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Signing Private Ryan

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The symmetry of the Miami Dolphins’ offseason has thus far been striking. The team’s elder statesman on defense, Cameron Wake, who came out of college in 2005, has been replaced by Miami’s new elder statesman on offense, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who also came out of the college ranks in 2005. Both Wake and former Dolphins starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, are now in Tennessee, having left the site of the ‘Miami Miracle’ for the stadium in which the ‘Music City Miracle’ unfolded nineteen years ago.

Much has been made of Fitzpatrick’s gaudy passing stats with Tampa Bay last year -- he averaged a full two yards more per attempt than Tannehill, while still having a higher completion percentage -- but he had a far superior supporting cast with the Buccaneers than he’ll have with the Dolphins this season. Wideout DeSean Jackson is a three time Pro Bowler, and has been clocked at a blistering 4.35 in the forty, while two time Pro Bowler Mike Evans had more than 1500 receiving yards and eight touchdowns for Tampa Bay last season. Tight end O.J. Howard is an emerging star. And that’s before we even begin to talk about the state of the Dolphins’ offensive line. I’ve read comments on here that Fitzpatrick might lead Miami to as many as seven or eight wins, but the only way he wins that many games is if he amasses them over a two year period. The Dolphins’ ceiling for wins in 2019 is four, at the absolute most, which would almost certainly garner them a top three pick in the first round of 2020. In fact, when I look at the teams Miami has to play this season, I’m not sure I see any wins, but you figure they’ve got to at least win a couple of them somewhere. The Jets and Bills both have a lot more talent than the Dolphins, yet both teams will pick ahead of us in the draft next month. Where would Miami get even four wins? From New England? How about Pittsburgh, Baltimore or the suddenly loaded Cleveland Browns? Philadelphia, Washington, Dallas or the New York Giants? They won’t be able to stop Saquon Barkley and they certainly won’t be able to hold Ezekiel Elliott under 150 rushing yards, either. True enough, the Dolphins appear to have a much better coaching staff than they’ve had in the recent past, but this is their first season together, and you still have to have the players to execute what you’re trying to do.

Which brings us back to Fitzpatrick. His signing by the front office was a master stroke, in my opinion. If, from a tactical standpoint, going 8-8 is the worst record an NFL team can have, from a business, bottom line perspective, being boring is the worst thing a team can be, since, at the end of the day, this is still entertainment. Win or lose, and figures to be mostly ‘lose’ this year, you can rest assured that the Miami Dolphins will not be a boring team in 2019. While I agree wholeheartedly with the team’s strategy of positioning themselves for a top QB next year, you also don’t want to alienate the fans by putting a crap product on the field every week. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dolphins at times resemble some of those late 80’s teams, when they had Dan Marino at quarterback and a talented group of receivers and OL but virtually nothing else. Plan on seeing a lot of games in which Miami is down by two or three touchdowns, and Fitzpatrick is throwing his bombs downfield, frantically trying to bring them back. Chris Grier and company look to have managed to walk the fine line between fielding a competitive team this season, yet making sure that they don’t win too many games and thus ruin their chances for landing a top signal caller thirteen months from now. From a fan’s standpoint, you really can’t ask for much more than that. What they must do now is fortify the offensive line and front seven on defense while still accumulating as many draft picks as possible the next two years. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.