Team Capsules: Miami Dolphins

July 31, 2023

A look at every NFL franchise heading into the 2023 season

© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins were a really fun team last year, finally displaying some legitimate offensive firepower after several brutal years down in South Beach. They sprinted out of the gates to an 8-3 start that caught the attention of the entire NFL, before injuries and a tougher schedule derailed things as they limped to a 9-8 finish.

But that mark proved good enough to snag their first playoff berth since 2016 and the No. 7 seed in the AFC. They gave the Bills all they could handle in a hard-fought 34-31 loss, but announced to the league they’re back and could be a threat for some time to come.

That is, if QB Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy, after multiple scary concussions a season ago had him reportedly considering retirement. It’s all about “Tua Time” in Miami this season, so let’s dive into it.

What to like about the Dolphins…

  • Tyreek Hill was a phenomenal addition to the offense, as the wide receiver came over from the Chiefs and didn’t miss a beat. He was second in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,710 and hauled in seven touchdowns. Hill remains the fastest man in football and one of the most electrifying players in the game. He should be in for another big year, because no one has figured out how to stop him.
  • Hill’s running mate, Jaylen Waddle, finished seventh in yards receiving, catching 1,356 of his own to go along with eight touchdowns. The Dolphins were one of only two teams in football to have two WRs in the top-10 of yards, as Hill and Waddle joined A.J. Brown (fourth) and Devonta Smith (ninth) of the Eagles. Those two came within a play or two of winning the Super Bowl, showing offense remains king in a league that’s all about scoring.
  • Head coach Mike McDaniel isn’t a regular coach; he’s a cool coach (shoutout if you got that reference). McDaniel went viral several times last year for his quirky and relatable style, including telling players he (messed) up a call at one point, something you wouldn’t see 99 percent of coaches in the league do. Relating to Millennials and Gen-Z is the wave of the future, and McDaniel seems to have that part of the gig down.

What not to like about the Dolphins…

  • The concussions that Tagovailoa suffered last year were downright horrifying, including one in Cincinnati that saw his fingers lock up in an extremely unnatural position, terrifying viewers in the process. He was in and out of the lineup and played in 13 games, throwing a respectable 25 touchdowns. But his three picks against the Packers on Christmas proved to be his last game of the year and he missed the postseason loss. There are major concerns not just for this year, but whether or not Tagovailoa’s career is sustainable. 
  • The Dolphins defense gave up 23.5 points per game last season, which was just 24th in the NFL. They did add cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a big trade this offseason, but there are questions about how much the soon-to-be 29-year-old has left in the tank. Surgery on his meniscus after a training camp injury was awful news, and he’ll miss multiple months of the season. Pass-rusher Bradley Chubb was a major disappointment after coming over from Denver for a first-round pick and recording just 2.5 sacks in his seven regular season games. This unit must be better. 
  • And then there’s the AFC East, which still boasts a trendy Super Bowl pick in the Buffalo Bills, the greatest coach of all-time in Bill Belichick and Aaron Rodgers joining the New York Jets. Playoff spots will be tough to come by in the clearly better conference between the AFC and NFC, and 9-8 likely won’t cut it this year. Miami also has to play the Chargers, Giants, Eagles, Chiefs and Ravens. It’s not an easy path to the postseason.

Steve Quinne’s Pick: Dolphins miss the playoffs (-110)

Frankly, there are just too many questions around Miami outside of the stud wide receivers. Predicting Tagovailoa to play a full season is a massive gamble and backups Mike White and Skylar Thompson have had moments, but they can’t be totally trusted. The defense didn’t add enough to take a major step forward (plus Ramsey got hurt) and the division got tougher while the rest of their schedule sees very few sure wins on it. The Dolphins will fall victim to an AFC that really has 10 or 11 teams that are postseason worthy. Miami will be on the outside looking in of the dance come January 7.