The 2022-2023 Miami Dolphins have had as up-and-down a start to a season as one could imagine. From a three-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak, blockbuster trades, and rule-changing injuries, you should check your bingo card because it might be full.
Despite the rollercoaster ride first-time head coach Mike McDaniel has had to withstand, the Dolphins appear to have weathered the storm. With Miami’s 35-32 win over the Chicago Bears this past Sunday, the Fins improved to 5-3. Additionally, Tua Tagovailoa is seemingly returning to the form he showed prior to the controversial concussion he suffered Week 4 on Thursday Night Football.
Consistent quarterback play, or lack thereof, has been Miami’s main deficiency early on this season. Tagovailoa started the year leading the Dolphins to a perfect 3-0 start, including a statement win against the division-rival Buffalo Bills. Once the former Alabama star went down, backups Teddy Bridgewater and Skylar Thompson failed to keep the ship afloat, dropping three consecutive games. As a result, the Dolphins quickly fell to the bottom of the AFC East with a .500 record.
Despite the frustrating three-game decline, one thing remained constant and continues to do so eight weeks into the season. That’s the play of newly acquired superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and second-year standout Jaylen Waddle. They’ve been dominant, collectively and individually, and in this renaissance season, they’ve reminded Miami fans of past Dolphins duos that, too, terrorized defenses.
McDaniel has gloated at the fact that he is blessed in terms of talent at the wideout position.
“It’s kind of like the difficulties — the guy who has three yachts has deciding which yacht to pick,” McDaniel joked with the media after a practice earlier this season. “No, there’s not difficulties with that. It’s very desirable. We’re very fortunate … ”
Fortunate they are. The duo has terrorized any and every secondary that has lined up in front of it, no matter who has been under center throwing them the ball. In fact, Waddle and Hill lead the league in yards for a receiving duo with a combined 91 receptions for 1,688 and seven touchdowns in just eight games. Spectators were wary of how the new receiving corps would gel due to many overlying factors, including a new head coach, new offensive system, and new quarterback for Hill to become accustomed to.
However, the concern of outsiders didn’t seem to falter the confidence of the “Cheetah”, who dubbed the pair the “fastest duo of all time” back in training camp.
“I’m calling my shots,” Hill told NFL Network in a joint interview after practice. “[We’re] the fastest of all time.”
While this would be an impossible metric to track, one way we can measure just how good the pair has been is placing them side-by-side with Miami’s most legendary wide receiver duo, “The Marks Brothers.”
The Marks Brothers, Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, were the main beneficiaries of Dan Marino’s legendary run in the ’80s. Clayton and Duper both put up historic numbers as a result of Marino’s record-breaking season in 1984. Miami went a nearly perfect 14-2 reaching Super Bowl 19 but falling short at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite not winning it all, the Marks Brothers combined for an astounding 144 receptions for 2,695 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns that season. While the tandem would go on to dominate for many seasons to come, the dominance they demonstrated in ‘84 could never be replicated.
While Marino received the majority of the spotlight, notoriety, and awards on this team, even he attested to the role Duper and Clayton played in his Hall of Fame career.
“I wish I could thank all of you individually, but I would like to mention a few – two guys – Mark Duper and Mark Clayton,” Marino declared during his Hall of Fame speech in 2005. “In 1984, we set a standard for throwing the football that teams are still trying to match today and the one thing I remember most about Duper and Clayton is their competitive spirit and their attitude that they were the best.”
As Marino alluded to, what the Marks Brothers were able to accomplish was certainly remarkable, particularly in that time period. Eight games into the ‘84 season, the pair combined for 66 receptions for 1,320 yards and 14 touchdowns with Clayton missing one game.
The ‘84 team draws many parallels to the ‘22 iteration we watch every Sunday. Marino and Clayton were both in their second years while Tagovailoa and Waddle are in their third and second respectively. Additionally, Duper was slightly older than both, similar to Hill’s current situation with the Dolphins.
While Hill and Waddle have surpassed the Marks Brothers in yards and receptions, the production the pair had in ‘84 is a huge testament to just how good the tandem was. In today’s day and age, defenses play under much stricter guidelines, there are now 17 games instead of 16, and offenses are programmed to be much more pass-heavy resulting in the inflated numbers seen today.
Hill and Waddle are on pace to eclipse not only Duper and Clayton’s numbers, but also several other records this season. Even so, it will be interesting to see if the 2022 duo has the same longevity for years to come as the Marks Brothers had in the ‘80s.