By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
You may think that a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in 20 years and is coming off of a 5-11 season would lack a little bit of optimism for the future.
But when you’re the Miami Dolphins and the man that has single-handedly owned your franchise for the last two decades finally leaves your division to play about four hours away from you, well things start to look up for the better.
For the first time in quite some time, there is reason to hope for better days as a Miami Dolphins fan.
The team was expected to be one of the worst the NFL has ever seen, instead they managed to turn around their season after a miserable start to the year, and capped off the season with a stunning road win in Foxboro that would cost the Patriots a critical first-round bye, and be the beginning of the end of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick dynasty.
Now with fresh optimism and a young rookie quarterback they coveted since before the 2019 season even began, South Beach may be on the verge of having a successful NFL team again.
Dolphins 2019 Season Review
The Miami Dolphins began the 2019 campaign with everyone fully expecting they would do as little as possible to win games to guarantee themselves the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Before the college football season began, the consensus feeling was that quarterback was Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins would wind up landing Tua in the draft, but in a way that no one would have truly expected.
The Dolphins began their rebuilding after watching their hated rival, the New England Patriots, win yet another Super Bowl over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. Following the conclusion of those four hours no football fan will ever get back, the Dolphins made the quiet hire of Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores.
Then after Bill O’Brien, for some inconceivable reason, decided to do GM things again, the Dolphins suddenly found themselves trading Laremy Tunsil for a king’s ransom to the Texans, and the draft pick stockpiling would begin.
Just a few weeks into the 2019 season, the Dolphins would also trade safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers for another haul of draft picks including the Steelers 2020 1st round pick. Before the trade deadline, Miami would trade Kenyan Drake leaving them without a reliable running back on the roster.
Between the purging of the Dolphins roster and how Miami looked out of the gate, an 0-16 season looked like it was a very real possibility.
The Dolphins would begin the 2019 season losing their first four games by a combined total of 163-26. They did not have their first lead of the season until Week 4. They started the season 0-7. They were as sad as a Pitbull Greatest Hits album.
Yet magically, the team improved every single week following that miserable four-week period to start the season, and before you would know it Brian Flores had the Dolphins finishing the 2019 season with a 5-4 record, leaving them to end his first season at 5-11.
Finishing the season with five wins in their last nine games also did not harm the team goal of being in a position to secure a franchise quarterback in the draft either.
Thanks to the otherworldly season put together by LSU’s Joe Burrow and a serious hip injury suffered by Tua Tagovailoa late in the season, the Dolphins would still get their coveted future quarterback anyway as Tua would slide all the way to #5 in the draft without the team needing to move any additional assets to secure him.
It was about as impressive as a 5-11 season can get, and why so many believe that Brian Flores may be the first ex-Belichick assistant to be the real deal.
Took Their Talents to South Beach
CB Byron Jones (Cowboys)
G Erick Flowers (Washington)
DE Shaq Lawson (Bills)
DE Emmanuel Ogbah (Chiefs)
RB Jordan Howard (Eagles)
RB Matt Breida (49ers)
LB Kyle Van Noy (Patriots)
WR Chester Rogers (Colts)
TE Adam Shaheen (Trade/Bears)
S Clayton Fejedelem (Bengals)
As Valuable as Marlins Season Tickets
DE Taco Charlton (Chiefs)
DE John Jenkins (Bears)
RB Samaje Perine (Bengals)
LB Charles Harris (Trade/Falcons)
C Evan Boehm (Bills)
Dolphins 2020 Offensive Preview
The 2019 Miami Dolphins’ offense really became the Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeVante Parker show as the second-half the season went on.
To signify how much the Dolphins struggled rushing the football a year ago, their leading rusher in 2019 was none other than 37-year old (and nimble) Ryan Fitzpatrick with 243 yards!
If Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading your team in rushing, it’s a safe bet your team can’t run the football.
So the Dolphins went out and got Fitzpatrick some help at RB by signing Jordan Howard and Matt Breida in free agency. The team also added Navy swiss-army knife Malcolm Perry in the 7th round, and he could mix into the running back rotation as well.
Miami also addressed its gaping hole at tackle following the Laremy Tunsil trade by drafting OT Austin Jackson with the second of their three first-round picks, and double downed on beefing up the line by adding free-agent Erick Flowers.
Prior to training-camp beginning, it was believed that the Dolphins WR corps would comprise of the ultra-talented Parker along with Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson, and Preston Williams, but Hurns and Wilson have both since opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 health concerns, leaving Miami to turn to ex-Colt Chester Rogers to aid in the passing game.
Preston Williams was putting together a great rookie debut before an ACL injury ended his season early, but the team hopes he will be ready in time for the season opener.
Make no doubt about it though, the team’s most reliable target in the passing game is the aforementioned Parker, who enters 2020 coming off a breakout 1202 yard season with 9 touchdowns. Miami will once again depend on Parker in the passing game, even more so now with the losses of Hurns and Wilson.
Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki is also coming off his best season ever, with 570 yards receiving and 5 touchdowns. The third-year tight end will expect to see even more targets in 2020 with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey dialing up the plays.
And then, of course, there’s the question about Tua Tagovailoa. In a perfect world, Flores will be able to lean on the veteran Fitzpatrick to guide the team towards a Wild Card push, but if the team stumbles out of the gate it remains to be seen if the team would turn the keys over to the rookie quarterback.
All indications are that Tua is healthy and ready to go, the only question appears to be when they will think is the right time. Former first-round pick Josh Rosen is also still on the Dolphins roster, and could be kept around as an emergency QB given the uncertainty around COVID-19. To start the season though, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the Dolphins guy.
Dolphins 2020 Defensive Preview
The Dolphins entered the offseason with an absurd amount of cap space to spend and a lot of holes to fill on a defense that would surrender the most points in football in 2019.
They got around to writing checks almost immediately.
Miami gave former Cowboys corner Byron Jones the biggest contract in NFL history for a player of his position (five-years, $82.5 million) and followed that up by adding a pair of pass rushers in ex-Bills DE Shaq Lawson (three-years, $30 million) and ex-Chief DE Emmanuel Ogbah (two-years, $15 million). Flores also brought over ex-Patriot outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
In the draft, the Dolphins used five of their eleven draft choices on defensive players, the most notable being Auburn corner Noah Igbinoghene and Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis.
Suddenly, in just a short period of time, the Dolphins defense has a lot more talent on its depth chart than it did a season ago.
Dolphins 2020 Outlook & Prediction
The Dolphins have survived the worst of their rebuilding, and now will begin to reap the benefits of gutting the roster and rebuilding through the draft and shrewd free-agent acquisitions.
While the team may have overpaid for the likes of Byron Jones and Shaq Lawson, the defense should be much improved as a result. If the Dolphins offense can get kickstarted with a rejuvenated running game and more seasoned play-caller, Miami has the potential to surprise a lot of people in 2020.
However, a daunting schedule looms in the distance, and if Ryan Fitzpatrick regresses as he has done before, the Dolphins could see themselves with roughly the same amount of wins as they had a season ago.
We believe Brian Flores is building something good here, and while the Dolphins won’t contend for the division title this year, they’re a lot closer than they’ve been in quite some time.
Dolphins Projected 2020 Finish: 6-10, 3rd AFC East
Dolphins 2020 Betting Preview
As the 2020 season draws near, we like the following futures odds involving the Miami Dolphins:
- Dolphins UNDER 6.5 wins — (-134) at DraftKings Sportsbook
While we definitely believe the Dolphins are turning this thing around and will be contending in the AFC East before too long, we don’t see that happening just yet in 2020. If you look at the Dolphins first six games, there is a very real chance they begin 1-5 out of the gate and would still have dates against Kansas City, Buffalo, and New England waiting for them after their bye. Finding six other wins on this schedule is very hard. We’re riding the under here with our favorite play involving the Dolphins
- Dolphins to Finish in 3rd Place AFC East — (+170) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Without spoiling future previews too much, the Jets are going to be very bad this season on defense and very reliant on a young Sam Darnold without much help. We just think Miami is the better team here and that the division is likely coming down to Buffalo or New England. At +170 this is tremendous value on the Fins.
- DeVante Parker to lead NFL in Receiving Yards — (+3000) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Is it likely? No, not really. Is it fun to root for if you’re a Dolphin fan? Absolutely! Who knows, maybe you catch lightning in a bottle on a small bet and have some play money to show for it. This is our favorite “dart throw” Dolphins futures ticket.