After a 10-6 season in 2020, the Miami Dolphins are on the fast track to being a serious threat in the AFC. As we approach the 2021 NFL Draft, few NFL teams are in a better situation than the Miami Dolphins, as their depth chart is full of talent ready to take the next step in their progression.
Miami Dolphins Depth Chart
Quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Jake Rudock, Reid Sinnett
Running Back: Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, Salvon Ahmed, Patrick Laird
Wide Receiver: DeVante Parker, Will Fuller V, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Albert Wilson, Robert Foster, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Perry, Mack Hollins, Kirk Merritt
Tight End: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen
Offensive Tackle: Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Jonathan Hubbard
Offensive Guard: Ereck Flowers, Jesse Davis, Solomon Kindley, Adam Pankey
Center: Matt Skura, Michael Deiter, Cameron Tom, Tyler Gauthier
Interior Defensive Line: Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Raekwon Davis, Benito Jones
EDGE: Emmanuel Ogbah, Adam Butler, Jason Strowbridge, Nick Coe, Jonathan Ledbetter, Tyshun Render
Linebacker: Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, Duke Riley, Calvin Munson, Elandon Roberts, Vince Biegel, Kylan Johnson, Sam Eguavoen, Brennan Scarlett
Cornerback: Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, Nik Needham, Jamal Perry, Justin Coleman, Javaris Davis
Safety: Eric Rowe, Brandon Jones, Bobby McCain, Clayton Fejedelem, Brian Cole II, Nate Holley
Kicker: Jason Sanders
Punter: Michael Palardy
Long Snapper: Blake Ferguson
Miami Dolphins Depth Chart Analysis | Offense
Depending on who you listen to and what day of the week it is, you will get a different answer regarding the future of Tua Tagovailoa for 2021 and beyond. Things would suggest he is the future, but in the NFL, the minute you think you know what is happening, you don’t. What we do know is questions are surrounding Tua — that much is certain.
When the Dolphins needed a spark or a comeback last season, Tua was benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. At some point, Tua needs the reigns handed over to him so he can stop looking over his shoulder and lead the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart and be the QB1 once and for all.
With Fitzmagic now in the nation’s capital, the Dolphins needed a reliable QB2 on the depth chart just in case. So they turned to Jacoby Brissett. Brissett is no stranger to stepping up when needed. He memorably took over for the Colts when Andrew Luck surprised the world with his retirement.
In 2019, Brissett completed 272 of 447 attempts for 2,942 yards and 18 touchdowns. When/if Brissett comes in, the offense will not change much, for neither QB is an aggressive thrower like Fitzpatrick.
Given the Dolphins’ RB depth chart’s ambiguity in 2020, Myles Gaskin was a bit of a revelation for Miami. Gaskin set team-highs for the backfield in every category. He saw 142 rushes for 584 yards and 3 touchdowns while adding 41 receptions on 47 targets for 388 yards and 2 more scores. While he remains relatively uncontested, I do not expect it to stay that way for long.
During free agency, the Dolphins added to their depth chart with former Rams RB Malcolm Brown. Brown rushed for 419 yards and 5 touchdowns on 101 carries for the Rams in 2020. He’s averaged 4.0 yards per rush across six seasons with the Rams. With the rise of Cam Akers in the latter half of the season, Brown’s workload crippled, rushing just 26 times from Week 10 through Week 17.
Signed after the 49ers released him, UDFA Salvon Ahmed worked his way into the Miami rotation last season. Ahmed finished the season with 380 total yards and 3 touchdowns across six games.
Which DeVante Parker are the Dolphins getting? While he did have 793 yards and 4 touchdowns, it significantly fell off from his fifth-year breakout. We also have to factor in who is at QB. With Tua under center, Parker averaged 7.1 targets, 3.6 receptions, and 43.1 yards per game. Meanwhile, in eight games with Fitzpatrick, he averaged 7.6 targets, 5.6 receptions, and 74.6 yards per game. That’s a difference of 23 receptions and 505 yards over a 16-game pace.
The Miami Dolphins’ depth chart needed more WR help, and they got that with Will Fuller V. He signed a one-year, $10 million deal with incentives. Finally able to stay healthy, Fuller set career-highs in receptions (53), receiving yards (879), and touchdowns (8) across 11 games. He served five of his six-game suspension for PEDs in 2020 and will miss Week 1.
If you need a wide receiver for the first eight games, Preston Williams is your man. Anything past that, I’m sorry about your luck. In his first two years, Williams has yet to play in more than eight games. In 2019, it was a torn ACL. Last year, a foot injury ended his season.
Jakeem Grant is the primary returner; he also saw some work as the fourth or fifth option in the passing game. His 54 targets, 36 receptions, and 373 yards set new career-high totals.
One of the most athletic tight ends in the NFL, Mike Gesicki played in the slot more than any other TE in the NFL last season. While he was 12th in the NFL in targets (85) and receptions (53), Gesicki was fourth in yards with 723 and scored 6 touchdowns.
Durham Smythe appeared in 15 games (13 starts) and caught 26 of 29 targets for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns, setting new career-highs.
Taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Austin Jackson played well, but no one would call him a difference-maker for the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart. However, he came in raw and developed during the season, where he started 12 games.
Another player entering their sophomore season is Robert Hunt. A second-round pick, Hunt is more than capable of stepping inside should the Dolphins add another tackle during the NFL Draft.
Ereck Flowers should be the starting left guard for the Dolphins. He will count $10 million against the cap in 2021, and that is not the type of money you leave on the bench — especially in this economy.
Jesse Davis has started in 15 or more games the last three years and is another player capable of playing either guard or tackle for the Dolphins based on need.
Solomon Kindley started in all 13 games before injuries shortened his rookie season. Playing on 448 pass-blocking snaps, Kindley allowed just 17 pressures.
A new addition to the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart is Matt Skura. A UDFA in 2017, Skura recorded 51 starts in his first four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
Michael Deiter, who started 15 games at guard as a rookie in 2019, appeared in only one game last season. He will likely be a rotational piece working along the interior of the offensive line.
Dolphins Analysis | Defense
Interior Defensive Line
The beauty of the Dolphins defense is players wind up all over the formations, which allows Brian Flores to get creative. What makes it less fun is for people like me trying to decipher the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart as we continuously see players lined up out of their listed position.
A 2019 first-round pick out of Clemson, Christian Wilkins dominated out of the gate. Playing 16 games and 729 snaps, Wilkins set the bar high for his sophomore season. In 2020, the production continued for Wilkins as he played in 14 games (12 starts). Missing two games due to a stint on the reserve list, Wilkins played on 62% of the defensive snaps while recording 47 tackles (28 solo), 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 4 tackles for a loss.
Clogging up the middle of the defense is sophomore Raekwon Davis. He played in all 16 games for the Dolphins last season, including 12 starts. He finished the year recording 40 tackles with 1 tackle for a loss.
In his third season out of Ferris State, Zach Sieler set new career-highs across the board. Playing in all 16 games while starting 8, Sieler accounted for 48 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, and 11 tackles for a loss. Additionally, Benito Jones was a midseason call-up and bounced back and forth between the active roster and practice squad. Jones appeared in six games and recorded 2 tackles, 1 for a loss.
In his first season on the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart, Emmanuel Ogbah was a disruptor on the field. He played in all 16 games (12 starts) and saw action on 793 defensive snaps (77%) while leading the Dolphins in pressures (36) and sacks (9). Ogbah also accounted for 42 tackles, 21 QB hits, and 6 tackles for a loss.
A former New England Patriot, Adam Butler will make his debut for the Dolphins this season. Originally a 2017 UDFA, Butler has appeared in 70 of a possible 71 games for the Patriots (playoffs included). During his time in Foxborough, Butler registered 17 sacks and 103 tackles.
The offseason’s lone trade for the Dolphins came with a familiar team, and no, he does not play QB. In the move, Houston sent LB Benardrick McKinney and a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Dolphins in exchange for Shaq Lawson and a 2021 sixth-round pick. McKinney, a Pro Bowler in 2018, played in only four games in 2020 before undergoing shoulder surgery.
Following Kyle Van Noy’s quasi-shocking release, players like Andrew Van Ginkel will have to step up in 2021. Luckily for the Dolphins, Van Ginkel appears to be a player who can do anything required. From run stuffing to block shedding, pass rushing to coverage, he is a versatile LB and likely made Van Noy’s release a bit easier of a pill to swallow for the Dolphins’ brass. Making 11 starts last season, Van Ginkel totaled 5.5 sacks, 48 tackles, 10 QB hits, 4 passes defensed, and returned a fumble 78 yards for a touchdown.
Miami’s tackle leader Jerome Baker (112) is a force to be reckoned with at the second level. Baker played in all 16 games while making 11 starts, totaling 7.0 sacks and 11 QB hits. Over the past two seasons, Baker has accounted for 238 tackles for the Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins also brought back a familiar face to their depth chart with LB Elandon Roberts’ re-signing on a one-year deal during free agency. Roberts played in 13 games with 11 starts for the Dolphins last year. He totaled 61 tackles (33 solo), 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery for Miami. His season was cut short, unfortunately, due to a “significant knee injury” he suffered in Week 16. Roberts will likely start the season on the PUP list.
It is hard to put into context just how incredible Xavien Howard was last season. A first-team All-Pro selection, Howard led the NFL with 10 interceptions, one shy of the franchise record. It is also up for debate when Howard started playing at 100% — he tested positive in August and was still potentially recovering from knee surgery, though he did start all 16 games. Whether or not he finishes the 2021 season on the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart remains to be seen.
When you have a lockdown corner on one side, QBs tend to look the other way, which happened to Byron Jones. Starting in all 14 games he appeared in, Jones allowed 5 touchdowns on 44 completed passes when targeted (60.3%) for 775 yards (a career-low). To make matters worse, the contract extension Jones signed before 2020 (five-year, $82.5 million deal with $57 million guaranteed) is the largest cap hit for a cornerback in the NFL in 2021.
Noah Igbinoghene, a 2020 rookie, started in two games for the Dolphins. He had 13 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and 2 fumble recoveries. With PFN’s Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline hearing that the Dolphins may invest in an early cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft, the second-year CB may find himself in a logjam for notoriety and playing time.
Miami placed an exclusive rights tender on Nik Needham during free agency. In two seasons with the Dolphins, Needham appeared in 28 games, starting 17 of them. In 2020, Needham recorded 58 total tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and 7 passes defensed.
A massive boost to the run defense, Eric Rowe was second on the team last season with 91 tackles (66 solo). Making 11 starts and appearing in 16 games, he recorded 11 passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
If you are going to be on the Miami Dolphins’ depth chart and play for Brian Flores, you better be willing to tackle. Brandon Jones personifies this mantra; he recorded 62 tackles (41 solo) as a rookie while starting in just four games and playing on 37% of the defensive snaps. Miami is excited about his development as he becomes an integral piece of their secondary.
Nearly a cap casualty, Bobby McCain will need to show an uptick in performance in 2021. While he did make 15 starts, he had just 1 interception with five passes defensed along with 46 tackles.
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