The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills will battle for fourth place in the AFC East. It will be a fairly contested battle. But in the end, the Dolphins will edge out the Bills by a game.
Let’s talk about the good first. Because there is some good to be spoken of, when regarding the Miami Dolphins. Their running back situation has become considerably clearer this offseason; Kenyan Drake appears to be the favorite in the room, and Frank Gore and Day 3 pick Kalen Ballage will provide depth behind him. Drake has upside with good size and exceptional speed and quickness. He showed immense promise following the Dolphins’ trade of Jay Ajayi last year, and if he can get some help from a renovated offensive line, he could be a valuable weapon for Miami.
On the defensive side of the ball, the most promising aspect of Adam Gase’s 2018 squad has to be the secondary. There are unknowns swirling around the unit, but it undoubtedly has the potential to be elite, especially with the acquisition of Alabama standout Minkah Fitzpatrick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
With Fitzpatrick coming in to provide versatility and playmaking ability, as well as a tireless leader’s presence in the locker room, returning pieces such as Xavien Howard, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, Cordrea Tankersley, and Reshad Jones should be able to mesh and form a formidable position group. Cornell Armstrong provides upside and depth in the sixth round as well.
Aside from the secondary and the promise at running back, however, there are far more questions than answers surrounding the 2018 Miami Dolphins, none of those questions of greater magnitude than the health of Ryan Tannehill. The embattled franchise quarterback of the Dolphins received a tepid vote of confidence from the team when they neglected to draft a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tannehill has always been serviceable, and occasionally, he’s shown flashes of some great quarterback, locked away inside himself. But after his season-ending knee injury suffered in the offseason of 2017, there’s no guarantee he’ll come back as the same player, and rolling into 2018 with Brock Osweiler and Bryce Petty as backups doesn’t sound like a safe strategy. David Fales has the underdog hype building around him, but if he can’t elevate himself in this quarterback room, then he’s not doing it anywhere.
It won’t help whoever ends up playing snaps at quarterback that the rest of the offense is somewhat lacking in proven talent. Yes, the running back rotation has improved, but the receiving core is still underwhelming, even after the acquisitions of an aging, ex-Patriot Danny Amendola and former Chiefs’ slot receiver Albert Wilson. 2015 first-round pick DeVante Parker has yet to find consistency in his game, and Jakeem Grant, while a speedy receiver, is far from the dominant deep threat that Tyreek Hill is. Couple these players with a solid, yet overpaid Kenny Stills, and you get a receiving core that’s decent at best, while lacking the players to elevate a quarterback room in need of that kind of support.
At tight end, it isn’t much better. In time, it could be, as Mike Gesicki has the athleticism to develop into a premier receiving threat. But as it stands, there are very few proven options at the position, which will force Gesicki to be the man from the get-go. He’ll help as a safety blanket for the quarterback, but he’s not a polished player just yet, and throwing him into the fire could be detrimental.
In the trenches, on both sides of the ball, the Miami Dolphins leave a lot to be desired. They retooled their offensive line this offseason, adding players like Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore to man the interior. At the same time, however, they lost stout center Mike Pouncey, who took his talents to the Chargers of Los Angeles. With Laremy Tunsil coming off a very underwhelming sophomore season at left guard, and with Zach Sterup manning the right tackle slot for the time being, the Dolphins could certainly use upgrades on both ends.
Defensively, it’s the same deal. The Dolphins lost their only elite interior run defender in Ndamukong Suh, and while they added Akeem Spence, and expect Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux to improve in 2018, the loss of a player of Suh’s caliber will linger, without a doubt. Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake should help sullen the blow, but two players do not make a unit. Couple this with the uncertainty surrounding the team’s linebacking core, and it’s clear that any success would be a welcome surprise, but not the expectation.