January 30th, 2024
With Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Raheem Mostert, and Tua Tagovailoa in their midst, it’s little wonder that some pundits described the Miami Dolphins’ offensive play as some of the most entertaining they saw during the 2023-24 campaign.
Having scored 496 points during the regular season, Miami was one of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL – that’s why they were expected to fare so well in the playoffs before they came unstuck against the Chiefs first up.
The NFL has long been home to franchises that are electric on offense and weak defensively, or vice versa, and it’s these teams that often fail to deliver on their promise in the postseason. It's a point that the Dolphins roster will be left to ponder over the break.
Having shipped 391 points during the regular season - only the Colts, Broncos, and Chargers conceded more in the entire AFC Conference, there's an argument that Mike McDaniel and his back office team will need to recruit wisely during the off-season to have any chance of improvement in 2024-25.
But is the picture as bad as it appears at first glance? With Jalen Ramsey (presumably) evading the injuries that dogged his campaign – plus the continued emergence of Canadian-born Jevon Holland, the Dolphins may just have the pieces to solve their defensive puzzle and make a more concerted challenge for the Super Bowl in 2025.
A Case for the Defense
Whether a show of patriotic support in favor of Holland or not, there will be plenty of interest from the Canada sports betting fraternity when it comes to backing Miami for Super Bowl LIX - they will open at around the +1200 mark, but will likely shorten as they make a big trade announcement or two over the summer.
The sportsbooks will make the key protagonists from the 2024 playoffs their favorites for 2025 too, with the 49ers (+550) likely to lead the way ahead of the Chiefs (+850) and Ravens (+950), but the stunning offensive play of the Dolphins means that they cannot be discounted.
Of course, defensive improvements will be necessary. A full season from Ramsey will be key - the three-time All-Pro selection battled a succession of knee injuries not long after undergoing surgery, but if he recuperates well over the summer and has a strong pre-season, the Dolphins can rely upon the 29-year-old to return to his previous elite level and act as their defensive lynchpin. If Ramsey is the bedrock of Miami's hopes for 2024-25, others around him in the defensive unit can up their game and ensure the Dolphins' tackling is greater than the sum of its parts.
If they can start to ship fewer points, with the offensive jewels at their disposal, McDaniel's men will surely become much more dangerous foes in playoff games - that could be the difference between them battling it out for Super Bowl LIX and not.
Thou Shalt Not Pass
With 52 solo tackles to his name, Holland is building a reputation as something of a sniper when called upon.
Together with the likes of David Long and Bradley Chubb, there’s a solidity that will need to be fostered further if Miami is to tighten up its defense and stop its opponents from crossing the whitewash with such regularity.
The challenge facing the Dolphins hierarchy is that it's well documented that they need to trim their roster to free up funds to participate in free agency, let alone more expensive trade acquisitions. That will also include the need to tie down the exceptional defensive tackle, Christian Wilkins, to a lucrative long-term deal to prevent him from being seduced by other franchises.
But if Wilkins stays and other defensive recruits are assembled, that element of the team's game should improve – allowing Holland to express himself fully, as he did with that incredible interception and 99-yard touchdown run against the Jets back in November 2023.
With three forced fumbles in his collection in 2023-24, Holland is a nuisance for opposition offenses, and with greater structure and organization around him, he and Ramsey could elevate Miami’s game to a level where they’re much more than just the Tyreek and Tua show.
If they do, the Dolphins could well become a probable, rather than a possible, for Super Bowl LIX.
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