Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: It’s finally football season. With each passing year, the days feel shorter, but the wait for the NFL to come back seems inexplicably longer. Thankfully, as Bruce Buffer would say, “Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiits TIME!”
Cribbing directly from Patrick Koerbler at Black Shoes Diaries, I wanted to start an annual tradition of listing five things that I think I think (I’m far less commital than he is) about the Miami Dolphins before the season begins. I won’t take the easy ones like Miami winning the Superbowl and I’ll try to refrain from anything completely outlandish like the Dolphins losing any games. Consider me Nostradumbass. Pretty sure that’s how you spell it.
Tua Tagovailoa Will Start All 17 Games
That’s right, not Tua Tannehill or Tua Fitzpatrick, but THE Tua Tagovailoa. On the field. All the time. Durability was a major, if not the primary, concern for Tua heading into the 2020 draft. He had been dinged up here and there throughout his earlier career and had just suffered a season-ending hip injury from which real doctors said he would take significant time to recover and keyboard doctors said would turn him into a boneless puddle of skin doomed to wander the earth for all eternity. One point to the real doctors. So far (knock on Tua’s wood hip), he seems to be feeling more like Alabama Tua. I don’t have the radar gun data to back it up, but watching his throws in the preseason is enough to see a change in mechanics for the better. Just like any NFL player, he could suffer an unlucky injury (see: the entire Ravens backfield), but I’m taking the position that he’ll show intelligence in avoiding huge hits and toughness in taking the occasional whomping. A full 2021 season will help put Tua’s ‘injury prone’ narrative to bed.
Liam Eichenberg Will Start on the Offensive Line in 2021
This might not be as much a ringing endorsement for Liam Eichenberg, the 2021 second-round pick from Notre Dame, as it is an indictment of Austin Jackson, the 2020 first-round pick from USC. Jackson had a rough preseason and then went ahead and got on the COVID reserve list right before the opener. It’s unclear if he’ll have a chance to play Week One or not, but I say it’s immaterial. Whether Eichenberg takes over at his natural LT position as Jackson’s replacement, supplants Jackson as the new LT of the future, or finds his way to RT (hell, maybe even LG where he spent some of training camp), I foresee Eichenberg sneaking onto the O line and staying put. I don’t know if I like our offensive line quite yet, but I like Eich.
Andrew Van Ginkel Will Lead the Dolphins in Sacks
This one is a doozy. In 2020, Emmanuel Ogbah led Miami with 9 sacks, followed by Jerome Baker with 7, and current New England *Patriot Kyle Van Noy with 6. Coming in fourth was the Frisky Wiscy (2019 5th round pick from Wisconsin) Andrew Van Ginkel, affectionately known to no one as The Ginkster. Three of the top four sack leaders in Coach Flores’ defense play linebacker. Van Noy is gone and Baker is the all around, do everything linebacker who’s often asked to drop into coverage. If offensive coordinators try to inhibit Ogbah’s pass rush, I look to AVG to pick up the slack. Can I be so bold as to predict double digits sacks for Sir Ginkman? Why not? None of this matters. AVG: 10 sacks in 2021.
The Dolphins Will Have Three Pro Bowlers
Cornerback Xavien Howard was the only Dolphin to make the John Madden NFL Football Popularity Contest roster in 2020. Meanwhile, Miami had three players (Howard, kicker Jason Sanders, and returner Jakeem Grant) make the AP 1st All Pro Team, which most would argue is the higher accomplishment. Still, Pro Bowl berths indicate an uptick in national recognition for a franchise and 2021 will be the year the Dolphins regain some clout. Miami has a few possible candidates: Howard and Byron Jones on the back end, Jerome Baker at linebacker, and Raekwon Davis in the middle of the defense. Wide receiver DeVante Parker, tight end Mike Gesicki, and a second-year-jump-straight-to-the-moon Tua could make it on the offensive side. Toss in Ace Sanders and Mighty Mouse and, baby, you got a stew going.
The Dolphins Will Make the Playoffs
I want to say we’ll win the division. I want to say we’ll win the Superbowl. But my more reasonable half forces me to land on making the playoffs. 11-6 with a Wildcard berth to back our way in and start making noise until a miraculous run to The Big Game? I’d certainly take it. Last year the Fins finished 10-6 and fell flat in a win-and-you’re-in game against Buffalo in Week 17. I don’t anticipate the coaching staff allowing that to happen again. Barely missing the playoffs in 2020 to middle of the hunt in 2021 to a deep run contending for the Superbowl in 2022. Where do I sign?
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