Miami Dolphins football is back … almost. The team starts its season on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, looking to get past the wild-card round for the first time in *checks notes* 2000 — good lord.
To celebrate, let’s make four bold predictions for the upcoming season. We’re going to try and stay away from some obvious selections. Jaelen Phillips breaking out or Tua Tagovailoa staying healthy is too easy. We’re going to dig a little deeper.
Four Bold Dolphins Predictions
1. Raheem Mostert Exceeds 1,100 Rushing Yards
This doesn’t seem like too bold of a prediction on the surface, but it is considering Mostert’s history. He’s never eclipsed 900 rushing yards in a single season, with his 891 yards from last season serving as his career high.
Last year was also just the second season Mostert played in at least 16 games. The Dolphins running game looked reinvigorated during the preseason, and coach Mike McDaniel has reaffirmed his commitment to running the ball more often this season.
Mostert averaged 4.9 yards per carry last season. If he sees the increase in volume, many expect, there’s no reason he can’t exceed 1,100 yards on the ground.
Additionally, Mostert can assert himself as a bellcow back early in the season. Jeff Wilson is on injured reserve, and De’Von Achane projects as a third-down back this season. Chris Brooks’ preseason was impressive, but he’s not ready to lead a backfield.
Mostert has the skill, and it seems like the usage will be there this season.
2. Cam Smith Leads the Cornerbacks in INTs, PBUs
Dolphins fans were unhappy when Miami selected Cam Smith with their top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, cornerback was a need then and is even more needed now.
Smith will likely start the season rotating in and out of the lineup. Still, Smith has the ball skills and mentality to create consistent turnovers. Smith left college with six interceptions and 10 passes defended in 32 games.
Cam Smith’s PBU from last night is getting most of the attention, but this play is important too.
DBs have to be good run defenders in Vic Fangio’s scheme. It’s why Ramsey maximizes the scheme’s effectiveness. pic.twitter.com/SR5guJ4H49
— Dante Collinelli (@DanteCollinelli) August 12, 2023
Smith is a ball hunter, which leads to big plays for his team and the opponent. We saw both sides of that coin in the preseason. Smith made some plays on the ball in his first game and got burned for a touchdown against Jacksonville.
Smith’s main competition is likely Xavien Howard, who is known for his ball skills. However, Howard finished last season with just one interception and 12 passes defended.
It would be great to see Howard bounce back this season, but he might not be the same player he was earlier in his career. If Smith can get enough reps, he’s got the makings of a highly productive player.
3. David Long Makes All-Pro Team
David Long is a favorite of NFL film junkies like myself. The Dolphins got Long for a two-year, $11 million deal this offseason, which is an absolute steal.
What makes Long so good? He has an impressive blend of speed, instincts, and toughness. That allows him to be an effective player in space and hold up against the running game.
Long has a chance to have a career season with the Dolphins for a few reasons. One, he will have a lot of responsibility in the middle of the field. He’ll have plenty of chances to make plays in the backfield and in coverage.
Two, the Dolphins defensive line will make his life a lot easier. Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler are dynamite-run defenders. In a Vic Fangio scheme, they’ll be asked to play a “gap and a half,” which should keep Long clean of climbing offensive linemen.
The reason Long has stayed off the national radar is because of injuries. The linebacker hasn’t played in more than 14 games in any season. However, since he became a full-time starter in 2020, his tackles, pass-rush grades, and ball production have all increased. If Long stays healthy and continues his ascension, he’ll compete for an All-Pro spot.
4. Braxton Berrios Has 600+ RecYDs, 6+ TDs
Those numbers aren’t going to jump off the screen, but they are impressive in the context of Miami’s offense. Last season, Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill accounted for 51 percent of the Dolphins’ receptions.
That is an insane amount of targets for just two receivers. Trent Sherfield had the third-highest reception output at 10 percent, which equated to 417 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami’s reliance on Waddle and Hill came back to bite them a few times last season. There is a ton of meat on the bone for a third receiver this season. Braxton Berrios feels like the player who can make the most of Waddle and Hill’s leftovers.
Berrios’ best season was in 2021, when he had 431 receiving yards and four total touchdowns, so having more than 600 receiving yards would easily be his best season. However, this is also the best offensive situation Berrios has played in.
Berrios had a strong training camp and has the speed McDaniel covets in his wideouts. He can get involved in runs, jet sweeps, and jet motion passes. The former New York Jet and Miami Hurricane is also a primary slot receiver, meaning he’ll get a ton of reps alongside Hill and Waddle.
The Dolphins need to make teams think about other receivers, and it’s clearly not going to be a tight end in that spot. So why not Berrios?