The Miami Dolphins hit the reset button on their franchise heading into the 2019 season. And while the results were certainly mixed, the future suddenly seems bright for a team suck in mediocrity of late.
In 2019, the Dolphins finished a surprising 5-11. National outlets like ESPN thought the team might go 0-16. And with the team’s selling off of any talent last offseason, many thought the Dolphins were tanking.
But then they got better. A lot better.
Tough Start to the Season
The Miami Dolphins 2019 started 0-7. They were throttled in the home opener 59-10 by the Baltimore Ravens. Then the New England Patriots came in and laid it on the Dolphins even worse, 43-0. It was the worst start in franchise history, and most people thought the tank was on.
Heading into the 2019 season, the Dolphins completely revamped their coaching staff. Gone was Adam Gase, and in was Brian Flores. It would be Flores’s first head coaching gig, after years of holding various positions with the Patriots.
It seemed as if Flores was in over his head at first. The team flipped seemingly every tradable veteran on the roster for draft capital. Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Ryan Tannehill, and Kiko Alonso were all dealt prior to Week 1. During the season, Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick were dealt as well.
But then an unexpected thing happened. The Dolphins started to win.
The team dropped their first seven games of the season. But, with each passing week, the team was more competitive. That all built to the Week 7 upset of the New York Jets and former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase.
Miami won that game 26-18. They’d win again in Week 8 at Indianapolis. And over the final nine weeks of the season, the Dolphins would go a surprising 5-4. A far cry from 0-7.
The Dolphins would finish 2019 on a high note, upsetting the New England Patriots 27-24 in Foxboro, MA. That win was Miami’s first in New England since 2008. The victory eliminated the Patriots chance at a bye, forcing them into the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. They would lose that game to Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans.
The 2019 season was marked by change. 18 players finished the year on injured reserve, including Rashad Jones, Bobby McCain, Xavien Howard and Jakeem Grant. Miami had the fourth-most money on the injured reserve, with more than $25 million in players’ salaries being unavailable.
By Week 16, Miami had already set an NFL record for most players to play in a season, with 80. They made 20 waiver claims in 2019, far more than the league-average 4. And they made a total of 228 transactions during the season, which again outpaced the league-average of 142.
Miami Dolphins 2019: Reasons for Hope
The Dolphins seem to have found a difference maker at head coach with Brian Flores. Even though Tony Sparano and Adam Gase both had success in their first years as Miami head coaches, there’s something different with Flores. The team improved by leaps and bounds from where it started.
2019 first-round pick Christian Wilkins led all rookie defensive linemen with 56 total tackles. He also caught a touchdown pass this season.
DeVante Parker had a breakout season. He set career-highs in receptions (72), yards (1,202) and touchdowns (9). He was fifth in the NFL in receiving yards and fourth in touchdown catches.
Jerome Baker emerged as a legitimate defensive force, registering 124 tackles, fourth-most in the AFC. And Davon Godchaux led the NFL in tackles from the defensive tackle position (75).
Ryan Fitzpatrick earned his role as quarterback this season. He went 5-8 as a starter and completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,529 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing with 243 yards and four touchdowns.
Mike Gesicki also emerged as a legitimate offensive weapon. The second-year tight end caught 51 passes for 570 yards and five touchdowns.
The Dolphins also found contributors from all sorts of places, like undrafted free agent Nik Needham and Dallas Cowboys cast-off Taco Charlton. Vince Beigel proved to be the better linebacker in the swap with New Orleans for Kiko Alonso.
The Dolphins head into the 2020 offseason with a lot of work to do, but the rebuild is well underway. Miami has three first round draft picks, two second rounders and 13 picks overall. They also have more than $100 million in cap space.
Despite the tumultuous nature of the Miami Dolphins 2019 season, there’s reason for hope in 2020.