Miami Dolphins 2021 Team Preview

Miami Dolphins

Winning 10 games and still not making the playoffs is the kind of near-miss that stings. The Miami Dolphins know the feeling, so general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores have been busy. They’ve focused on surrounding second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with more talent. He impressed at times as a rookie, notably when he outscored Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals on the road in Week 9. There were some teething problems, though, issues that prompted Flores to return to Ryan Fitzpatrick more than once.

Make sure to check out all of our other 2021 NFL Team Previews.

Offseason Recap

Things figure to be better for Tagovailoa after Flores and Grier retooled his supporting cast. Their biggest get was selecting Jaylen Waddle out of Alabama with the sixth pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Waddle will form a dynamic trio of wide receivers with DeVante Parker and Preston Williams. Tagovailoa’s offensive line has a new pivot after Matt Skura arrived from the Baltimore Ravens. The most significant change may involve replacing Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator with George Godsey and Eric Studesville. They’ll be primarily responsible for protecting the Dolphins’ would-be franchise quarterback.



Protecting Tagovailoa will be easier with a beefed-up offensive line. Skura isn’t the only new face, thanks to second-round pick Liam Eichenberg, who projects to make one of the tackle spots his own. A chain-mover on the ground will also help a quarterback’s development, so Malcolm Brown‘s arrival from the Los Angeles Rams will help. Brown will be steady and reliable between the tackles and offset the boom or bust styles of Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.


Quietly, very quietly, the Dolphins have been building a sneaky good defense. Flores and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer have constructed the unit from the secondary forward. It’s a group that excels in the old-school man coverage techniques Flores learned from Bill Belichick with Miami’s AFC East foe the New England Patriots. Cornerback Xavien Howard used those techniques to intercept 10 passes in 2020, but he’ll still be hoping the Dolphins generate more of a pass rush this season. Top pick Jaelan Phillips has the tools, provided he can avoid the injuries that blighted his collegiate career at Miami.


Predicting the 53 Man Roster

QB (3) – Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett

Acquiring Brissett to play Tagovailoa’s deputy was a shrewd move by Grier. He now has two starter-ready quarterbacks with similar skill-sets. Brissett’s presence means Tagovailoa’s progress this season won’t make or break this team. It should also keep Tua focused on doing everything he needs to do to get better.

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RB (3) – Malcolm Brown, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed


Brown makes this group stronger. He’s tough and resourceful, the kind of all-rounder Tagovailoa can trust. Gaskins is a little more unpredictable, but there’s no faulting his breakaway speed. It never hurts to have a third option, and Ahmed is in the mix after impressing at times last season, notably by gashing the Patriots for 122 yards on the ground in Week 15.

WR (7) – DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Jakeem Grant

There’s no doubt where the strength of this offense lies. Parker is one of the game’s best, while Waddle has the potential to force his way into that bracket sooner rather than later. Fuller couldn’t always stay healthy with the Houston Texans, but he’s a burner that defenses fear once he hits top speed. The same is true of Wilson, while Williams and Hurns can play the possession game. Wilson and Hurns opted out in 2020, but their experience and ability to make plays will be invaluable this season. Grant has trouble holding onto every pass, but his return skills are too enticing for the Dolphins to give up on him just yet.

TE (3) – Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Hunter Long

Gesicki knows where the holes are in zones and he knows how to make yards after the catch. Expect him to build on his 53 catches from a year ago. The same could also be true for Smythe, a 6’6″ moving mismatch who hauled in 26 receptions in 2020 but has the potential to produce much more.

Rookie Long is the most intriguing member of this rotation. His soft hands and history of solid production at Boston College were well worth a flier with a third-round pick. Long could become the safety valve Tagovailoa needs to help further refine his game.

OL (9) – Austin Jackson, Solomon Kindley, Matt Skura, Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg, Larnel Coleman, Adam Pankey, Michael Deiter, Jermaine Eluemunor

This line is more than the sum of its parts. Jackson, Kindley, and Hunt all took their lumps as rookies and proved they belonged as starters. Having a savvy scrapper like Skura in the middle will also aid their development. Eichenberg should have the inside track on the right tackle spot, but former Patriot Eluemunor has the size and versatility to force his way into the conversation.

DL (5) – Christian Wilkins, Adam Butler, Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler, John Jenkins

Size and power are the hallmarks of what the Dolphins have manning the defensive interior. Wilkins is a budding star, versatile, explosive, and hungry for more recognition. Butler is another former member of Flores’ defenses in New England. He’ll contribute, but Butler won’t supplant Davis as the head coach’s go-to choice to play over the center. Mammoth veteran Jenkins is back with the team following a year in Chicago, and he’s ready to fill rushing lanes as and when he’s needed.

EDGE (4) – Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jason Strowbridge

Everything here hinges on Phillips staying on the field. He couldn’t always do it for the Hurricanes, but Phillips is a dream fit for what Flores wants to do on defense. It’s a scheme built around hybrid edge-rushers. Ogbah fits the bill and fought his way to nine sacks in 2020. Van Ginkel chipped in with 5.5 quarterback takedowns while alternating between a three-point stance and standing up.

LB (5) – Jerome Baker, Benardrick McKinney, Duke Riley, Vince Biegel, Samuel Eguavoen

Baker is the playmaker of merit in this group. He made 112 tackles and recorded seven sacks in a scheme nuanced enough to take full advantage of his range of skills. Ironically, Baker is becoming what McKinney was supposed to be for the Texans. It didn’t always work out that way, but the 28-year-old is still enough of a thumper that the Dolphins thought it worth trading Shaq Lawson to Houston. Depth is as solid as anywhere on defense. All three of Riley, Biegel, and Eguavoen have some starting experience. They are also all adept on special teams. Grier and Flores are likely to keep five here given the latter’s fondness for the 3-4 front.

CB (7) – Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jason McCourty, Noah Igbinoghene, Justin Coleman, Cre’von LeBlanc, Nik Needham

Flores isn’t afraid to use as many as six cornerbacks at once, so this will be a bloated portion of the depth chart. Howard and Jones are locks as the primary starters on the outside, although the latter needs to showcase more of his natural athleticism during his second year on the team. Bringing McCourty over from New England was a smart move. He knows this scheme and will help younger cover guys like Igbinoghene and Needham become greater factors this season.

SAF (4) – Brandon Jones, Eric Rowe, Jevon Holland, Clayton Fejedelem

There’s some crossover here since corners McCourty and Jones can both also play safety. Rowe brings something different to the mix as yet another one-time Patriots defensive back who can be moved around when Flores shows offenses different looks. The Dolphins used a second-round pick to take Holland, another flexible safety. He’s a true free safety who can also work in the slot, an asset in this defense, where secondary personnel is expected to fulfill multiple roles.

ST (3) – Jason Sanders, Michael Palardy, Blake Ferguson

Miami’s place-kicking chores are well taken care of thanks to Sanders, who only missed three field goals all of last season. Things aren’t so stable at punter, where Palardy is slated to replace Matt Haack, despite not kicking a ball in anger in 2020 thanks to a knee problem. Ferguson did enough as a rookie to stick as the team’s long snapper.

One Player to Add

A proven runner would expand the options on the ground. There aren’t a host of marquee names available from what’s left of the market, but there are still options the Dolphins should consider. Duke Johnson or Chris Thompson would give Tagovailoa the dependable pair of hands out of the backfield every quarterback needs to add greater efficiency to his reads and decision-making.

2021 Outlook & Odds

There’s a lot to like about these Dolphins, particularly the riches at wide receiver. Not to mention a turnover-bingeing, multiple-front defense. Grier also added steady and scheme-ready players during both free agency and the draft, particularly Phillips, McCourty, and Rowe. All of those things make it worth betting on the over at 9.5.

This looks like a team primed for the playoffs, but the ultimate fate of this group resides with Tagovailoa. For all the doubts about him, he still managed to win games as a starter, going 6-3. Yet that didn’t stop Flores from making a switch at the first hint of a setback. If Tagovailoa can justify more patience this term, the Dolphins will find 10 wins enough to keep them playing in winter this time.

Season Prediction: 10-7 and Make the Playoffs as a Wild Card Team

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Main Image Credit: 
Embed from Getty Images


Check us out on our socials:   
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
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