Happy Independence Day everyone! It’s the 4th of July, and that means many Americans are off work, by the pool, barbecuing in the sun, and missing football. It also means we’re just about two months away from the start of the NFL regular season. With training camp fast approaching and football fans waiting not-so patiently for opening day, I thought it’d be a good time to release four bold predictions for the upcoming season.
Warning: These predictions are meant to be BOLD. I’m sure many of you will disagree with my hot takes... so the comments section and @HierJustin on Twitter are the place to go!
Brian Flores leads the Miami Dolphins to two straight wins to open the season.
The Dolphins have one of the most difficult slates of games at the beginning of the season, as the ‘Fins will take on four playoff teams in the month of September. The Dolphins’ first four opponents are the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Chargers, in that order. With all four of those teams having gone 10-6 or better during the 2018 season, many pundits have predicted that Miami will start the season 0-4.
The Ravens and Patriots will both be visiting Hard Rock Stadium and will have to fend off the South Florida heat, something that is far more easily said than done. Unfortunately, it seems as though that is the only advantage Miami will have given the fact that, on paper, both the Ravens and Patriots are boasting far more proven talent than the Dolphins at most positions. However, given that this is a “bold predictions” article, I’m counting on Miami’s unproven but promising young talent along with an unproven but promising young head coach to surprise John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick to take the first two games of the season. Yes, I see Miami going into Week 3 with a better record than the Patriots.
Minkah Fitzpatrick leads the Dolphins in interceptions.
Last season, cornerback Xavien Howard burst onto the scene with an incredible breakout season that launched him into the upper echelon of starting NFL cornerbacks. He also earned himself the richest contract extension for any cornerback in NFL history. That type of attention and success, along with the fact that Howard led the league with seven interceptions last season, will have opposing quarterbacks hesitant to throw his way this season. That means more footballs will be thrown towards Miami’s other defensive backs.
In comes Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had an up-and-down, albeit, very promising rookie season. The young defensive back played in all 16 games, starting 11, and racked up 80 tackles, nine passes defended, and two picks. This year, with Brian Flores running the show and Fitzpatrick bound to be the defense’s Swiss Army Knife, moving around the field and keeping opposing offenses off balance, I believe the sophomore safety is destined for an uptick in production.
Yes, the Dolphins have other high level talents at defensive back in Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, and Bobby McCain, but Fitzpatrick is a future face of the franchise and one of the most intelligent players to come through Miami in a while. His former college coach, Nick Saban, said that Fitzpatrick is one of the best players he’s ever coached in terms of preparation and attention to detail. That kind of work pays off when you’re as physically talented as Fitzpatrick. With his ability to play all over the field, I think Fitzpatrick will play almost every down this season, leading to enough opportunities to lead the team in takeaways.
Josh Rosen throws at least twice as many touchdowns as interceptions.
Now read that one carefully, because I’m not predicting a 35 touchdown season for Josh Rosen by any stretch of the imagination. These are bold predictions, not insane ones. I simply believe that Rosen will be safer with the ball than last season, much safer. It’s his second year in the NFL, and though he may be with a new team, the sophomore quarterback should feel far more acclimated to the game than he did with the Cardinals.
Rosen was drafted so highly because scouts believed he was ready for the speed and complexity of the pro game. Now that Rosen is with the Dolphins, Miami’s coaches are encouraging Rosen’s inquisitive nature in the film room, something I believe will lead the young passer to feel more comfortable not only in his own skin, but on the field as well.
With the Dolphins bound to lean on the speed of players like Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant, I think the offense’s scheme will play to Rosen’s strengths, having him to use his ability to make quick rhythm throws towards the middle of the field, and asking him to protect the football and let his playmakers do what they do best, make plays. If Rosen can throw 20+ touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions, he’ll be well on his way to moving his career trajectory upward.
Charles Harris earns double-digit sacks.
This is the point of the article where y’all start to laugh in my face. “What!?” I hear you screaming. “Charles Harris, the guy who’s totaled just three sacks in his first two seasons, will yield 10+ sacks this year!?” I don’t blame you for reacting that way, but I’m going bold for prediction number four.
We’ve heard over and over again by now that the Dolphins will be using a hybrid defense that switches between a 3-4 base and a 4-3 base. That means Harris, who has been playing only at defensive end through his first two seasons in the NFL, will go back to the roots that made him such a productive player at Missouri, and will be taking snaps at outside linebacker. Harris’ ability to play in space and make plays not only rushing the passer, but in coverage as well, was noted by scouts when the young defender came out of college. That ability should allow Miami’s defensive coaches to feel comfortable playing Harris as a 3-4 OLB.
With that in mind, I believe that allowing Harris to move around the field and use his speed and agility to get to the quarterback will lead to more productivity. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the fact that Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, and Andre Branch are no longer in South Florida. Harris should top Miami’s depth chart at edge rusher, meaning he’ll get plenty of opportunities to make plays. When Harris was at Missouri and played many snaps at OLB he totaled 16 sacks over his final two seasons. I’m betting on Miami’s coaching and scheme change to pay huge dividends, allowing Harris to surpass even his best collegiate production.