LAST YEAR: Dolphins were accused of tanking last season as they purged payroll while stockpiling salary cap space and draft picks. They used 84 players, an NFL record, but won five of final nine games under first-year coach Brian Flores, including victory in finale at New England to end streak of 10 consecutive losses there. Miami then spent $235 million to sign 10 free agents and added three first-round draft picks, including potential franchise QB Tua Tagovailoa.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Tagovailoa, CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, RB Jordan Howard, RB Matt Breida, C Ted Karras, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Elandon Roberts, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Shaq Lawson, OL Ereck Flowers, S Clayton Fejedelem, T Austin Jackson, CB Noah Igbinoghene, S Kavon Frazier.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Reshad Jones, C Daniel Kilgore, S Walt Aikens, DE Taco Charlton, DE Charles Harris, G Evan Boehm, LS Taybor Pepper, LT J’Marcus Webb, DT John Jenkins.
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES: Cancellation of OTAs and minicamp especially costly for team with so much roster turnover and so many rookies. But Flores showed last year he can make a group of strangers mesh quickly.
CAMP NEEDS: Start with introductions — many of 2020 Dolphins have yet to meet each other. Dolphins must evaluate health of Tagovailoa, whose career at Alabama ended with hip injury in mid-November, before they begin grooming him to replace 37-year-old holdover Ryan Fitzpatrick. There will be many depth chart decisions, especially involving perennially troublesome OL and defense that allowed franchise-record 494 points last year, most in NFL.
EXPECTATIONS: Last year’s turnaround left strong impression Dolphins have finally found a keeper as their coach, but Flores has a lot of work still to do. Transition to Tagovailoa will be big story this season, but either he or Fitzpatrick will be working behind an OL still under construction, and defense is filled with question marks. Dolphins are probably at least another year away from first playoff win since 2000.
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