Dolphins' Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2021

Dolphins Players with Most to Prove Ahead of 2021 Season

0 of 3

    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Miami Dolphins enter the 2021 season as a team that should have a chip on its shoulder after narrowly missing the playoffs in 2020. 

    General manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores have put together a young roster that competed last season. The expectation this year should be that they can build on that success and be a playoff team in 2021. 

    That means a handful of players are going to have to step up their game. Whether it means showing they can take their game to the next level, prove they can stay healthy or building on a career year, the Dolphins' future success is going to depend on who can answer their own personal challenges in 2021. 

    Each of these three players has something to prove in 2021 and their play will help determine the ceiling of this year. 

QB Tua Tagovailoa

1 of 3

    Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

    It's no secret there is no position in sports that has a bigger impact on their team's stock than quarterback. There's no better example in the NFL than Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins. 

    When you look at the surrounding talent, it's hard not to love what the Dolphins have done. They have used draft picks to build a promising young offensive line. Robert Hunt, Austin Jackson, Solomon Kindley and Liam Eichenberg have all been drafted over the last two seasons, and they've also brought in Matt Skura at center. 

    At receiver, they've signed Will Fuller V and drafted Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 pick. It's a situation most quarterbacks would be happy to walk into.

    It's also a situation designed to allow the team to see what they have in Tagovailoa. He showed promising signs as a rookie, with a 6-3 record as the starter with 11 touchdowns to five interceptions. In short, he took care of the ball and put up alright numbers considering the supporting cast last season. 

    With a full year under his belt and an actual offseason after the COVID-19 muddled version he experienced last season, the 23-year-old must show real progress toward becoming the franchise quarterback. 

WR Will Fuller V

2 of 3

    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    There's a reason why Will Fuller V's contract is a "prove-it" deal. The Dolphins only committed to one year with the speedy receiver in free agency. 

    Fuller is one of the best deep threats in the league when he's healthy but he watched Kenny Golladay, Corey Davis, Nelson Agholor and Curtis Samuel all sign contracts that were worth more money in average annual value over multiple years while he got a one-year, $10.6 million pact. 

    Some of that is a product of the depressed market this offseason, but it also has to do with the 27-year-old having one game left on a PED suspension and a history of health issues. 

    Since his rookie season, Fuller has missed at least five games in every regular season with various ailments. 

    He's coming off his best season to date. Even on a struggling Texans team he put up 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games, setting career-highs in the most important stats. 

    Fuller needs to prove he's the same player post-suspension and stay healthy for a full season to maximize his 2022 free agency.

Edge Emmanuel Ogbah

3 of 3

    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Emmanuel Ogbah is another veteran facing a contract year and an interesting free-agency situation. This year's free-agent class of pass-rushers got paid. The ability to get after the quarterback is an easily marketable skill and Ogbah had his best season doing that in 2020. 

    The former Browns and Chiefs pass-rusher surpassed his previous career-high of 5.5 sacks with nine sacks in Flores' defense in South Beach. 

    It wasn't just a spike in sacks, either. Read through the breakdown of all 29 takeaways for the Dolphins last season from Travis Wingfield of the team's official website, and Ogbah's fingerprints are all over several of them. Whether it's getting pressure that forced an interception or one of his three forced fumbles, he was a legit disruptive force. 

    The only problem is that the 27-year-old hasn't aligned with what he has been in the first four seasons of his career. 

    That isn't to say this isn't what Ogbah is capable of in the Dolphins scheme. It's just that he has struggled with injuries at his previous stops and hasn't proved he can be "the man" consistently, leading the way up front on a year-to-year basis.