NFL Preview – 2018/19 Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins have a lot of improvements to make in 2018.  As is the case with most bad teams, the Dolphins record ATS was not very good in 2017.  They were just 5-9-2 ATS on their way to a 6-10 finish.  They were 7-8-1 on total points bets.  With a season win total set at 7, they cashed the under as they finished 3rd in AFC East behind the Patriots and Bills.

The losing season is just another in a collection of recent Miami meltdowns over the last decade.  It may be hard to remember, but the Dolphins were the last team to win the AFC East before the Patriots' decade of dominance.  The Miami Dolphins won the division in 2008.  To put that in perspective, the owners of LazyBets were Sophomores in college.  We were drunk, and so was the league.

Marshall University man Chad Pennington started for the Dolphins at quarterback.  The Wildcat offense reared its ugly head for the very first time.  The Dolphins took the league by storm that year.  The Wildcat became one of the strangest anomalies in NFL history.  It tricked defenses for a full year with speed and option variables which previously had been debunked.  It sprung hope that an option offense could exist in the NFL only to be figured out.  NFL defensive coordinators began scheming for the set.  We do rarely see it in today’s NFL, but not like 2008.

While the Dolphins won the division, they didn’t make any more of a splash than that.  The Ravens disposed of Miami in the Wild Card game and eventually lost in the AFC title game.

That’s the last time the Dolphins were “good.”  Yikes.

Dolphins Over 6.5 Wins

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Dolphins Offense

Danny Amendola joins the Dolphins.  Will he spread his toughness and winning ways in Miami?

In 2018 the Dolphins hope to avoid losing by big margins thanks to the return of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The team lost him to injury before the start of the season and dangled $10 million in front of Jay Cutler to lure him out of the broadcast booth and into the Dolphins’ huddle. Things did not go well.

Miami was one of 11 teams to average under 5.0 yards per play last season.  The Dolphins were 25th in total offense, 29th in rushing offense, and 18th in passing.  They had glaring offensive inadequacies that were worsened by a filler quarterback who didn’t care.  A 3rd down efficiency that ranked last in the league was an embarrassment.

Even when the offense was on the field with the lead, they failed to close games.  Miami had the second lowest time of possession while leading at 4 minutes and 30 seconds which frustrated the public on money line underdogs all year long.

Cutler, damn it!

A new year could not be more welcome for the Dolphins offense and should bring around a lot of change for third year coach Adam Gase.  It’s a change that’s been coming since Gase took the job.

By year three with a team, most coaches begin to settle in.  Much as the Jr. season is normally the prime year for a drafted wide receiver, coaches also find themselves hitting a rhythm with their own personnel that are acquired via free agency, trades, and draft day selections.  By this point they should have the tools that fit their specific schemes and it’s go time.

The clear out of old Dolphins has mostly concluded at this point, and despite challenges, Gase has a 16-16 record in his two NFL coaching seasons.  That’s not half bad considering the circumstances.

The Dolphins coach was impressed with how Ryan Tannehill stayed engaged with the offense and Dolphins players last year despite his season ending injury.  They’re going to need the quarterback’s engagement to create chemistry with his new guys.  His favorite target from 2016 and his 8-5 record, Jarvis Landry, has departed.  Danny Amendola (Patriots) and Albert Wilson (Kansas City) hope to pick up the playbook quickly.  Word has it that Amendola is already “mixing it up” and adding a layer of toughness that didn’t previously exist for the Dolphins.

Kenyan Drake will be leaned on heavily in the 2018 Dolphins Offense.

The Dolphins offense also faces the departure of Jay Ajayi.  He was a system mismatch and it was obvious and that’s why he’s now an Eagle.   Frank Gore (Colts) and Kenyan Drake take his place and should offer some excitement early.

Many pundits criticize the addition of Gore, but he looks 10 years younger in Dolphins training camp.  At 35, he just keeps churning along with 1000-yard seasons almost becoming pedestrian.  He’s now rushed for over 14,000 yards from scrimmage.  He’s incredibly consistent for a 13-year veteran and only missed the 1000 yard mark by 39 in 2017.  Drake should provide a nice combo with the “old-timer.”  He led the NFL in rushing yards per carry with a 4.9-yard average in weeks 13-17.

The Dolphins offensive line still leaves question marks.  With any team, those questions would be more easily answered with a steadier offensive line.  There’s a new offensive line coach in Jerimiah Washburn.  He’ll need to get more out of tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Won James for this team to be successful.

Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore are veterans that should change the look of the offensive line and make a solid impact.  They aren’t world beaters though and this unit will rely on its youth for success, or lack thereof.

Dolphins Defense

Fitzpatrick leads an improving defensive secondary. Will this defense manage to become top 10 in the league in 2018?

On Defense, the Dolphins are a year older entering the 2018 season, and that’s a big deal.  Miami practiced baptism by fire last year when they became one of only three teams to start 8 rookies on the defensive side of the ball.  Their gamble didn’t completely fail.  The Dolphins finished right around the middle of the pack in defensive categories (Total 16th, Rushing 14th, Passing 16th).  With so much youth on the field, being a top 10 AFC defense is a major win that the Dolphins are bringing into the 2018 season.

Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and Defensive Tackle Davon Godchaux look to continue their surprising growth cornerstone pieces after better than anticipated 2017 campaigns.  Tankersley will likely be the #2 or nickel corner this year.  Jordan Phillips teams up with Godchaux and will try to use his 324 pound frame to make up for the gaping hole NDamukong Suh leaves after his release.

The Dolphins edge rush is hugely improved and could catapult this unit to top 10 in the league overall.  Cameron Wake is coming off of two consecutive double-digit sack seasons.  He gets help from Robert Quinn who will have to make a defensive adjustment.  He goes from the 3-4 outside linebacker role on  the Rams defense to a traditional 4-3 edge rusher on Miami’s defensive line.  Quinn had 8.5 sacks in 2017 but is in a different system.  If he’s as effective as he was with Los Angeles, Tom Brady could be in for an interesting two games.

Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick is expected to see a lot of time at linebacker.  He joins Raekwon McMillan as newcomers to the Miami linebacker unit.  McMillan missed all of 2017 with a knee injury and should immediately speed up a linebacking corps that was the slowest in all of football last year.

In the secondary the Dolphins are strong.  Xavien Howard plays alongside Tankersley and may be a Pro-Bowler if he can add to his interception total.  He had 4 in 2017.  Backing them up at safety is Reshad Jones who had an NFL leading 122 tackles last year.  T.J. McDonald may see time both in a hybrid secondary role and as a linebacker.

Dolphins Special Teams

Darren Rizzi is one of the best kept coaching secrets in the NFL.  You may recognize his name if you play Madden in Franchise mode, but most other normal humans don’t know his name.  It’s a shame.  Rizzi’s units have changed games for the Dolphins over the years.  Since 2011, only the Oakland Raiders have blocked more kicks in the NFL.  Oakland has 22 to Miami’s 20.

In addition to great blocked kick schemes, Rizzi’s units are known for great coverage.  The Dolphins led the league in kickoff coverage in 2017.  Opponents were forced to start on their own 23-yard line on average.  That success should continue into this year if Rizzi’s record of success is any indicator.

If there are major questions to Miami’s special team’s unit, they come from the kicker and punter position.  Miami will have to replace Cody Parker who owns the Dolphins single season record for make percentage where he is tied at 91.3%.  Jay Feely shares that crown, along with the title of ex-Dolphin.

Jason Sanders steps in after being drafted in the 7th round out of New Mexico.  It’s surprising that he was drafted.  He could easily be replaced with a veteran in camp or at mid-season.  Sanders had a very inconsistent Mountain West career, but not in the way you’d think.  Sanders was 4 of 5 from 50+ yards, 7 of 12 from 40-49, 7 of 10 from 30-39, and 7 of 8 from 20-29 in his career.  Over three years he only missed one extra point, but it’s important to note that extra points in the NFL now are in the young kicker’s trouble zone.

Sanders’ strength from deep is what got him drafted.  A 53 yarder is impressive, but this isn’t college and you can’t kick 71% overall and expect to keep your job.

The punting situation leaves a bit more to be excited about.  Matt Haack is a very serviceable 2nd year punter who will be looking to improve on a season where he led all rookies on punts inside the 20-yard line.

Dolphins 2018 Schedule

Confidence is everything in the NFL, especially with a young team.  The Dolphins have a chance to impact things quickly and get off to a good start.  Tennessee in week 1 could be tough, but at least it’s a home game.  The only other winning team they'll face in the first six weeks in New England.

Outside of Tennessee and New England, Miami has contests against the Jets, Raiders, Bengals, and Bears.  Combined those teams won 23 games last year.  That’s good enough for 36% and is very bullish for the Dolphins.

If Miami comes into this season focused and Ryan Tannehill can be the QB of old, the Dolphins could be a surprise heading into the second half of the season.  The overall strength of schedule of the Dolphins is 15th.  Opponents were .500 last season at exactly 128-128.

Miami Dolphins Season Outlook:

LazyBets Prediction: Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase will lead this team to over 6.5 wins.

Lean Pick: Dolphins Over 6.5 Wins (-120)

The Dolphins are relatively young and that can go a lot of ways in an NFL season.  They may get it all together and be the surprise team of 2018.  It wouldn’t be all that crazy considering the circumstances.

A more normal 8-8 seems likely with this team if Tannehill can stay healthy.  The defense is on the uptick and that should really help in making his transition back a bit less pressured. This division is weak outside of the Patriots as the Bills and Jets look to gain traction with new QBs.

We feel comfortable with taking the over 6.5 wins on the Dolphins’ season total for wins this year.

It seems a reasonable bet with question marks surrounding the division.  We’ll also be looking at under bets with this team all year long given general rushing and defensive strength.

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Good luck this season, and thanks for being a LazyBets reader!

Dolphins Over 6.5 Wins

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