It’s unusual to suggest that a 30-year-old running back has something to prove, considering that most players in his position at that age are typically nearing the end of their careers. However, Mostert experienced a career renaissance in 2022, surpassing 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career. Nevertheless, it’s no secret that Miami has explored other options for potential running back replacements, having made offers for Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor. The Jonathan Taylor situation remains unresolved and could be something Miami revisits at the trade deadline unless Mostert can demonstrate that Miami is well-equipped at the running back position.
1. Tua Tagovailoa
No surprise here. Tua Tagovailoa is the Dolphins player with the most to prove. The young QB has yet to complete a full season in the NFL, and his concussion issues are still fresh in everyone’s mind. He must demonstrate his capability to play a full season while maintaining a performance level similar to what he displayed last year. In 2022, he ranked among the league’s best quarterbacks, but it’s still a relatively small sample size. In 2023, he needs to prove that his level of play is sustainable. If Tagovailoa accomplishes both of these goals, he’ll be in line for a massive contract extension to stay in Miami. If not, then Miami may find itself in a tough situation.