After a successful offseason, there’s no question that Dolphins fans are more excited for this season than many in recent memory. In fact, the Fins sold out season tickets for the 2022 season.
Miami’s potential will be tested quickly as the team takes on long-time division rivals, the New England Patriots, in week one at home this Sunday at 1 p.m. While the Dolphins have recently had success in Miami against the Pats, these divisional battles are never easy.
Here are the top five things to look out for in the Dolphins’ first game of the regular season:
1. Tua Tagovailoa vs Mac Jones
Two former Alabama superstars will face off as division rivals for the third time in their young careers. Tagovailoa won the first two games last year. The Dolphins QB, who is now entering his third year, has some incredible offensive weapons at his disposal. These include one of the most prolific wide receivers in the league, Tyreek Hill, who Miami acquired via trade this offseason. Former Alabama wideout, Jaylen Waddle, is entering his second year after a stunning rookie campaign and should complement Hill well.
Jones will not have the same caliber of weapons. New England has a relatively average receiving core, but the team did add former Dolphin DeVante Parker in a trade earlier this summer. Jakobi Meyers will be the other starting wide receiver. He is coming off a superb season where he led the team with 866 receiving yards. While Jones may not have the same artillery as Tagovailoa, all indications coming out of training camp are that the sophomore quarterback has improved immensely and could lead the team to another playoff run this season.
2. How will Mike McDaniel perform in his first game as head coach?
Mike McDaniel was hired this off-season after spending the past two seasons as an offensive coordinator for the San Fransico 49ers. He has quickly made himself known to Dolphins fans as an obscure but knowledgeable football mind who many hope can take Tagovailoa and the offense to a new level. Miami performed well in the preseason under McDaniel and played all three games missing major components on both sides of the ball. In the final game of the preseason, which included many starters for the first time, the Dolphins broke their preseason record, scoring 48 points in a blowout. If that was any indication of how the offense will look during the regular season, there is plenty to be excited about this year.
3. Will the Dolphins’ secondary hold up?
The position that has the least depth going into the season is the secondary, specifically at cornerback. With starting corner Byron Jones on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list until at least Week 5, after Xavien Howard there isn’t much experience at corner. Fourth-year man Nik Needham is set to start in this game and will have to follow the Patriot’s second receiver around all day. While New England’s receiving core won’t be the most difficult test this season, it will be interesting to see how the secondary fares without Jones who will continue to miss time with his Achilles injury.
4. Tyreek Hill’s first game
Dolphin fans got their first taste of Hill in the final preseason game when the superstar wide receiver played in the first drive of the game. He and Tagovailoa connected on a 51-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage in this game sending the home crowd into a frenzy. The Superbowl-winning receiver caught another pass during this drive before sitting the rest of the game. Those two catches were all it took for fans to quickly realize the talent that has just entered the team. Hill is well known for his blazing fast speed and ability to make big plays with yards after the catch. The attention Hill requires from the defense will open up the offense for all other playmakers and it is interesting to see how McDaniel will use him as a decoy to get others involved. Needless to say, Dolphins fans have been waiting for the moment Hill will play in his new threads and will get the first official look this Sunday.
5. The Dolphins’ run game
Miami will be featuring a new starting running back for the first time in two years now that Chase Edmonds has officially won the starting job over both Raheem Moster and Myles Gaskin. Edmonds signed to the Dolphins this offseason and quickly impressed the coaching staff during training camp despite not playing many snaps during the preseason. The Dolphins have been about average in terms of rushing yards over the past couple of seasons, however, with new offensive tackle Terron Armstead also signing this off-season, hopes are high that this will be the year the team excels on the ground. It will be interesting to see how Edmonds and the rest of the running backs perform in the first game of the season and how it will continue to improve as the season rolls along.
Story by Anthony Blanco, Podcast engineering by Moises Pinell and voices belong to Anthony Blanco, Moises Pinell, Esteban Rodriguez, and Alfredo Banegas