MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins haven’t fielded a top-10 offense since 1995, the longest drought in the NFL. If that streak extends another season, it won’t be for lack of talent.
In a 24-hour span, Miami signed Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead to a five-year contract, then traded five draft picks to the Kansas City Chiefs for All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill on Wednesday to officially become an AFC contender.
Considering the moves playoff hopefuls such as the Chargers (Khalil Mack), Broncos (Russell Wilson), Bills (Von Miller), Raiders (Davante Adams, Chandler Jones) and Browns (Deshaun Watson) have all made, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier needed to make a splash in coach Mike McDaniel’s first season.
McDaniel made it clear from his introductory news conference what his team’s needs were. When asked about his belief in third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, he reminded everyone listening that Tagovailoa was not solely responsible for this offense’s success.
“I haven’t seen a quarterback win a football game by himself ever, really,” he said. “He has to have somebody to throw to. He better not be getting tackled before he throws, so somebody better block.”
With Hill and Armstead, alone, the Dolphins are better off in both departments — but these are just the latest moves in what has been a weeklong offensive identity shift.
The Dolphins improved their backfield by adding Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, bolstered their offensive line with Connor Williams and added another speedster at receiver in Cedrick Wilson. Paired with Armstead and Hill, that’s six likely new starters taking the field for Miami next season, most of whom have one thing in common — speed.
“Absolutely blazing speed fast,” fullback Alec Ingold said. “Everyone’s going to be running. Shoot, the entire offense is going to be running.”
And Ingold, another likely starter for Miami in 2022, was just talking about his backfield mates.
Adding Mostert, Edmonds and Wilson is one thing. Trading for Hill — sources told ESPN that Miami gave up a 2022 first-round pick (No. 29), second-round pick (No. 50) and fourth-round pick, plus fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft — gives the Dolphins the NFL’s premier home run threat regardless of position.
Per ESPN Stats & Information research, Hill has 26 receiving touchdowns on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield over the past five seasons — four more than the Dolphins have in that same span. Since Miami drafted Tagovailoa in 2020, its wide receivers have averaged 2.64 yards of separation on targets, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the fourth-lowest mark in the league.
Hill’s 3.59 average yards of separation ranked 13th most in the NFL last season. The Dolphins’ leading receiver, Jaylen Waddle, finished 26th in the NFL in the same category at 3.32 yards.
Waddle and Hill now create possibly the fastest wide receiver duo in NFL history, but don’t let their speed typecast them as deep-ball threats. Waddle and Hill ranked ninth and 10th, respectively, in yards after the catch last season.
That’s a critical stat to remember, considering Tagovailoa’s average depth of target last season (6.92 yards) ranked fourth lowest in the league. He attempted the second-fewest passes of at least 25 yards last season among qualified quarterbacks, but he did lead the league in completion percentage on such passes.
This is officially a make-or-break season for Tagovailoa. Gone are the excuses of his fledgling supporting cast, abysmal offensive line and subpar coaching staff.
He now has the most dangerous wide receiver in the NFL on one side with the franchise’s rookie receptions leader on the other. He has, statistically speaking, the fastest running back in the NFL behind him in Mostert and one of the league’s most versatile backs in Edmonds.
Three players on this offense (Hill, Mostert and Waddle) have broken the 21 mph mark on the field.
And that’s just the new additions. Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe return at tight end, and it’s yet to be seen whom the team will add in next month’s NFL draft.
Not to mention, the man calling plays is considered to be an offensive “guru” by many players and coaches throughout the league.
“It really felt like McDaniel did a really good job of just being creative and kind of playing to his players’ styles,” Edmonds said when asked why he chose to sign with the Dolphins. “I feel like that’s one thing that’s lost in coaching, is that guys sometimes try to always rely on the scheme or whatever it is that they’re bringing into an offense and then they kind of lose the focal point of really playing to your players’ abilities.
“And I felt like McDaniel and the Niners, they did a great job of just playing to their players’ abilities, playing to their strengths, finding ways to utilize guys and maximizing their efficiency.”
The Titans, Bills, Bengals, Raiders, Chargers, Browns and Broncos all made blockbuster additions to their rosters this offseason, muddying an already convoluted AFC playoff picture.
Now, be sure to include the Dolphins in that mix.