Let’s look at three distinct possibilities: better, worse or the same.
The Harsh Truth
The Miami Dolphins‘ defense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2019 and many factors contributed to this. Miami lost key defensive players Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn to the rebuild, and others like Minkah Fitzpatrick parted ways because they didn’t buy into the Dolphins’ plans.
Miami also added a lot of unproven talent in rookies and free agents on defense in 2019. All of these changes occurred while having to learn head coach Brian Flores’s dynamic defense.
The results were hard to swallow, as the Dolphins recorded a lackluster 23 sacks in 2019. The interception totals were even more dismal with 13 total. Miami’s 16 total takeaways last season landed them in the bottom third of the league for each category. To put things in perspective, the top teams in the league had well over 30 takeaways last season.
Why Things Will Be Different
Miami invested heavily on defense to address these woes in the offseason, given that they’re now ranked third in the league in defensive spending against the salary cap.
The free agency period welcomed the key additions of defensive tackle defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy and cornerback Byron Jones. Those players alone come pretty close to matching the entire Dolphins 2019 sacks total with 19.5.
Miami also used many of their early picks in the 2020 NFL Draft to bolster the defense, including first-round cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. The maturation of 2019’s first-round pick Christian Wilkins will yield more production on defense as he is surrounded by better talent.
The entire NFL will be playing at a handicap this season with the elimination of preseason. Offensive linemen typically need that time to get in-sync and defenses around the league will be able to take advantage of sloppy play and miscommunications on offense.
First up for the Dolphins are the New England Patriots in Week One. The Patriots have a new quarterback working with a new center, which should provide Miami with the upper hand. The Dolphins could also use the matchup as an opportunity to work out kinks in a live game scenario. If all goes well, this could provide momentum going into matchups against teams with more stability on offense.
The Miami Dolphins defense will be ‘Better’ in 2020 than it was in 2019.
How much better will depend on how multiple factors. First and foremost, the Dolphins must remain healthy. The rest will hinge on how many of the rookies and free agents are hits and the progression of second-year players. The continuity of a second year of in Flores’s scheme bodes well for the unit.