Tagovailoa and Dolphins will try to close gap atop AFC East

MIAMI DOLPHINS (10-6)

New faces: WR Will Fuller, WR Jaylen Waddle, DE Jaelan Phillips, S Jevon Holland, QB Jacoby Brissett, DT Adam Butler, DB Jason McCourty, RB Malcolm Brown, T Liam Eichenberg, TE Hunter Long, CB Justin Coleman, LB Brennan Scarlett, P Michael Palardy.

Key losses: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S Bobby McCain, LB Kyle Van Noy, C Ted Karras, DE Shaq Lawson, DT Davon Godchaux, RB Matt Breida, T Julien Davenport, G Ereck Flowers, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, P Matt Haack.

Strengths: The Dolphins led the NFL with 29 takeaways last year, and All-Pro CB Xavien Howard had 10, the most in the league since 2007. The versatile Holland makes a talented secondary even better, and the pass rush could be improved with the addition of Phillips. With newcomers Fuller and Waddle, and the return of Albert Wilson after he opted out in 2020, the WR corps becomes the deepest position on the team. Miami is also well-stocked at TE, ensuring plenty of targets for second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Weaknesses: OL has been a perennial problem for two decades, which is one reason the Dolphins have no playoff victories during that span, and there are again doubts about how well they’ll block. Settling on a RT — Tagovailoa’s blind side — and improvement by second-year LT Austin Jackson are vital. The ground game won’t scare anyone: Last year 66 players, including nine QBs, had a longer run than any Dolphins.

Camp Developments: A contract dispute with Howard had a peaceful ending: He asked to be traded but then agreed to a restructured deal. Tagovailoa, now nearly two years removed from the hip injury that ended his Alabama career, showed more decisiveness and a stronger arm than in his rookie season. Injuries were an issue at WR and raised anew doubts about top pass catcher DeVante Parker’s durability.

Fantasy Player To Watch: The speedy Waddle should be quick to click with Tagovailoa, his former Alabama teammate, and is likely to catch a lot of short throws. K Jason Sanders, who went 36 for 39 on field goals last season, ranks with the NFL’s best.

FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 32-1. Over/under wins: 9 1/2.

Expectations: A 30-point loss in the 2020 finale at Buffalo suggests the Dolphins have lots of ground to make up to contend for the AFC East title in coach Brian Flores’ third season. Much depends on the development of Tagovailoa, who went 6-3 as a starter but ranked 26th or lower in several key categories. He has a better cast of targets, but blocking is a big concern. Flores is counting on significant contributions from rookies Waddle, Phillips and Holland after a draft that was widely praised. But if the Dolphins can’t run the ball, they may regret not using a high pick on a running back.

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