A three-year rebuild hasn’t gotten the Miami Dolphins to their desired destination.
The Dolphins are virtually where they were at the start of the last overhaul, and that stagnation ultimately cost Brian Flores his job.
Although some improvements were made during the rebuilding process, the attack continued to struggle. The biggest concern going forward is which part of the roster is salvageable and what’s next for this franchise?
Here’s a look at how the Dolphins performed across the board, and a season-ending acknowledgment that will allow us to take a close look at the 2021 season.
Passing game: D
There are only nine teams in the NFL that had a lower cumulative passer rating (85.4) than the Dolphins, and four of those teams had a rookie quarterback at the helm, and four others lost their starting quarterback due to injury. It’s safe to say that Tua Tagovailoa had a decent second season (90.1 passer rating) as an NFL starter. Tagovailoa went 7-5 despite two injuries, but there were four games where he threw for less than 200 yards. It’s abundantly clear that Miami’s offensive line struggles have handcuffed the offense and limited calls.
Racing Game: F
The Dolphins had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL, no matter how it was quantified. Miami ranked 30th in rushing yards per game (92.2) and 31st in rushing yards per attempt (3.55 per carry). Moving the backfield to Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsey in the final month of the season helped the unit improve, but it was too little, too late. Dolphins decision-makers need to re-evaluate how they approach the stopper position, given the failures they’ve had to improve that unit over the past three offseasons.
Defend the pass: B
The Dolphins ranked among the league leaders in sacks (48) and pressures this season. Miami’s defense ranked seventh in the opponent’s overall passer rating (85.4), and four of the teams that finished ahead of them are in the playoffs. Miami forced 1.5 takeouts per game, tying with Green Bay for eighth place in the NFL. For the second season in a row, Miami relied heavily on the covering skills of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, who consistently cleared the defensive front and safeties until the blitz. Both cornerbacks deserve more praise for making Miami’s plan work.
Defend the race: C
The Dolphins had struggled to defend the run during Flores’ three seasons, and this year was no exception. Miami allowed opponents to gain 109.8 rushing yards per game and 4.4 yards per attempt. The Dolphins only held their opponent to less than 100 rushing yards six times. As Miami’s young defensive linemen – Emmanuel Ogbah, Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler – began to flourish, the linebacking unit fell back, struggling with consistency, coverage and adjustments race.
Special teams: D
Special teams had been one of Miami’s strengths in the first two seasons of Flores’ reign, but this year’s unit was a huge disappointment. Jason Sanders missed eight field goals and an extra point. Michael Palardy’s punts were average (40.1 goals and 39 percent takedowns inside the 20-yard line). Miami’s rematch was also non-existent for various reasons. Trading Jakeem Grant, the franchise’s leading touchdown producer on returns, to Chicago didn’t help. Jaylen Waddle has never felt comfortable being a returner (17.6 yards on kickoff returns and 7.0 yards on punt returns), and Jevon Holland has been a good automatic grip.
Miami’s offense struggled across the board. The unit led by co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville had to overcome offensive line issues, which eased sparingly. But never enough for Godsey to call plays that required the quarterback to spend longer running time in the pocket without maximum protection. And, even then, it wasn’t safe. The Dolphins defense had identity issues early on and had to wait for a few rookies (Jevon Holland and Jaelan Phillips) to gain a foothold. But they finally found it and the defense started to thrive in the second half of the season.
Best Offensive Player: Receiver Jaylen Waddle
The Dolphins gave up a future first-round pick to put themselves in a position to acquire Waddle after trading the No. 3 pick to the San Francisco 49ers. The former Alabama standout’s productivity proved he was worth the ride. Waddle set a new NFL rookie record with 104 receptions, which he turned into 1,015 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. It will be interesting to see what Waddle can do when the Dolphins build a better offensive line and put more playmakers around him.
Most Performing Defensive Player: Cornerback Xavien Howard
Howard didn’t have a season worthy of the league’s Defensive Player of the Year honor like 2020, but he was arguably the Dolphins’ best player in 2021 – a game-changer who sealed wins in creating clutch turnovers and scoring runs. More importantly, it was his second straight healthy season, contributing to 50 tackles, five interceptions, one sack, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. The Dolphins will have to adjust Howard’s salary in 2022 to keep him happy – and demand a trade like last July.
Biggest surprise: Flores got fired
Miami bounced back from a 1-7 start to win seven straight, spending the final month of the season in the playoff mix. Flores made sure the dressing room stayed together and the team didn’t give up. Miami has found a way to win eight of the final nine games of the season by following its lead. Even though Flores delivered the franchise’s first consecutive winning seasons since 2002-03, the Dolphins fired him at the end of his third season due to his difficult personality, which made him difficult to work with.
Biggest disappointment: offensive line
Miami’s offensive line has been the anchor for this team all season. Everyone in the unit has struggled at times, and while first-time offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre could be used as a scapegoat for the group’s struggles, everyone involved must take responsibility. personal responsibility for the appearance of the unit. The failure of this unit does not only concern Jeanpierre. It was also general manager Chris Grier who picked the five linemen selected in the first rounds of the last three drafts.