After a thrilling playoff game, unfortunately a loss for our Miami Dolphins, the team and front office have officially entered the offseason, and changes have already been made, and rumors will swirl regarding coaching hires and possible departures, and of course player signings and leavings. It didn’t take the front office long to make one big change, they fired our defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, and also let go safeties coach Steve Gregory, outside linebackers coach Ty McKenzie, and also assistant linebackers coach Steve Frentz.
The playoff loss. It was a crazy game, our offense never really got on track, but the defense played well enough to win most games, just not that one. Mike McDaniel looked like a rookie Head Coach in his first playoff game. He struggled all game getting plays in quick enough to avoid penalties, and there were some bad ones during the game. It wasn’t just penalties, it was the timeouts we had to waste as well, but the penalties plagued us all season long, and we had 7 for 34 yards in this one. While that doesn’t seem excessive, this is something that has hampered our offense every game, and it’s a particular point that our young Head Coach must improve on next season. It’s understood that a rookie 7th RD pick was running the offense, but back in SFO, Kyle Shanahan has his 7th RD pick QB looking far more prepared. In any case, our defense was so much better than my expectations, with the exception of the last drive of the 1st half when we were tied 17-17, we allowed the Bills to run a 33 second drive from their own 25 yardline to our 22 yardline and take the lead all too easily before the half, 20-17.
With the departure of Josh Boyer, our defense may be getting a facelift. This defense that was predicated on a dominating secondary, one like we had with a healthy Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, and our two premier safeties Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland, struggled without half of those players this season. Add in the loss of Nik Needham who plays everywhere, inside and outside, and the secondary was anything but a strength this season, and our defense’s weakest link. Diminished play due to injuries is expected, however, if the defense counts on great secondary play, the ever present zero blitzes left inferior talent on an island trying to cover other teams best receivers. This was a failure for two reasons, not only did the blitzers not accomplish the task of getting to the QB, but our bevy of pass rush guys like Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram, Emmanuel Ogbah (injured), Bradley Chubb weren’t getting to the QB enough either, which left easy pickings for opposing QB’s. We were bottom 6 in passing yards allowed (3992 yards), bottom 7 in passing TD’s allowed (25 TD’s), and bottom 4 in interceptions with a measly 8 INT’s all season long. CB Xavien Howard had only one INT, despite being thrown at more than any time in his career. Jevon Holland led the team with 2 INT’s, veteran ST’s ace Justin Bethel added 1 INT, scapegoat Noah Igbinoghene had a very important late game INT against the Steelers that sealed a victory for our Dolphins. Kader Kohou and seldom used S Verone McKinley each 1 INT, and LB Andrew Van Ginkel had the last of the 8. The Dolphins defense forced 13 fumble, but only recovered 6 for a total of 14 turnovers. To be fair, we did return 2 fumbles for TD’s during the regular season, and we added another against BUF in the playoff game last week.
Next year, hopefully Brandon Jones will be back at 100%, and he alone makes our secondary much better. He’s a playmaker, great blitzer, and sure tackler in the secondary. I’ll add that I hope DE Emmanuel Ogbah returns 100% as well, we missed his pressures on the QB. Christian Wilkins added another monster year on defense, he was nothing short of excellent this season.Wilkins played 84% of the defensive snaps, all 17 games, just unbelievable at such a demanding position. Wilkins made 98 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF’s, 7 QB hits, 6 passes defensed and 1 FR. He’s one of the best DT’s in the game. I love thinking that we’ll have Bradley Chubb and our own young budding star Jaelan Phillips as bookends, but our depth is scarce, with Melvin Ingram, Andrew Van Ginkel, Trey Flowers all not signed for next season. Even as is, there’s a lot of good to build on, but my feeling is our big NT Raekwon Davis isn’t quite good enough as a NT, or interior DT. No passes defensed at 6’7? C’mon! He never gets push up the middle either, which to me is the bigger issue. As good as our ends are and our OLB’s are, time and time again our defenders came around but routinely ran behind the QB who was able to step up and either find a receiver or run free for yardage, due to that weakness. It may be time to grow that NT tree!
The offense with Mike McDaniel, and of course QB Tua Tagovailoa was as dynamic as any Miami Dolphins offense in the last 25 years. We all hope (I think) that Tua is our QB going forward and his concussion issues of this season, and let’s face it, any injuries, are behind him. This will be the first time Tua will have the same offense 2 years in a row, and if he can play 17 games, this offense could be a top NFL unit. I know everyone moans about the O-line, but newcomers like C Connor Williams and LT Terron Armstead were exemplary this season. Armstead obviously battled injury woes, and Connor Williams had high snap issues most of the season, but as a blocker and pass protector, he was aces.and his durability was unmatched, playing every snap this season.A shoutout to T Brandon Shell, who started about 11 more games than he was expected to, and he played remarkably well, a true professional. Oh, by the way, we have no running backs as of now for next season, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed are all unsigned and therefore UFA’s.It’s certainly possible that at least one of the two top guys, Mostert or Wilson can be re-signed, but might be time to draft a RB? Mostert is not necessarily a durable back to count on and Jeff Wilson has been a part time RB for most of his career, not a bellcow guy. RB by committee is a common theme across the NFL, but a major talent at RB can really impact an offense. I know Mostert played in 16 games this season, and Jeff Wilson played 16 games as well, (8 with SFO), but a young talented back, think Breece Hall, can elevate your offense. It would be wonderful to have a running game that opposing defenses had to gameplan for, not just the aerial circus with Hill, Waddle and others. Anyone here a little disappointed we didn’t see Erik Ezukanma? Yeah, he had 1 reception for 3 yards. I thought he’d play a lot more than that.
There’s a lot to be enthusiastic and optimistic for next season, but our DL depth , DT talent (Davis), and CB depth are a concern going forward. Can Xavien Howard return to his 2021 form? Will Byron Jones ever again suit up in a Dolphins uni? My fear is no on both counts, unfortunately. Kader Khou is a promising player, and if Nik Needham and Brandon Jones can come back healthy, that’s a good start. I believe the Noah Igbinoghene experiment is over, and Keion Crossen is better as a depth player. We need CB help. Don’t be surprised if we look for one early in the 2023 draft, not that early though because we have no 1st RD pick (Thanks Steve Ross!!!).If Terron Armstead can play healthy next season, his talent provides something we haven’t had here for too long, an extremely reliable pass protector and excellent run blocker at LT. Who knows what will happen to our 2 young-ish draftees Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson? Will either pan out? No need to respond Ken, I know your answer! I think Robert Jones played admirable this season at LG. I still haven’t mentioned TE, which next season will feature Durham Smythe, Cethan Carter, Hunter Long and Tanner Conner. Excited yet? Gesicki is most likely gone, and unless Mike McDaniel thinks if he has one more season with Gesicki, he can turn him into George Kittle, we won’t have a real receiving threat at TE. Well, most of all, we need to see the picture featured in the article for 17 + games next season, or we better have a damn good backup. Will that be Skylar Thompson, or do we dip into the FA QB pool, with someone like Gardner Minshew, Baker Mayfield, I can’t even type his name, but you know it well, Sam Darnold, Case Keenum (M gets wood!), or maybe Andy Dalton or Taylor Heinicke? I have no idea, but will the Dolphins have to be careful not bringing in a QB that will crave to be the starter, or maybe they can do that w/o upsetting Tua? We’ll see. Stay tuned!