The Miami Dolphins enter the 2020 season looking to improve their 5-11 record from 2019 amid new additions and improvements all over their football team. There is some serious optimism surrounding this team following the acquisition of new quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and the Dolphins could be ready to take that next step as a threat in the AFC East.
In my latest Dolphins Mailbag, I will answer of a few of our reader’s questions regarding the state of some of the Dolphins’ strongest and weakest positional groups on the team, as well as Jakeem Grant’s potential impact during the 2020 NFL season, and finally, the impact expected by Tagovailoa in his rookie season.
If you would like your questions answered by me in a future Dolphins Mailbag, tweet us @DolphinsPFN or @sgormanPFN on Twitter.
Which positions groups are the weakest for the Dolphins in 2020?
Going into the 2020 NFL Draft, there were a few glaring weaknesses on this team, including the offensive line and the quarterback position. However, the Dolphins may have possibly landed their future franchise quarterback with Alabama’s Tagovailoa. The Dolphins also spent multiple draft picks and heaps of cash on improving their blocking upfront. However, that remains a concern heading into the season with practice time having been limited compared to other seasons.
Draft picks Austin Jackson, and Robert Hunt will compete for the tackle spots with incumbents Jesse Davis and Julie’n Davenport, and the rookies have to be considered the heavy favorites to start at this juncture. Free-agent signees Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers should also grab starting positions inside, but it is still a mystery how this unit will gel as the season wears on.
The pass rushers are another unit that will not be one of the Dolphins’ strongest positional groups early on in 2020. The additions of Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Kyle Van Noy should help, but it may take a few games for these newcomers to find their way in this defense. The Dolphins’ pass rush was almost non-existent in 2019, so this should be an upgraded unit regardless. A lot will depend on how quickly the new faces can acclimate to coach Brian Flores’ elaborate defensive scheme.
Which position groups are the strongest for the Dolphins in 2020?
The wide receivers were a position of strength for the Dolphins in 2019 with the breakout of former first-rounder, DeVante Parker. His performance against top CB Stephon Gilmore in Week 17 of last season took a good season to a whole new level for Parker. He is back to prove himself as one of the best receivers in the league alongside second-year darling Preston Williams and speedsters Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson. Williams and Wilson both return from injury-shortened seasons and will give this unit a big boost.
This WR core is again one of the Dolphins’ strongest positional groups and most in-depth units, with former Jacksonville receiver Allen Hurns and 2017 seventh-rounder Isaiah Ford also competing for snaps in the lineup. No matter who lines up as a starter at receiver this season, they will be making big plays for quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa.
In addition to the receivers, the secondary is also one of the strongest positional groups for the Dolphins heading into 2020. The team will be moving forward without former star Reshad Jones at safety, but there is plenty of depth and star power to keep them thriving. Miami returns one of the better young boundary corners in the league in Xavien Howard. And this season, former Dallas Cowboy and top free-agent signee, Byron Jones, joins Howard on the outside.
Both players were recently selected to represent the Dolphins in the PFN Top 100 Players of 2020. These two-star corners will give quarterbacks of the AFC nightmares, and that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of this talented defensive backfield. Nik Needham was outstanding as a surprise undrafted free agent starter last season. At the same time, Eric Rowe made a successful transition from corner to safety after arriving from New England. Bobby McCain and rookie Brandon Jones round out a supremely talented secondary that could be among the best in 2020.
How can the team get more out Jakeem Grant, and can he fulfill a Tyreek Hill-like role?
As an explosive return man and gadget prospect out of Texas Tech in 2016, Grant has been an exciting young player for the Dolphins through his first few seasons. However, he has only filled a part-time role thus far. That could all change in 2020, as the team may rely heavily on Grant early in the season with Williams and Wilson returning from injury.
Grant has shown some ability on the field in limited action but could grow into a full-time player if given a chance this season. His skill-set is comparable to a poor-mans version of Chiefs’ dynamo Tyreek Hill. His short-area quickness, speed, and explosive bursts have earned Hill a big name early on in his career, and Grant displays some of those same qualities with Miami.
If he can capitalize on his early opportunities, he could provide similar value to Hill, both in the return game and as an offensive weapon to improve an already strong receiver group for the Dolphins in 2020.
What are the expectations for Tua Tagovailoa in 2020?
When the Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa out of Alabama with the number five overall pick, most fans envisioned him sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick for the start of 2020 and possibly even the duration of the year. But with the news that dropped Wednesday regarding Tagovailoa’s clean bill of health, anticipation is beginning to grow for him to begin the season in Miami as the starter.
As a former national champion and a first-round draft pick, the talent and pedigree for Tagovailoa are clear. If he can show the team he can remain healthy through training camp, there will be little reason for the Dolphins to wait on their future star signal-caller. The quarterback position could end up being one of the strongest positional groups on the Dolphins team in 2020, thanks to Tagovailoa.
The fans are yearning for the heir apparent to Dan Marino in Miami and their next star quarterback, meaning we could see Tagovailoa sooner than later as the Dolphins’ starter. I would not be surprised to see Tagovailoa under center for Week 1 at New England.
Scott Gorman is a lead writer for PFN covering the Miami Dolphins. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.