Bold Predictions for Dolphins' 2021 NFL Season
The Miami Dolphins enter the 2021 NFL season with lofty expectations. After a 10-6 campaign in which the team just missed the playoffs, it should be motivated to take the next step as a franchise and get into the postseason.
Predicting the Dolphins will do that doesn't take much. Simply winning 10 games again might be enough, even with the new 17-game schedule.
To say they won't make it isn't really all that bold. And bold is fun.
So let's take a look at the upcoming season and take some big swings as to how it will play out. From a make-or-break season for Tua Tagovailoa to the free-agent acquisition of Will Fuller V, here are some bold predictions for Miami's campaign will play out.
Tua Tagovailoa Has a Baker Mayfield-Style Breakout Season
Entering the second year of his pro career, Tua Tagovailoa has something to prove.
The former Alabama quarterback did fine in his rookie season. He posted 11 touchdowns to five interceptions, went 6-3 as the starter and recorded a passer rating of 87.1.
Still, Tagovailoa had to deal with speculation the Dolphins would be in the quarterback market. Teammates were reportedly not confident in the rookie, and he still had the safety net of Ryan Fitzpatrick to come in if he was struggling.
This year, that safety net is gone. Fitzpatrick is off to Washington and this is officially Tagovailoa's team.
That may be cause for concern for some, but there's plenty of reason to believe the 23-year-old is in a position to have a breakout season.
Baker Mayfield went from a shaky sophomore campaign to breakout star in his third year. He was 15th in passer rating, 14th in passing touchdowns and 13th in adjusted yards per attempt while leading the Browns to a playoff berth.
There's no reason to think Tagovailoa can't post similar numbers with similar success in 2021.
He's had a normal offseason to work on learning the playbook and develop chemistry with his receiving corps. Offensive linemen Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt are both in Year 2 of playing, while Liam Eichenberg is another talented young guy up front.
Then, there are the added threats of Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller V in the receiving corps.
With more tools, better prediction and a better grasp of the offense, Tagovailoa is prepared to light up defenses in 2021.
Will Fuller V Goes Under 650 Yards
The optimism for Tagovailoa does not actually have much to do with Will Fuller V.
The former Texans receiver was one of the biggest free-agent signings for the Dolphins this season, but it's one that carries significant risk.
Fuller has been notoriously injury-prone throughout his career. When he's on the field, he's a great field-stretching deep threat with speed to burn. However, he's missed at least five games in every year since his rookie campaign.
The 27-year-old may not sustain a major injury that ends his season, but at this point, he's likely to suffer several small injuries that take him out of the lineup or leave him performing at diminished capacity.
He's already suspended one game this season to close out the PED suspension he started last season. But it's worth noting he has already missed time in camp for a leg injury, although Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported the team is optimistic he'll be ready for Week 2.
Then there's the talented receiving corps that the Notre Dame product will be playing with. DeVante Parker (when healthy) will command targets, and rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle and tight end Mike Gesicki will be featured in the passing game depending on the defensive matchup.
Tagovailoa's greatest strengths come in the short to intermediate passing game. Fuller's ability to go deep will be nice, but it won't lead to big numbers for him.
Myles Gaskin Emerges as an RB1
For those who play fantasy football, the Miami Dolphins backfield was a bit of a mess last year.
Five different players led the team in rushing, and it was a bit difficult to project who would see the most carries in a given week. Myles Gaskin ultimately led the team with 584 yards on the ground in 10 games and seven starts.
The Dolphins might have a bit of a committee going with Salvon Ahmed returning and Malcolm Brown to start the season. The former had 319 yards and three touchdowns in four starts and six games last season, while the latter was brought in from the Rams to complete the backfield.
But Gaskin was the most consistently productive back when he was on the field. He has also shown the ability to be a weapon out of the backfield after turning 47 targets into 41 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
With a season of health, an improving offensive lineman and a better season from Tagovailoa, the Dolphins' running back position is going to be an attractive situation. Gaskins is the most talented one on the roster and could silence critics who felt they should have drafted a running back.
If the 24-year-old stays healthy, he has the ability to have a top-12 season among all running backs in the league.