The 2020 season is about to start for the Miami Dolphins, and it comes with a whole of uncertainty about just how good the team can be.
It’s a major step ahead of where they were at this time last year after they had decided to do a roster reset. Actually, « major » doesn’t come close to doing it justice. « Gigantic » seems more appropriate.
Expectations still remain rather modest — OK, they’re low — for the Dolphins in 2020, with most experts and analysts and everyone in between targeting them for a third-place finish in the AFC East and another year out of the playoffs.
At this time last year, the expectation was that the Dolphins looked like shoe-ins for the worst record in the NFL.
Mind you, this never was a blueprint for the Dolphins, though for fans it couldn’t have worked out better because the Dolphins managed to win five games AND still get end up with Tua Tagovailoa.
No, the blueprint for the Dolphins was to clear the roster of big-name players with big salary-cap numbers with the thought of building up cap space and draft capital, all with the goal of reshaping the roster to build a foundation that would allow the team to be a contender year in and year out as opposed to filling holes every offseason only to find occasional success.
After the roster purge of 2019, the Dolphins were able to add 11 unrestricted free agents and 11 draft picks in the offseason, and all of them will be on the opening-day roster with the exception of rookie Curtis Weaver, a low-risk, high-reward fifth-round selection who impressed so little in his short time that the Dolphins were willing to expose him to waivers instead of simply putting him on injured reserve.
Based on the first depth chart of the season, the Dolphins will have 10 new starters in 2020: Jordan Howard, Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras and Solomon Kindley on offense, and Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Byron Jones on defense.
First-round pick Noah Igbinoghene isn’t listed as a starter but figures to play a significant role on defense nonetheless. And, of course, there’s no need to mention Tua Tagovailoa, who could end up being the most significant offseason addition of all if he pans out the way fans so desperately hope he does.
The biggest difference between this year and last year was that pretty much everything significant player from 2019 is back.
By comparison, the Dolphins entered the 2019 season without the following starters from the previous year: Ryan Tannehill, Laremy Tunsil, Ja’Wuan James, Frank Gore, Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn.
But there should be little question that the Dolphins find themselves with a brighter future now than if they had stayed the course and continued to do what really hadn’t worked out so well for so long.
While it’s far superior to what the Dolphins had in 2019, this remains a roster with some obvious flaws.
For one, there’s no elite pass rusher. There’s also little depth at wide receiver, though that can be attributed in large part to the opt-outs of Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns. The running back corps doesn’t have a dynamic two-way player — like the ones who recently got lucrative new contracts.
In addition, the offensive line will start the two promising rookies with Jackson and Kindley along with veteran newcomers Karras and Flowers, so it’s unfair to expect that group to jell immediately. But, as with the team as a whole, it’s a unit that offers long-term promise.
How long it will take for the offensive line to come together? That’s a great question. Could get done quickly, could take a while.
It’s one of the great mysteries in a season filled with them, both for the Dolphins and for the rest of the NFL.
The truth is we don’t know exactly what the 2020 Dolphins will look like. What we do know is they’re in a much better place than they were at this time last year and they most definitely appear to be on the right track with their rebuilding project.
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