When Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa steps up to the line of scrimmage in 2021 he will see a handful of new faces as general manager Chris Grier focused on giving the offense a boost in the offseason.
From drafting Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick in the 2021 NFL draft to signing a handful of receivers in free agency, the team’s focus was on giving their franchise quarterback more weapons.
Here are three players who could help the Miami Dolphins improve on their 5.3 yards per play in 2020 — which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
The Dolphins struggled to consistently string together drives throughout the season, finishing the year with an average of 63.8 plays per game, ranking 20th among the NFL’s 32 teams.
The Dolphins converted just under five third downs per game, ranking 23rd in the league. Miami did finish the regular season on a strong winning streak, but early in the season, against the Seattle Seahawks, the team had to settle for five field goals as they struggled to convert third downs.
Bringing in Malcolm Brown, 4.1 yards per carry in 2020, gives the Dolphins some much-needed depth and a physical back capable of moving the sticks in short-yardage situations — a role Jordan Howard struggled with a season ago.
Myles Gaskin stole the starting job in 2020, but happened to play in just 10 games. There is no disputing that Gaskin is the team’s starter, but the addition of Brown provides the running back group with some experienced depth, something that was missing last year.
This pick may seem like it is coming out of left field — because it is — but hear me out. The Dolphins tight end room combined for 91 receptions and 1,061 yards in 2020, both franchise records.
The trio of Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen scored 11 touchdowns — a franchise tight end record. Long, drafted in the third round, will have an opportunity to push each of these three tight ends after moving the sticks on 60 percent of his catches as a junior at Boston College.
Despite a change at offensive coordinator, Miami loves to get the tight ends involved in the offense. Long can attack the seam and can gain separation out of his breaks — a great option for quarterbacks moving out of the pocket.
Now, I am not saying Long will push Mike Gesicki as the team’s top tight end, but he could become an interesting part of the offense, even in his rookie year. As I mentioned above, the Dolphins struggled to move the sticks in the red zone and had to settle for field goals more than they’d prefer.
Long fits the mold, especially early in his career, as Miami’s tight end who just happens to be sitting all alone in the back of the end zone while defenses focus on the likes of Gesicki and DeVante Parker.
Jaylen Waddle/Will Fuller
These two making Tagovailoa’s sophomore year a bit smoother seems like a no-brainer. Two speedy playmakers fit exactly what Tagovailoa needs to be at his absolute best at the NFL level. One of the biggest complaints about Miami’s offense in 2020 is the lack of separation.
In fact, over 29 percent of Miami’s targets to wide receivers were thrown into tight windows, per Next Gen Stats. While the Dolphins led the league in that category there is some reason to believe that the offense will still feature throws into tight windows — and that could be a good thing.
Tagovailoa is at his best when he can identify one-on-one matchups and pick apart defenses with his accuracy. What the Dolphins lacked was a player who could make a first defender miss and as a result, gain yardage in chunks. Tagovailoa has the precision to hit the tight windows and the offense now features athletes who can make big things happen after the catch.
Of course, the team doesn’t want the defense blanketing wide receivers, but throwing into these tight windows and allowing receivers to make a move as the Dolphins look to improve on being 23rd in yards after the catch in 2020.