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After starting off the season 1-3 in the first four games of the 2020 NFL season, all signs were pointing to another “tanking” season for head coach Brian Flores and his Dolphins.
Those thoughts were immediately squashed after a blistering 5-game win streak catapulted a previously lifeless team to potential playoff-hopeful status.
It wouldn’t be a Miami Dolphins season had there not been signs of promise, moments of rage, and questionable calls. But before we go over some of those season-defining moments, understand that what may come out of this season is much like not knowing what’s inside of ‘Pandora’s Box’.
With that being said, let’s begin.
Yes, the Dolphins drafted the college-star with the 2020 5th overall pick in the NFL Draft with the hopes that he’d eventually take the starting job in Miami, but the “when” should’ve been evaluated more. Brian Flores was quick to take the starting role from Ryan Fitzpatrick after week 6 and immediately turned to the rookie for the rest of the season. While the Dolphins did exceptionally well (record-wise) under Tua Tagovailoa, most of the team’s wins with the rookie starting were thanks to Miami’s league-best defense. The Dolphins went 7-3 in the final 10 games of the season under the rookie, but some of those wins had help from Fitz when the rookie was struggling to produce offensively. Consider it slight stat padding. While it’s understandable to see why coach Flo decided to test Tua early in his career, perhaps giving him the starting job in week 7 was premature, and the Dolphins may have played just as good under Fitz.
Failing to draft wide receivers:
The Dolphins have no weapons offensively, no questions asked. Whether it was Tua or Fitz under center, the Dolphins’ offense was extremely underwhelming this season, and their poor drafting scheme showed why. The supposed “star receiver” in DeVante Parker never came to life, failing to live up to his four-year $40 million contract extension last season. Parker’s season was riddled with injuries and low production when compared to his career-best receiving campaign in 2019. Preston Williams went down with a season-ending injury early in the season, tight-end Mike Gesicki failed to be consistent as the safety net for the QBs, and countless dropped balls by the rest of the receiving core all combined to make the Fins the 22nd overall offense in the league. Despite showing life in the run game late in the season, the offense barely cracked 335 yards per game in total and 230 in the air. The Dolphins ignored their wide receiver needs in the 2019 draft, and it showed. Maybe they learn from their mistakes and use one of their two first-round selections in the upcoming draft on a potential “once-in-a-lifetime” receiver. Whoever is starting at QB next year needs help offensively.
Moments of rage
Losing to the Broncos…:
Arguably the most costly loss of the season came via a loss to the Denver Broncos in week 11. The loss ignited rage for a couple of reasons, the Broncos had one of the worst teams in the league (statistically speaking), the Dolphins lost by one score, and it broke a 5-game win streak that would’ve ultimately led to an 8-game win streak. This loss came at a pivotal moment in the season where one could argue would have maintained the Dolphins within striking distance of a division title.
Losing to the “Tom Bradyless” Patriots and Buffalo Bills:
The Dolphins avenged their week one loss to the Patriots with a week 15 win at home against the New England Patriots but failed to escape a second loss to the Buffalo Bills in week 16, which ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs. The three combined division losses accounted for half of the losses on the season for the Fins, and had they corrected one of them; it would’ve meant the first playoff berth for Miami since 2016. Division losses are far more painful than non-divisional matchups.
Failing to make the playoffs:
The Dolphins yet again needed the help of another team to aid their playoff chances but fell short. The Dolphins came into week 16 with over 70 percent odds to make the playoffs with only one scenario working against their favor… long story short, the lesser odds prevailed. The Dolphins needed a win against Buffalo or losses by any one team behind them in the standings (Browns, Ravens, Colts) to land a spot in the playoffs. To their misfortune, the Dolphins failed to win, AND the three teams behind them in the standings all won their matchups, ultimately eliminating the Fins from making the postseason. A 10-6 record, and they failed to make the playoffs, a recipe so potent that it would make any Fins fan drop to their knees and cry.
Signs of Promise
Defense Defense Defense:
The biggest silver lining of the 2020 NFL season for Miami was its defense. Here are some numbers for you: T-1st in Interceptions (18), top 5 in fumbles forced (11), 1st in total takeaways (29). And had it not been for their blowout loss to the Bills in week 16, they would’ve had the lowest points against per game in the league. Amazing. Cornerback Xavien Howard recorded a team and league-high 10 interceptions, the most for a CB since Antonio Cromartie’s 2007 season, and tied for most in a Dolphins uniform with Dick Westmoreland’s 1967 campaign. Howard’s historic defensive season has many analysts believing he will win the Defensive Player of the Year award, and rightfully so. Led by outstanding performances on the defensive line with Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jerome Baker, and company, Miami was the only team this season to record a defensive takeaway in every game. You read that right, the only team. The defense will be something the Dolphins look forward to building moving forward to establish dominance in a difficult category.
4 top 50 picks in 2021 NFL Draft:
The Dolphins may have missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record, but sure seem like a 6-10 team given the amount of picks they have going into the 2021 NFL Draft. Thanks to the Houston Texans, Miami has inherited the third and 36th overall picks in the draft plus its own 18th and 50th overall picks. That gives Miami 4 top 50 picks going into next season if they were not to trade them away. With a top three pick the Dolphins have important decisions to make regarding their future on the offensive or defensive side. The first round will present a plethora of big names coming out of college and the Dolphins should use their first two picks to build on their young roster.
Beating Projected Odds:
Miami came into the season with many analysts expecting the Dolphins to barely break a .500 record. Well, the Dolphins did more than that and exceeded all expectations by matching last season’s win total by week 9. The Fins managed to double last season’s win total and almost make the playoffs with one of the hardest schedules in the league. Take that, Vegas. The front office has now set a benchmark for the coming seasons, and with a better roster in 2021, expectations will only be set higher for Miami, who hopes to make the playoffs.
While Miami’s season has come to a bittersweet end, there is much to look forward to for South Florida football fans. The quest for bigger and better starts now… Miami you’re on the clock.
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William is a South Florida native with professional experience writing at the collegiate and national news outlet level. He loves fishing, playing soccer and watching sports in his spare time and is a fan of all South Florida teams.