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Miami Dolphins 2020: Season preview and predictions

Vincent Frank
Dolphins, NFL Draft
© Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A team that many expected to come close to winning zero games last season, the Miami Dolphins surprised a lot of people. First-year head coach Brian Flores led a talent-stricken roster to a 5-11 record.

The season started with Miami moving on from multiple veteran players and concluded with a tremendous Week 17 win over the New England Patriots.

Heading into the 2020 campaign, there’s a lot of reason for optimism in South Beach. Below, we preview the Dolphins season and give you final predictions. But we start with a brief recap of the offseason that was.

Miami Dolphins 2020 free-agent signings

The signing of former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Byron Jones to the biggest contract in NFL history for a player at that position headlined Miami’s off-season moves. Jones will now team up with fellow high-priced veteran Xavien Howard to form an elite duo.

But Miami was not done there. It picked up two starters on the defensive front seven in that of edge rusher Shaq Lawson and linebacker Kyle Van Noy while adding former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard on offense. These four moves helped the Fins build depth and talent on both sides of the ball.

Miami Dolphins 2020 free-agent losses

Nothing really to write home about here. Miami’s decision to release former Cowboys first-round bust Taco Charlton was somewhat surprising after he played well towards the end of last season.

Outside of that, the Dolphins were able to keep their core together through free agency while obviously upgrading at certain positions.

Miami Dolphins 2020 NFL Draft

Miami had five selections in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. In doing so, general manager Chris Grier and Co. added to both sides of the ball.

First round: Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama

It seemed to be smoke more than anything leading up to the draft. Miami was said to be higher on Justin Herbert than Tua. When the Fins selected this former Bama quarterback fifth overall, years of being linked the single caller came to a culmination. Whether he’s ready for the 2020 season after undergoing hip surgery is the biggest story here.

First round: Austin Jackson, offensive tackle, USC

This was somewhat of a surprise at No. 18 overall. Jackson was a fast riser leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. He was seen as a raw, high-upside tackle among the second-tier of prospects in the annual event. The expectation here is that Jackson will sit as a rookie and potentially take over at left tackle the following season.

First round: Noah Igbinoghene, cornerback, Auburn

After having already added Byron Jones in free agency back in March. Miami doubled down on the corner position with this 5-foot-10 slot guy at the end of Round 1. It makes sense in that Jones and fellow high-priced corner Xavien Howard are more of your boundary types. Expect Igbinoghene to start at the slot this coming season.

Second round: Robert Hunt, guard, Louisiana-Lafayette

An imposing 6-foot-5, 323-pound offensive lineman, Hunt dominated college competition playing against lesser competition. He has an inability to play both guard and on the outside, though, translates better on the inside at the NFL level. Hunt could be a Year 1 starter if needed.

Second round: Raekwon Davis, defensive tackle, Alabama

Consistency issues plagued Davis over his final two seasons with the Crimson Tide. The talented interior lineman came on strong as a sophomore back in 2017, recording 10 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He followed that up with recording just 8.5 quarterback hits and two sacks over the past two seasons. Despite this, his 6-foot-6, 311-pound frame is enticing.

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Miami Dolphins 2020 positional previews

Miami has built up a nice amount of talent and depth on both sides of the ball. We break it down here.

  • Quarterback: All of the talk in South Beach will surround Tagovailoa heading into the 2020 season. Though, the expectation here has to be that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will start. He played pretty well for the Dolphins last season. Acquired ahead of last season, former top-10 pick Josh Rosen might also find himself in the equation.
  • Running Back: One of the most underrated moves of the NFL offseason was Miami’s signing of former Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard. Having put up an average of over 1,100 total yards in four NFL season, Howard figures to be the starter over Kalen Ballage. Don’t discount rookie seventh-round pick Malcolm Perry. He could surprise some folks.
  • Wide receiver: Still only 27 years old, DeVante Parker came on big time last season after struggling with injuries throughout the early stages of his career. The former first-round pick put up north of 1,200 receiving yards. Outside of that, there’s not much to write home about. Miami better hope youngsters find a way to take over for Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson in 2020.
  • Tight End: Mike Gesicki took that next step as a sophomore last season, recording 51 receptions for nearly 600 yards. The former second-round pick will be a great safety valve for whoever is under center this season. Miami has four other tight ends battling for two spots on the roster, too.
  • Offensive Line: The assumption here is that Julie’n Davenport, acquired in the Laremy Tunsil trade, will start at left tackle. The right tackle position could be up for grabs with Jesse Davis and rookie Austin Jackson competing. Guard is more stable in that free-agent signing Ereck Flowers and Michael Deiter. At the very least, it seems like Miami’s offensive line is coming together.
  • Defensive Line: This should be a major strength for Brian Flores and Co. in 2020. The addition of Shaq Lawson to go with standout youngster Christian Wilkins creates a solid duo. Meanwhile, former Browns top-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah should also provide some edge pass rush help.
  • Linebacker: Picking up Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy somewhat fortifies the linebacker position for Miami. They’ll team up with Raekwon McMillan as starters for the Dolphins. Unfortunately, there’s not necessarily that standout star on this unit. Perhaps, youngster Jerome Baker could step into that role.
  • Secondary: Miami is absolutely stacked at corner with Pro Bowl-caliber starters Byron Jones and Xavien Howard on the outside. I am also highly intrigued to see what rookie Noah Igbinoghene brings to the table. Safety is a bit more of a concern with veteran journeyman Eric Rowe starting next to Bobby McCain.

Miami Dolphins 2020 Schedule

Week 1: AT- New England Patriots (Sept. 13)

Week 2: VS- Buffalo Bills (Sept. 20)

Week 3: AT- Jacksonville Jaguars (Sept. 24)

Week 4: VS- Seattle Seahawks (Oct. 4)

Week 5: AT- San Francisco 49ers (Oct. 11)

Week 6: VS- Denver Broncos (Oct. 18)

Week 7: VS- Los Angeles Chargers (Oct. 25)

Week 8: VS- Los Angeles Rams (Nov. 1)

Week 9: AT- Arizona Cardinals (Nov. 8)

Week 10: VS- New York Jets (Nov. 15)

Week 11: Bye

Week 12: AT- New York Jets (Nov. 29)

Week 13: VS- Cincinnati Bengals (Dec. 6)

Week 14: VS- Kansas City Chiefs (Dec. 13)

Week 15: VS- New England Patriots (Dec. 20)

Week 16: AT- Las Vegas Raiders (TBD)

Week 17: AT- Buffalo Bills (Jan. 3)

Schedule notes:

  • Buffalo has seven games against teams that earned trips to the playoffs last season. That number is a bit misguided in that two of those outings come against the Tom Brady-less New England Patriots.
  • Miami boasts the third-most difficult strength of schedule this coming season. That’s less than ideal for a team that’s coming off a five-win campaign.
  • The stretch from Nov. 8 to Dec. 6 will be big for Miami in that it goes up against the Jets (twice), Cardinals and Bengals. That will be telling.

Miami Dolphins 2020 best-case scenario

Tua is able to sit for a season with Ryan Fitzpatrick holding down the fort. The plethora of youngsters on Miami’s roster takes that next step. Meanwhile, Brian Flores proves that his team overachieving last season was not a fluke.

Despite the Patriots falling back to earth following the departure of Tom Brady, we’re not ready to conclude Miami is the second-best team in the AFC East behind the Buffalo Bills. Though, an 8-8 campaign would be seen as a major win here.

Miami Dolphins 2020 worst-case scenario

Tua is forced into action before he’s anywhere near ready. The other youngsters on this team fail to take the next step. Issues in the backfield, offensive line and at wide receiver cause for headaches for the Dolphins.

Instead of seeing Miami take that next step to respectability, it follows up the 2019 season with a similar end result. The team’s schedule makes this worst-case scenario pretty darn likely.

Miami Dolphins 2020 final prediction

In the end, I predict that Miami sees modest improvements from a season ago. Based on the team’s schedule, seven wins seems to be the high-water mark.

This is not a bad thing. The Fins are set up for the long haul. They’ve made it clear this is a long-term rebuild. Improving by two wins from a season ago would be seen as a success for Brian Flores and Co.