Ryan Tannehill is backing up Marcus Mariota in Tennessee. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen will battle it out at training camp before the 2019 season begins. Fitzpatrick is playing with house money as he continues through the twilight of his career. Rosen is playing for his career.
Both could be unseated by 2020.
The Dolphins are in full rebuild mode. The Miami miracle is not forgotten, but slowly fades into the annals of NFL history. Tannehill and coach Adam Gase are gone. Rosen is studying his second playbook in his second season. The roster has holes in almost every position. They’re in the same division as Tom Brady. However, there are reasons for Dolphins fans to be positive.
Brian Flores was the defensive coordinator for a Patriots team that held a high-scoring Los Angeles Rams team to three points in Super Bowl LIII. Rosen showed flashes of his abilities with an Arizona Cardinals team that was also talent-deficient.
They have cornerstone pieces in place already that can lead this team through the rebuild. They finished with a 7-9 record last season despite being the 26th best scoring offence and 27th best scoring defence. There is resiliency in this team.
Laremy Tunsil is one of the finest tackles in the game. He’ll be a pillar of the offensive line for many years to come. Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson can be let loose with an expansive playbook, should they stay healthy. Kenyan Drake averaged 4.5 yards per rush last year, and is an excellent addition to the passing game. Their defence has some excellent potential too, especially in the secondary. Xavien Howard is one of the best cornerbacks in the game. Opposing teams will actively avoid throwing in his direction after his seven interceptions in 2018.
Minkah Fitzpatrick is an Alpha on the football field. First round pick Christian Wilkins adds much-needed firepower in the middle of the defensive line. With only 31 sacks last year, the Dolphins struggled to pressure the quarterback as much as they would have liked. Wilkins helps to remedy the problem, and brings his leadership from his four seasons at Clemson.
Rosen the sacrificial lamb in the ‘Tank for Tua’?
Despite all these positives, the Dolphins are firmly in a rebuild. A new coach, new quarterback, and new direction. The front office decided to sacrifice the seven-to-nine wins a season for a shot at something greater. It puts Josh Rosen in an extremely difficult situation. He needs to do several things to establish himself as QB1 in Miami:
Learn a new playbook and get familiar with new teammates.
Win the quarterback competition with Fitzpatrick in training camp.
Answer lingering questions about his maturity and leadership
Perform above expectations behind the worst offensive line in the game.
Even if he does everything that’s required of him, the Dolphins likely won’t figure in the 2019 playoffs. Show a lack of progress, and Rosen’s position within the franchise will be heavily scrutinised.
Next season’s draft class is particularly strong at quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm, and Justin Herbert will all likely enter the draft. If Rosen doesn’t emphatically answer questions about him, the Dolphins could look elsewhere.
They might tank for Tua, fail for Fromm, or hurt for Herbert.
The Dolphins invested in Rosen with little financial risk, so trading him won’t affect them much in cap space. Even if he survives the onslaught, the shadow of presumptive 2021 number one pick Trevor Lawrence looms over the UCLA product next season. Rosen once said that the nine teams ahead of the Cardinals in the 2018 draft made a mistake not to pick him. This could be his best – or last – chance to prove himself right.
Likelihood of reaching the playoffs: Zero.
Miami have a tough start to the 2019 season, and it doesn’t ease up much. They face six teams from the 2018 playoffs – New England Patriots (twice), Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles. There are also potential 2019 playoff teams in their schedule – Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets (twice), and maybe Cincinnati Bengals. They will find wins hard to come by.
The Dolphins’ 2019 season will be judged by their performances rather than wins. Good performances and playing hard for 60 minutes will be as encouraging as wins. Miami are not built to win now. This is not the season the Dolphins succeed. It’s the season they figure out how they want to succeed in the future.