2023 AFC East Division Preview: Miami Dolphins Aren’t Making The Playoffs

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The 2023-24 NFL season kick-off is almost here! OutKick is unveiling its team-by-team preview series. Over the past three weeks, we covered the AFC West and NFC West, the AFC North and NFC North and the AFC South and the NFC South. This week, we’ve turned our attention to the final two divisions. And that continues with last year’s runner-up in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins.

Miami Dolphins 2022-23 Record: 9-8

Miami Dolphins 2023-24 Win Total Over/Under: 9.5

Offseason Moves

The biggest move for Miami in the offseason was a blockbuster trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He’s the highest-rated corner in Madden 2024. Unfortunately, Ramsey suffered a significant injury during Dolphins training camp. The knee injury is going to keep him out well into the season and possibly longer. If and when he does return, there are questions about his ability to return to form. Especially since he’s celebrating his 29th birthday in October. Young for most people, but on the older side for NFL defensive backs.

The team also brought in linebacker David Long, who is a coverage specialist. That’s great, but he comes with injury concerns as well, having missed 12 games over the past two seasons. Similarly along those lines, Miami added free-agent safety DeShon Elliott. No surprises here: Elliott comes with injury concerns, twice missing double-digit games in his four-year NFL career.

The team added Mike White to back up Tua Tagovailoa. White already made a trip to the NFL’s concussion protocol this offseason but since cleared it. Speaking of Tagovailoa, the team declined to make a long-term commitment to the oft-injured signal-caller, but did exercise his fifth-year option. That gives the Dolphins this season and next to determine if he is the quarterback of the future. This season is particularly important given the team’s high expectations entering the season.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's extensive injury makes him hard to trust this NFL season, especially for a team that has designs on winning the AFC East.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s extensive injury makes him hard to trust this NFL season, especially for a team that has designs on winning the AFC East. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The team lost tight end Mike Gesicki and missed out on several veteran running backs, including Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor. That leaves considerable questions about playmakers behind star receiver Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

Miami did not have a first-round pick in the NFL Draft due to a tampering punishment from the league regarding Tom Brady. In fact, the team had just four picks in the entire draft. They used their second-round pick on South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith and their third-round selection on Texas A&M running back De’Von Achane.

Season Outlook

As a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan (who tries to put that bias aside to accurately cover the NFL), it pains me to write this. But some teams are going to be left out of the postseason in a stacked AFC. Unfortunately, one of those teams is likely to be the Miami Dolphins.

This isn’t even a major knock on them. The Dolphins are clearly very talented with one of the most dangerous wide receiving duos in the NFL — Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. But quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is not the answer, long-term, because of both performance and health. He can be a perfectly effective game-manager-type if he avoids mistakes. However, he lacks elite passing ability to take a team to the next level. That, coupled with his substantial injury history, makes this team too risky to back.

Plus, not having a first-round pick in this year’s draft hurt the team’s ability to add another piece that they needed. Their biggest offseason acquisition, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, is out until at least December. Perhaps the entire season. That means relying on Eli Apple, 2022 UDFA Kader Kohu, or recently acquired Cowboys draft bust Kelvin Joseph across from Xavien Howard. Not good.

The Miami Dolphins big offseason acquisition, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, is going to miss a huge chunk of the season due to injury.
The Miami Dolphins big offseason acquisition, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, is going to miss a huge chunk of the season due to injury. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Miami does have a strong defensive line anchored by Christian Wilkins, and they need to take pressure off the secondary. That could certainly happen. But still, playing in the AFC East and having to face Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers twice — not to mention a schedule that includes Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes — is not an ideal scenario for a questionable secondary.

Plus, the AFC East faces the NFC East this season. That includes difficult games against the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants. Plus, a second-place schedule also sees them facing Tennessee and Baltimore. There are too many tough opponents and too many question marks surrounding their quarterback, offensive line, playmakers outside of Hill and Waddle, and defensive secondary to back them to win double-digit games. And the AFC is too tough to see them reaching the postseason.

Miami Dolphins Predicted Win Total: UNDER 9.5

LISTEN: Dan Zaksheske and Geoff Clark Break Down The AFC and NFC East On The Latest Episode of “OutKick Bets”

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Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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