The Miami Dolphins had a very real chance to pull off perhaps the greatest Wild Card round upset in NFL history in January.
But their most consistent shortcoming of 2022 flared up at the worst possible surprise.
So it was not at all surprising — but rather more than a little reassuring — that coach Mike McDaniel identified that concern as a high-priority issue heading into a 2023 season brimming with expectations.
Miami Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel on What Must Improve in 2023
McDaniel’s admission came midway through a lengthy answer to the following question during his news conference ahead of the Dolphins’ Tuesday OTA practice:
What needs to improve in Year 2?
“An easy one was pre-snap penalties,” McDaniel replied. “We were the worst at that. So got a lot of ways to improve there.”
Do they ever. The Dolphins were tied for fourth in total penalties (111) in 2022, and fifth in penalty yards (881). Those 111 penalties include 18 false starts, six offsides calls, and — most troubling — eight delay of games.
That was just in the regular season.
In the Dolphins’ playoff loss to the Bills, they committed seven penalties — including six pre-snap infractions. The last of which? A drive-killing delay of game call on Miami’s final possession.
McDaniel said after the game that cleaning up his team’s game operation was a huge point of emphasis this offseason. That hasn’t changed in the four months since.
More Mike McDaniel From Miami Dolphins OTAs
On balance, McDaniel deserves a passing grade for his first year. He not only made the playoffs in his first year, but took the Bills to the brink in their postseason meeting.
And he did that without Tua Tagovailoa, who missed extended time due to two stints in the concussion protocol.
But he knows that far more is expected in Year 2. And he approached the winter and spring with that in mind.
“It was kind of a critical offseason for me,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t look at our offense, and say, ‘Wow, we did all this stuff good.’ I saw all the stuff that we could improve upon. Now, the stuff that the players and coaches did last year, you shouldn’t minimize that because there was substantial growth, to the tune of improving – quick math – 25 spots. And in your league-wide ranking, that should never be minimized. But that’s not where we’re trying to go. So the coaching staff was ready for the players to get back and realistically, players love direction. ‘We need to be better’ only goes so far.
“… Taking a step back, I think affords people a little more open-mindedness,” McDaniel continued. “And all I’ve seen is an offense, I’ve seen a team that isn’t satisfied with where they’re at. They see 2023 is an opportunity to really move past where we were last year. And that’s the way they’ve approached it.”
The message seems to have gotten through.
Said Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle: “I felt like we had gotten into a groove mid-season and then fell off from it later on. So really just finding that groove again, staying consistent throughout the whole year each and every week so just getting that groove and staying consistent with it.”
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