Last month we touched on the first four games of the Miami Dolphins schedule for the 2020 season, predicting a lamentable 1-3 start. From here we move forward into the second quarter of the season, where teams typically start to discover their season identity and establish themselves. Can Miami bring it together and improve?
Week Five: @ San Francisco (1-3)
Miami loses. Moving on.
Okay okay, jokes aside, travelling across the country to play the 2019 Super Bowl runner ups in their home stadium with a young team and an uncertain identity is not a recipe for success. Miami may surprise us by hanging around a bit, but Shanahan and the 49ers will take the win here and move on, pounding the young Miami defense into the ground with the Shanahan experience. Nothing to see here.
Week Six: @ Denver (1-4)
This match up is potentially a lot more intriguing.
Playing the Broncos at home in October is preferable to later, colder months, and Denver is in a similar position to Miami. A young and promising, but unproven, QB behind center, with a strong showing in an offseason that addressed both sides of the ball.
The additions of Jerry Jeudy, Melvin Gordon, and multiple offensive linemen should spice up Denver’s offense. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the additions of A.J. Bouye and Jurrel Casey should improve what was an above-average defense in 2019.
Miami’s offense will likely struggle against that defense. With what PFF called the 8th best safety duo in the league (note, this was prior to the departure of Jamal Adams from the #4 Jets duo), and the loss of wideouts Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns to Covid Opt out, the Dolphins will have to take advantage of a weaker cornerback group. Expect to see plenty of Chan Gailey‘s RPO playcalling and creative route scheming.
In an away game that should go down to the wire, I think the Dolphins schedule turns up a win here. Given the improvements to their secondary and a young Drew Lock who has little NFL experience, I think the Fins squeeze by.
Week seven: vs Chargers (2-4)
Next on the Dolphins’ schedule, the LA Chargers. The Chargers are another team that’s hard to judge. Similarly to Miami, they have a young and talented rookie behind a seasoned journeyman on a team that hovers on the cusp of playoff quality but never seems to put it together.
The QB competition between Tyrod Taylor and rookie Justin Herbert will be the thing to watch here. Taylor’s mobility reflects a problem the Miami defense struggled with mightily last year, though additions like linebacker Kyle Van Noy will hopefully help. Herbert could potentially be a preferable option for a Miami defense stacked with secondary talent. Rookie mistakes might mean a wealth of turnovers, giving whoever is behind center at that point for Miami will have a much easier time.
By week seven, I can see Herbert taking center stage, and I’m giving this to Miami over the former Oregon star.
Week eight: vs Rams (3-4)
LA teams visit Miami in back to back weeks with the LA Rams going coast to coast in week eight.
The Rams had a disappointing season last year, going 9-7 and placing third in the incredibly competitive NFC west. This marked Sean McVay’s first season as head coach without seeing the playoffs, as well. While the departure of Todd Gurley might inspire confidence in some, I suspect that McVay has been planning for his absence, and replacing him with second round pick Cam Akers will most likely serve as a minor hiccup for this offense.
Miami’s offense is going to be rough to watch. Perennial Pro Bowler Aaron Donald is going to feast on this weak and inexperienced offensive line, while the Dolphin’s weakened wide receiver lineup will struggle against a lively secondary. It won’t be a shut-out, but it seems unlikely that the Miami will keep up with the Rams on the scoreboard.
Anticipate McVay coming into Miami ready to prove his longevity as a coach and overwhelm a young Miami D. The Dolphins split against Los Angeles teams.
Second quarter season recap ( 3-5)
So at the halfway point in our imaginary season, the Dolphins sit at three wins, five losses. Not the most beautiful record at eight weeks, but considering what the team is working with, not bad either.
Covid-19 will continue to disrupt things, which will inhibit young teams like the Dolphins more than older, more established rosters. And so, it will take them longer to gel into established units than some other teams. All in all, not too disappointing.
Stay tuned for parts three and four, soon.