The new season gets up and running in September when the Dolphins welcome the Baltimore Ravens to the Hard Rock Stadium. This will be the opening match of the teams 50th campaign as a member of the NFL and it’s going to be a season with a somewhat different feel to last.
Last year’s head coach Adam Gase was relieved of his duties with former New England Patriots stalwart Brian Flores appointed as his replacement. If that wasn’t enough, Flores brought the cavalry with him in the form of his backroom coaching staff and for more upheaval, Ryan Tannehill, who was the Dolphins first round pick in the 2012 draft, will be plying his quarterback skills in Tennessee in 2019. So, with everything going on in Miami, what should you be keeping your eyes during the NFL preseason schedule and the rapidly approaching season? Here’s our hot three to watch.
Number 3 – The New Boy
The Dolphins used their first draft pick to nab defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and he’ll quickly come under the microscope given his high stock coming out of college. Wilkins, an All-American, starred for Clemson during a four-year career that concluded with him becoming the first player in their history to win the William V Campbell trophy, which is awarded for sporting and non-sporting achievement. This was bound to have been a factor in the pick given the importance Flores places on standards, both on and off the field.
Number 2 – The Flores Approach
So, everyone knows there’s a new man in charge, but what can Dolphin fans expect from his team and how will that differ from what they witnessed under Gase? One of the biggest issues for Gase was his inability to get consistency on the field – particularly in offense – and the main issue cited is his man-management style.
The whispers are that it was Gase’s way or the highway, which is fine from a discipline perspective but on a tactical level you need to be open to discussions, which Flores definitely will be. Flores has already spoken of being ‘tough’ but also showing ‘love’ to his team and that open-door style will give the Dolphins a team ready to put their bodies on the line for their boss.
Oh, and the sulky defensive ‘anyone’s fault but mine’ press conferences might stop too. On a side note, if you believe the rumor mill, Gase is already pushing some wrong buttons in his new role with the New York Jets too.
Number 1 – The Quarterback
Flores has a big choice to make with his quarterback starting pick. On one hand you have Josh Rosen who was a top 10 pick in the 2018 draft, but who struggled to make an impact for the Arizona Cardinals and was subsequently replaced with Kyler Murray in this year’s draft. However, he’s only 22 and has potential to develop.
Throw into the mix that Arizona were shambles during his stint there and it’s hard to apportion the blame on his young shoulders. The other candidate is journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick who has arrived from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot although a three-game run with over 400 passing yards in each – which was one for the NFL history books – reminded everyone what he is capable of on his day.
Nevertheless, at 36 years old this will be his last shot. Regardless of who gets the nod, there is some hot talent due in the draft in 2020 and an underperforming year from one or both of the new boys could see them getting bumped in 12 months’ time. For the season ahead, Rosen might just get the nod because of his age and the opportunity that presents in the longer term – after all Flores is in Miami to build something, not for instant glory.
There you have it, a quick guide to three key components that will go a long way to defining the success of Miami’s first season under new management.