Don’t write off the Miami Dolphins, they could sneak a wildcard spot

Brian Flores

I truly believe I might be on my own here standing on the table for the Dolphins.

Arguably the biggest criticism of the 2018 squad is that they were quite dull and boring. Besides the ‘Miami Miracle’ play against the Patriots, I cannot think of anything of relevance that they did last year. Finishing the 2018 season 7-9, it may seem to Dolphins fans that they are often stuck in the purgatory of finishing between the playoffs and the early picks of the draft. While many claimed Miami were potentially ‘Tanking for Tua’ this year, I can’t help but think that they have some potential to be a wildcard team this year. They have a good young core of players and I am a fan of the coaching changes they have made.

Reasons to be hopeful

Players

Anyone who may have read my previous article about the Arizona Cardinals and Josh Rosen must gather that I am sympathetic to the second year QB.

I thought he was unlucky to start behind a poor O-line and with the most questionable play calling that I’ve ever seen. Rosen dealt with his trade from the Cardinals with grace and humility, and seems excited for a fresh start.

Laremy Tunsil should prove a more protective bodyguard than he experienced in his first year.

Rosen’s UCLA career was very dependent on his tight ends, and the 2018 second rounder Mike Gesicki should assist in his development. Kenyan Drake can occasionally flatter to deceive (and infuriate fantasy owners), but his talent is there if he can remain healthy.

Defensively there is lots to like about the Dolphins, Pro Bowl starter Xavien Howard was a highlight in the past year before his injury cut his season short. Additionally, the move of the talented Minkah Fitzpatrick to safety should give further variety in the secondary. Chris Grier, the Miami GM called his selection of Clemson DT Christian Wilkins ‘the best decision he ever made’, and it will be interesting to see if he can contribute straight away.

Coaching

It is clear that the Dolphins are tired of finishing second in to the Patriots, and decided to attempt to replicate their success.

The acquisition of multiple former Patriot coaches shows they are chasing a winning mentality. I am not going to offer a lazy analysis that those from the Bill Belichick coaching tree struggle to impress once leaving it. Each coach should be judged upon their own merits and there is a hopefulness with the Brian Flores hire.

Flores excelled as the defensive play caller for the Patriots in the past season and can be given a great amount of credit for the Patriots defence in Super Bowl victory against the Rams.

Flores also brings additional Patriots alumni Chad O’Shea with him. O’Shea has deserved a shot to be an OC for a long time but was stuck behind Josh McDaniels. It was hard to not be impressed with O’Shea in the brief glimmers into his work on the ‘Do Your Job’ documentaries and the impressive improvements in abilities of multiple Patriot WRs. I believe that O’Shea can maximise Rosen in a way that Mike McCoy and Bryon Leftwich struggled to last year. The Patriots maximise their tight ends and slot receivers like no other franchise, which should aid Rosen’s strengths.

Reasons to be fearful

Quick start needed

There is little preparation time for Brian Flores. The 2019 schedule for the Dolphins is a tough one, particularly the start.

In the first four games the Dolphins face teams that made the playoffs last year in the Ravens, Patriots, Cowboys and Chargers, before an early week 5 bye. Should the Dolphins face a slow start, it may be difficult to cultivate a winning mentality for the rest of the season.

However, out of these four tough games, three are at home, therefore it should be essential to try to make the Hard Rock a fortress. If not tough away fixtures at the Colts, Steelers and Browns await.

AFC East

Another challenge will be the divisional rivals that they have.

I personally think that the AFC East looks extremely tough. While Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around the Patriots will always be likely to succeed. In addition, the Jets have made significant improvements to their roster, and the Bills always seem to surprise their inter-division foes. The AFC East has been dominated for years by the Pats, therefore the mental challenge to surpass them only grows stronger each season.

Sean’s way too early prediction which will come back to bite him in 2020

9-7 (potential wildcard)

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