What does 2020 have in store for the Miami Dolphins in terms of a win total? Last offseason, the Dolphins organization went through a major reconstruction in the front office and coaching staff. Out were Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase, the former replaced from within by longtime scout turned GM Chris Grier.
The latter jettisoned to the New York Jets during a game of AFC East musical chairs that saw former New England Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores taking over the head coaching responsibilities in Miami. Also gone was Ryan Tannehill, leaving a void at the quarterback position and opening the floodgates for the “Tank for Tua” movement.
While the fan base pined for the Alabama signal-caller, the coaching staff had other plans. An 0-7 dismal start to the 2019 regular season was just about what everyone expected from a team that clearly had their sights on the future.
A funny thing happened on the way to the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, though. The misfit Dolphins began to pull off upset after upset en route to a surprising 5-11 record and subsequently being forced to pick after four other teams in the aforementioned draft.
Led by the heroics of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami won three of their final five games much to the dismay of a portion of Dolphins fans fearing these “meaningless” victories would cost the team their franchise quarterback. Flores wasn’t interested in any of that; however, instead, he focused on building a winning culture in Miami.
A severe hip injury in college caused Tua Tagovailoa to slip to the Dolphins at the fifth pick in the draft, and suddenly the future looks sunny again in South Beach. The Dolphins win total in 2020 is projected at either 6 or 6.5 total wins, depending on your bookmaker of choice.
As currently constructed, do the Dolphins have enough firepower to reach that total and perhaps even challenge for the AFC East division title?
Miami Dolphins Offseason Breakdown
The most significant offseason move for the Dolphins is also the most obvious one. The selection of Tagovailoa with the 5th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft will have a lasting impact on this organization for better or worse. Acquiring the franchise’s first superstar since Dan Marino has gotten the majority of the attention this spring, making it easy to forget there was also a plethora of coaching changes for the upcoming season.
Flores’ decision to part ways with Chad O’Shea as offensive coordinator was the most surprising move, at least initially. O’Shea was a fellow former Patriot staff member but a first-time offensive coordinator. The word out of Miami is that not only did younger players have difficulty picking up O’Shea’s complex offensive system, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick may not have been his biggest fan either.
Now, Fitzpatrick will be reunited with Chan Gailey, who he played under during prior stints with both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Gailey has been out of football the past few seasons, although he is just the type of experienced locker room voice Flores has desired since Jim Caldwell was forced to step away with health concerns. 40-year coaching veteran Steve Marshall was also brought on to be the offensive line coach, a job he held with the Jets during the same time Gailey was there five years ago.
On the other side of the football, the Dolphins promoted Josh Boyer from within to become the next defensive coordinator. Boyer fills the void left when Patrick Graham left to join Joe Judge’s staff with the New York Giants. Most of Boyer’s experience has come working with secondaries.
While he is inexperienced in terms of being a coordinator, he and Flores have a relationship dating back over a decade during their time in New England with the Patriots. It’s also safe to assume that Flores will have a hand in most defensive decisions.
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Additions and Departures
Some people assumed this would be the year the Dolphins would curb spending and rebuild extensively through the NFL Draft. Those people underestimated Stephen Ross and his desire to hold on to the free agency spending crown. The Dolphins made a significant splash right away by making Byron Jones the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL with a five year, $82.5 million deal.
Jones joins Xavien Howard to form perhaps the top cornerback duo in the entire league, assuming Howard returns to form after missing much of the 2019 regular season with a knee injury.
Miami doubled down on a position of strength in the 2020 NFL Draft, selecting Noah Igbinoghene out of Auburn late in the first round. Igbinoghene had a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 8.05 (15th in the class), including marks of “great” in explosion, but only “okay” in terms of agility. He is a converted wide receiver, so he is still raw at the position, and you have to wonder about his ability to secure interceptions at the next level.
Igbinoghene is seen as an unpolished product who flashes tremendous upside based on versatility. The Dolphins have even been mentioned as a possible destination for current free agent Logan Ryan who remains on the market. If Miami were able to land Ryan with a reasonable contract, they would have an embarrassment of riches at the cornerback position.
Kyle Van Noy
Coach Flores and the Dolphins front office were able to poach Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy from New England. The versatile edge rusher signed a four year, $51 million contract, and there will be obvious questions about multi-year deals with defensive weapons coming from the Bill Belichick system.
That’s because so many of them seem to underachieve away from New England. That said, Flores deserves the benefit of the doubt in terms of putting Van Noy in a position to continue being a productive player along the line of scrimmage.
Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson
Joining Van Noy in the front seven are Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson. The former second and first-round draft picks respectively were brought on to provide consistency and depth along the line. Neither player is a dominant pass rusher, although both of their average sack totals would have led a Dolphins team that simply could not get to the quarterback last season.
Miami’s 2019 sack leader – Taco Charlton – was unsigned in the offseason and has since found a new home with the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Miami’s Offensive Line Additions
After taking Tagovailoa with the 5th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Dolphins proceeded to attempt to build a wall to protect him. In total, Miami selected four offensive linemen in the draft, including USC tackle Austin Jackson in the middle of round one. Robert Hunt is a mauler out of Louisiana-Lafayette who will attempt to start at guard for the Dolphins as well after being chosen in the second round.
Miami also added another former Patriot in their new center, Ted Karras, in free agency, signing a one year deal to be a short term solution in the middle of the offensive line. The most eye-opening of any move up front was the $30 million the Dolphins gave Ereck Flowers. After an inauspicious start to his career in New York with the Giants, Flowers transitioned from playing tackle to guard with the Redskins in 2019 and subsequently had his best season by far as a professional.
Jordan Howard and Matt Breida
Running behind this new offensive line in 2020 will be the new age “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. While many Dolphins fans had hoped Miami might select someone like J.K. Dobbins or D’Andre Swift early in the draft, the Dolphins instead chose to give up a mid-round pick to acquire the speedster Breida from the San Francisco 49ers.
Breida and his 5.1 yards per carry will share touches with Howard, who surprisingly has the third-most rushing yards in the NFL since 2016. The Dolphins hope this combination of free agency additions and NFL draft selections can contribute surpassing their win total in a post-Tom Brady AFC East.
While the offensive line and backfield in Miami have gone through significant reconstruction this offseason, the Dolphins return most of their key skill position players. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen both figure to be back in aqua and orange this season, with Fitzpatrick the early favorite to start in week one of the regular season.
“Fitzmagic” started 13 games for the Miami Dolphins last season, putting up a respectable 3,529 yards and 20 touchdown passes while laughably leading the team in rushing.
After the Kenyan Drake trade to Arizona last November, the running back job was Kalen Ballage’s for the taking. A 1.8 yard per rush average did little to provide much faith from Dolphins fans or the front office. With Howard and Breida now on the roster in addition to Patrick Laird and the drafting of Navy weapon Malcom Perry, there’s no guarantee Ballage even makes the roster by the start of the regular season.
Miami’s Wide Receivers
Miami brings back a talented but unheralded group of pass catchers for Fitzpatrick and eventually Tua. Undrafted rookie Preston Williams was a preseason revelation and continued to be a force through the early part of the regular season as well.
“The Unicorn” put up 428 yards and 3 touchdowns on 32 catches through eight games before tearing his ACL on a punt return. Once Williams went down, DeVante Parker suddenly broke out and finally lived up to his first-round pedigree.
Parker and Fitzpatrick seemed to grow more comfortable with each other each week, with Parker eventually putting up enormous fantasy numbers against the Eagles at home in the throwback uniforms and on the road in New England in a game where he clearly outplayed All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Parker put up over 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns, both career highs. Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant both return to round out the wide receiver room after injuries forced them to miss time in 2019.
Another bright spot for the Dolphins down the stretch last season was the emergence of Mike Gesicki in the passing game. After a disappointing rookie season, the athletic freak out of Penn State came on strong in 2019, scoring five touchdowns in the final six games of the season, including the game-winner in Foxboro in week 17. If Gesicki continues his upward trend, Miami might surprise some teams this year.
The Dolphins defense last season was ranked at or near the bottom in nearly all important metrics. They gave up over 30 points per game and created only 18 turnovers throughout the season. Christian Wilkins and Devon Godchaux will be joined by Alabama second-round pick Raekwon Davis on a defensive line that needs to improve both against the run and in creating pressure up front on opposing passers.
Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel, and Andrew Van Ginkel all return in one capacity or another in the Miami linebacking unit. This group appears to have far more depth than in 2019 and should benefit from scheme rotations.
In the secondary, Xavien Howard returns from his injury after Miami was forced to attempt to fill his role with mediocre talent at the tail end of last season. The starting nickel and safety positions on this team could be filled by any combination of returning players, including Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, and Nik Needham, among others.
Dolphins Strength of Schedule Breakdown
According to the Warren Sharp Strength of Schedule metrics, which favor Las Vegas win totals over last season’s final standings, the Dolphins have the 12th easiest schedule in the NFL for the 2020 season. Miami opens the season on the road against the Patriots before returning home for another divisional match-up with the Buffalo Bills.
Four of the first six games for the Dolphins in 2020 come away from Miami, including their only prime time game on short rest against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night in Week 3.
If the Dolphins can survive that initial onslaught, which includes an October road trip to San Francisco and Denver, there are some winnable games in November and early December.
Miami will host the Los Angeles teams in consecutive weeks in 11 am West Coast kickoff times before Joe Burrow, and the Cincinnati Bengals come to South Beach in Week 13. Could that be a potential showdown between former SEC quarterbacks featuring Burrow and Tua?
The weirdest schedule quirk for the Dolphins this season comes during November when Sam Darnold and the New York Jets arrive in Miami for a Week 10 divisional battle. The two long-time AFC East foes will then share the same bye week before playing against each other in a second straight game on Thanksgiving weekend in the Meadowlands.
The Dolphins finish the season on another two-game road trip to Las Vegas and Buffalo. The Week 17 game against the Bills is likely the only chance for inclement weather to play a role in any Dolphins road game this season.
Dolphins Season Long/Win Total Bets
The Miami Dolphins 2020 NFL win total currently sits at 6 regular-season wins on FanDuel and Bovada while 6.5 is the number of total wins posted on both DraftKings and MyBookie. The Dolphins season is difficult to project in part because of all the uncertainty surrounding Tua Tagovailoa at the quarterback position.
For as well as Ryan Fitzpatrick played down the stretch for Miami last year, his 2015 season with the New York Jets is the only winning record on his resume. Will Tua take over at some point in the regular season, and if so, how will that impact the Dolphins win total?
I believe you have to analyze this season and the NFL futures market under the assumption that Fitzpatrick does indeed open the season as the Dolphins starter. If he and coach Flores were able to scrape together five wins last year surrounded by a roster depleted by injury, what is reasonable to expect out of Miami after all of their offseason additions?
I suspect this is about a .500 football team in 2020 with the possibility to even challenge for the extra Wild-Card spot if things were to fall right.
If you are really high on the Dolphins this season, you can grab them to make the postseason at +410 odds on FanDuel. FanDuel also offers the best number on Miami to win the AFC East at +750. Overall, I suspect the six total wins is too low for a Miami Dolphins team that appears to be trending in the right direction in a division for the taking.
I can wager on the Over 6 wins at a -135 price and push if Miami finishes the season 6-10. However, I believe the value lies in taking Over 6.5 wins at +118 odds on DraftKings. In this case, I’ll pass on the opportunity to push the wager in exchange for a more robust payout when the Dolphins finish 7-9 or better this coming 2020 season.
Official bet: Miami Dolphins 2020 Win Total Over 6.5 (+118) for 1 Unit
Christopher Smith is the senior betting analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSmithPFN for upcoming analysis. Also, make sure to follow the betting group @PFNBets for analysis from all of our writers heading into the 2020 season.