State Of The League: Miami Dolphins

A first look at the 2021 Miami Dolphins!

The NFL Draft and free agency is in our rearview mirrors. There is very little day to day NFL news aside from random minor transactions across the league and conversations about where/when this star player will be traded. The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing. Baseball is gearing up for a long, hot summer. The dog days of Summer are upon us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look down the line at what else the coming summer months hold for us: Training Camp and the NFL preseason. Which leads us to a new feature here on The Grueling Truth – The State Of The League. We will be going over all 32 teams, division by division: their offseason player personnel moves, coaching changes, and projected preseason depth charts. Between the beginning of June and the end of July, new team reports will be released every few days. We started the AFC East with the Buffalo Bills, now we move on to the Miami Dolphins.

 

Miami Dolphins Pre-Training Camp Projected Depth Chart

PositionStarterBackup
QBTua TagovailoaJacoby Brissett
RBMyles GaskinMalcolm Brown
WR1DeVante ParkerPreston Williams
WR2Jaylen WaddleAlbert Wilson
WR3Will FullerLynn Bowden
TE1Mike GesickiHunter Long
TE2Durham SmytheAdam Shaheen
LTAustin JacksonJesse Davis
LGSolomon KindleyCameron Tom
CMatt SkuraMichael Deiter
RGRobert HuntD.J. Fluker
RTLiam EichenbergJermaine Eluemunor
DLChristian WilkinsJason Strowbridge
NTRaekwon DavisAdam Butler
DLEmmanuel OgbahZach Sieler
OLBAndrew Van GinkelElandon Roberts
LBJerome BakerVince Biegel
LBBenardrick McKinneyCalvin Munson
OLBJaelan PhillipsBrennan Scarlett
CB1Xavien HowardNoah Igbinoghene
CB2Byron JonesJason McCourty
CB3Justin ColemanNik Needham
FSJevon HollandBrandon Jones
SSEric RoweClayton Fejedelem
KJason Sanders
PMichael Palardy
LSBlake FergusonRex Sunahara
KRJakeem GrantNoah Igbinoghene
PRJakeem GrantMalcolm Perry

*BOLD player name = Rookie*

 

Miami Dolphins 2021 NFL Draft Class

Round 1 (6): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Round 1 (18): EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami

Round 2 (36): S Jevon Holland, Oregon

Round 2 (42): OT Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame

Round 3 (81): TE Hunter Long, Boston College

Round 7 (231): OT Larnel Coleman, Massachusetts

Round 7 (244): RB Gerrid Doaks, Cincinnati

 

Miami Dolphins Free Agent Moves

Expired Contracts
PlayerPositionAge2020 Team2021 TeamInfo / Notes
DeAndre WashingtonRB28MIA
Isaiah FordWR25MIA
Jake RudockQB28MIA
Isaiah WilsonT/G22MIAReleased
Arrivals
PlayerPositionAge2020 Team2021 TeamAcquired via
Benardrick McKinneyILB29HOUMIATrade
Will FullerWR27HOUMIAFree Agency
Matt SkuraC28BALMIAFree Agency
Justin ColemanCB28DETMIAFree Agency
Adam ButlerDT27NEMIAFree Agency
Jacoby BrissettQB29INDMIAFree Agency
Malcolm BrownRB28LARMIAFree Agency
Jason McCourtyCB34NEMIAFree Agency
Cethan CarterTE28CINMIAFree Agency
Brennan ScarlettOLB28HOUMIAFree Agency
Michael PalardyP29CARMIAFree Agency
John JenkinsDT32CHIMIAFree Agency
Robert FosterWR27WSHMIAFree Agency
Duke RileyLB27PHIMIAFree Agency
D.J. FlukerG30BALMIAFree Agency
Jermaine EluemunorG27NEMIAFree Agency
Departures
PlayerPositionAge2020 Team2021 TeamDeparted via
Shaq LawsonOLB/DE27MIAHOUTrade
Kamu Grugier-HillOLB27MIAHOUFree Agency
Ryan FitzpatrickQB39MIAWSHFree Agency
Kyle Van NoyILB30MIANEFree Agency
Ted KarrasC28MIANEFree Agency
Davon GodchauxDT27MIANEFree Agency
Matt HaackP27MIABUFFree Agency
Matt BreidaRB26MIABUFFree Agency
Julie’n DavenportLT26MIAINDFree Agency
Bobby McCainFS27MIAWSHFree Agency
Kavon FrazierS27MIACINFree Agency
Re-Signed
PlayerPositionAge2020 Team2021 TeamInfo / Notes
Vince BiegelOLB28MIAMIA
Calvin MunsonILB27MIAMIA
Jamal PerryCB27MIAMIA
Nik NeedhamCB25MIAMIA
Adam PankeyT27MIAMIA
Mack HollinsWR28MIAMIA
Elandon RobertsOLB27MIAMIA

 

Miami Dolphins Offseason Review

This was an important offseason for Miami’s rebuild. The Dolphins went 10-6 this past season, just missing the playoffs in the process, but it was very much an up and down year. That can be expected when starting a rookie quarterback in week seven, however, and Miami goes into training camp with much higher expectations. Tua will be the unquestioned guy behind center, and hopes to be more consistent in year two with more talent at receiver and some growth from a young offensive line. Miami’s bend-but-don’t-break defense was solid: top five in points per game allowed, tops in turnovers and getting off the field on 3rd down, and top 10 in sacks. The offense (average to below average in every major category) was understandably mediocre last season, and needs to catch up with the defense as this team continues it’s rebuild. 

Miami is going into year three of their latest rebuild and the Brian Flores era. Year one, they tore it all down, went 5-11, and acquired extra picks in the next NFL Draft to help stockpile talent and aid in the rebuild. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the first of those three 1st round picks of the 2020 NFL Draft – he was taken 5th overall just one pick ahead of eventual Rookie Of The Year award winner Justin Herbert. Tua sat the first five games of the season while recovering from offseason hip surgery, then came in as the starter, replacing the now departed Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Dolphins didn’t lose many key free agents this offseason, but Fitzpatrick and his fantastic beard will be missed. Brissett comes over from Indianapolis to be the veteran backup to Tua, and brings a ton of starting experience. 

Miami’s offense has undergone a multitude of changes over the last two offseasons. They’ve spent a lot of resources on solidifying the offensive line, and continued building it this offseason. Last year, the team drafted starters Jackson, Hunt, and Kindley. With three of the five starting spots accounted for, the team sought to keep adding depth/competition on the line. Free agent signing Matt Skura will likely start at center, but will face competition from Tom and Deiter in training camp and the preseason. The team hopes Skura plays like he did in 2019, when he was playing at a high level for Baltimore until he got injured. With one starting spot left, Miami drafted Liam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in the 2nd round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Eichenberg has been one of the better tackles in college football over the past couple of seasons, having not been credited with giving up any sacks over the last two years. More technically sound than an athletic marvel, some teams saw him as a guard in the NFL rather than a tackle like he was at Notre Dame. Miami will likely try him at guard and tackle, but I project him to be the starter at right tackle. The offensive line is very young, but full of talent and versatility – almost every player can play multiple positions along the line. Eluemunor and Fluker can both play guard and tackle, and were signed as free agents to provide depth and starting experience. There will be some shuffling on the line during camp and maybe even early on in the season as the team tries to find the right combo, but it has tons of potential that will need to be realized moving forward as they grow together. 

The only skill position player of note to be lost this offseason to free agency was runningback Matt Breida, who signed with division rival Buffalo. Miami replaced him with Malcolm Brown, signed as a free agent from the Rams. Brown hasn’t been anything special, but he should start out as the short yardage back and spell starter Myles Gaskin. Making sure the depth at runningback was up to par was a need, as Gaskin only started seven games, and missed six games due to injury and Covid. Gaskin will likely be leading this team in carries this upcoming season if he can stay healthy, as outside of Brown, there isn’t much competition pushing for the starting job. Seventh rounder Gerrid Doaks was the only other back added this offseason. 

Parker, Williams, and Wilson are a talented wide receiver group, when healthy. Problem is, they have had issues staying healthy – Parker missed two games and parts of others last season and has played 16 games in a season only once; Williams missed the 2nd half of the season due to a lower body injury; Wilson was a 2020 Covid opt-out, and has only played in 20 games for Miami since joining as a free agent in 2018. Due to all the injury concerns of the current receiver corp, Miami looked to add more quality talent at the position. They brought in speedsters Will Fuller and rookie Jaylen Waddle. Unfortunately, both of them also come with injury concerns. Fuller is one of the best deep threats in the NFL, but he had a very up and down career with Houston. Fuller (1 year, $10M) is coming off of a career year statistically, but he has only played in 53 of 80 career games, due to various injuries and a six game suspension this past season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. When on the field, he will give Miami a much needed vertical big play threat. Waddle was one of the fastest players in all of college football, and brings game-breaking ability to the NFL. He also comes with some health concerns – he missed a majority of 2020 due to an ankle injury sustained early in the Tennessee game. He is truly electric when healthy, and was one of the most explosive players in the nation as a receiver and returner. Fuller and Waddle’s downfield speed will open up the middle of the field for Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. Gesicki is going into the final year of his contract, so the team drafted Hunter Long in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft to provide depth. Long isn’t the most athletic, but he was among the top producers at his position while in college; he does need work as a blocker, but has potential to become a well rounded tight end. 

The defense got some reinforcements as well at all three levels this offseason after losing a few key pieces during free agency. Miami re-signed a few key backups/rotational players, and sought to add depth at linebacker and in the secondary. They brought in a couple of free agent linebackers that will likely compete for backup/special teams roles, but the likely starters came via trade and the NFL Draft. Trading Shaq Lawson to Houston for Benardrick McKinney was a weird move for the Dolphins at first. Lawson disappointed last season, getting only four sacks for Miami, but McKinney is coming off of a season in which he only played in four games before undergoing shoulder surgery. He was a solid off ball linebacker for Houston before the injury, and fills the other starting spot inside next to Jerome Baker (3 years, $39M contract extension in early June)in Miami’s hybrid 3-4 front. 

Drafting Jaelan Phillips with their second 1st round pick changed my outlook on the McKinney trade. The team ranked 10th in the NFL in sacks, but it was more a team effort and good scheming than having a dominant pass rusher. Enter Phillips. He was my top rated edge rusher in the 2021 NFL Draft, and adds a new dimension to this defense. Phillips has all the physical talent to be Miami’s top edge rusher right away, but he also comes with injury concerns (noticing a trend here?) – he retired in December 2018 due to concussions, and sat out the 2019 season after transferring from UCLA. Adam Butler brings familiarity with this system from his time in New England, and steps in for free agent departure Davon Godchaux in the defensive tackle rotation. 

The secondary got plenty of love this offseason as well. Miami signed veteran cornerbacks Justin Coleman and Jason McCourty to one year deals. Both have tons of experience and are familiar with Flores’ system. Coleman should be in the mix for immediate playing time in the slot, while McCourty has experience at both corner and safety. 2020 1st rounder Noah Igbinoghene will likely play both inside and outside corner this season and will look to learn a thing or two from his new teammates. 2nd round pick Jevon Holland is a good athlete and yet another player on this defense with extensive experience at multiple positions. He excelled at both safety as a true freshman and slot corner as a sophomore before opting out of 2020 (Covid), and finished with nine interceptions in his two years at Oregon. He will likely start at safety for the Dolphins, and will be a fun chess piece in the secondary for defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and Flores. 

Miami has a ton of talent on this roster, so it will be on Tua to really step up in year two, as he was learning the ropes after his late start to his rookie season. We shall see just how much new co-offensive coordinators Eric Studesville (MIA RB coach) and George Godsey (MIA TE coach) can help Tua along. More speed/playmaking in the passing game, a young offensive line coming together, and better production from a healthy ground game will definitely help. Playing a bend-but-don’t-break defense that depends on turnovers can go wrong at any time, so the defense will need to play more consistently if this team is going to push for a playoff spot in a tough AFC. Miami has a solid foundation, and are in a good position to build on last season’s 10-6 finish.

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