Coach Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins made it clear in 2022 that the team’s identity is built around its offense. And during the 2023 offseason, McDaniel and GM Chris Grier have made it clear that the offense is built around quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Dolphins remain bullish about their offensive prospects, even with Tagovailoa dealing with concussions and the offense flagging in the second half of last season.
If the Dolphins are to stay competitive in the AFC, they will need Tagovailoa and McDaniel to find the efficiency they boasted in the early phases of the 2022 season. Tua made quick decisions and accurate passes. With strong quarterback play, he made the case that Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle were the best-receiving tandem in the NFL — until Tagovailoa began to suffer concussions and the entire offense began to struggle.
So what will come of the Dolphins offense in 2023.
“Obviously we got one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, and I’m sticking to my stance on that,” Hill told KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson this week at the receiver’s youth football and speed camp in Pearland, Texas. “So having Tua at quarterback and having the offensive guru we have in our head coach is wonderful. Having those weapons at his disposal, he’s going to go crazy. He can have me and [Jaylen] Waddle on one side, Devon [Achane] and Raheem [Mostert] on another side. The sky is the limit for this offense.”
If the Dolphins can light up the quick passing game, they’ll keep Tagovailoa from getting lit up.
But Hill neglected to mention the offensive line, which will play a large role in keeping Tua clean in the pocket. The unit improved from 2021 to 2022. It allowed 170 pressures last season, 65 fewer than in 2021. That improvement came, in part, due to the addition of tackle Terron Armstead. But that didn’t mean the Dolphins’ offensive line was actually good: The unit’s pass-blocking grade was fourth-worst in the NFL, per PFF.
This offseason, Miami didn’t make any major changes to the unit. The Dolphins will have a competition at right tackle, with former first-round draft choice Austin Jackson set to compete with free agent signing Isaiah Wynn, who played both right and left tackle for the Patriots over the past four seasons.
The offensive line also needs to take some ownership of the line of scrimmage in the running game. Miami averaged 4.3 yards per carry, 18th best in the NFL. Because the Dolphins rarely ran the ball, they finished with the eighth-fewest yards (1,686). Achane, a running back out of Texas A&M and the team’s third-round pick, could encourage McDaniel to run more often.
“I’ve seen a guy that’s followed through with his words as well as any young man that I’ve come across in my career,” McDaniel said of Tagovailoa earlier this month.
Tagovailoa is in a tough situation, where the GM essentially told the offense to run it back.
Sure, Grier added defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Cam Smith. A good defense can help the offense. In terms of offensive personnel, Grier added potential starters on the offensive line (Wynn), at running back (Achane) and depth at receiver (Chosen Anderson). But there’s no certainty that any of them will give the unit a substantial boost. The Dolphins are betting that Hill is right — that Tua and the offense are “going to go crazy.”
That’s what Miami needs: excellence from its QB.
Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.