The Miami Dolphins have opened the 2022 training camp with the rookies in town and beginning to work. The veterans will join the festivities next week as the team begins their ramp up to the regular season. As with every team this time of year, there are hopes and expectations surrounding the Dolphins, but there are also questions that need to be answered.
For Miami, those questions come from many different places and in every aspect of the game. Here are our top five questions that need to be answered for the Dolphins.
1. Will the offensive line find their chemistry and play as a solid unit?
The main talking point around the national media is whether or not quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback and whether or not he will take the next step this year. That is important, and we will cover it shortly, but the most important questions the Dolphins have to answer is one they seem to have to answer every year: Will the offensive line play improve. After last year’s performance, improvement is all that is really important. Playing like a top unit would be great, but at this point, solid offensive line play will be a huge step forward. Adding Terron Armstead and Connor Williams is a great start to fixing the group, and Miami was, admittedly, relying on young players last year giving hope their experience from 2021 will turn into improved play in 2022. The fate of the Miami Dolphins this year may not be decided by Tagovailoa’s play, but on the five guys standing in front of him every snap.
2. Can Tua Tagovailoa become a franchise quarterback in year three?
During his first two years, Josh Allen threw for 5,163 yards with 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions on 56.3 percent completions for a 78.2 passer rating. In his third year, Allen completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 4,544 yards with 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, giving him a 107.2 passer rating. In comparison, Tagovailoa has thrown for 4,467 yards with 27 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on 66.2 percent completions, giving him an 88.8 passer rating. Tagovailoa’s 87.1 passer rating as a rookie is a higher than in either of Allen’s first two seasons. The potential is there - but will Tagovailoa have the kind of jump Allen had in his third year? Even if he does not have that big of a leap, the typical third-year improvement should see Tagovailoa shake off the doubters and start seeing him climb up national rankings. He has to put it together, but the parts have been built around him for success.
3. Can the defense stop the run and is there enough depth?
This really is two questions in one, but I only had space for one defense question, so I am cheating a little. Miami has the cornerbacks to be able to shut down opposing aerial attacks, but they have to prove they can stop the run. They allowed over 100 yards of rushing 10 times last season, including seven games allowing more than 120 yards. Just in comparison, the team only ran for over 100 yards seven times. Holding a team under 100 yards can be done, and Miami’s defense should be able to do that more then seven times on the year. Forcing a team to throw against Xavien Howard and Byron Jones plays straight into Miami’s strength - especially if the pass rush is able to step up this year as well. Stopping the run will be an important part of the defensive success for the Dolphins.
As for the depth, looking at the cornerbacks screams a concern. Howard, Jones, and Nik Needham are clearly at the top of the depth chart, but there is a giant question mark behind them. Can Noah Igbinoghene grow into the player Miami projected two years ago when they made him a first-round pick? Will anyone else break into a reliable depth player? There is concern should someone go down - all across the defense - with a need this summer to see some of the depth players develop into their roles.
4. Will Jason Sanders have an even-number year performance?
Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders connected on only 74.2 percent of his field goals last year. He missed two 30-39 yard field goals, two 40-49 yarders, and four 50+ yarders. He was set to be a top-ten all time kicker in terms of field goal percentage as soon as he qualified with his 100th kick. Instead, he is now 32nd having surpassed the qualifying mark. It was a poor year for Sanders. But what is interesting is his career pattern. In 2018, he connected on 90 percent of his field goals, in 2019 he dropped to 76.7 percent, then jumped up to 92.3 percent and was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2020, before his 74.2 percent last year. Sanders has had great seasons in even years, then struggled in odd years. Can he continue that pattern with a great 2022?
5. Will Mike McDaniel find himself as a head coach or will the Dolphins miss Brian Flores?
Firing Brian Flores after the 2021 season was a surprise move by the Dolphins. They hired Mike McDaniel to come in and spark the offense and he has been a hit so far during the offseason. However, this is his first head coaching position and he did not call plays for the San Francisco 49ers when he was their offensive coordinator. He plans to call plays for the Dolphins this year, but he has to make sure he does not get so wrapped up in the offense that he completely ignores the defense - which Dolphins fans will remember was a big issue with former head coach Adam Gase. The Dolphins did keep most of their defensive coaching staff from the Flores regime, a rare even when eras change in the NFL. It would seem that the strength of the 2021 team, the defense, should have the stability to continue to build into 2022, but could there be an issue on defense without Flores around? Will McDaniel prove that he was the right hire for the Dolphins?