Can McDaniel Unlock Dolphins' Potential

The Miami Dolphins fell short of the NFL playoffs last season despite finishing with a 9-8 record. Brian Flores paid the price for his team’s failure to get over the line. The new man on the Dolphins’ sideline, Mike McDaniel, has arrived with a sound reputation on the offensive side of the ball, but he faces a major challenge to galvanize a team that has underachieved for far too long in the AFC Conference.

The Dolphins are backed at +138 in the online betting odds to reach the playoffs in the 2022 campaign, which highlights the task ahead, especially given the level of competition in the AFC Conference, which appears to be loaded with Super Bowl caliber sides. The AFC West alone has four teams capable of winning the crown, while the Dolphins will have to contend with one of the favorites for the Super Bowl in their own division in the form of the Buffalo Bills. The New England Patriots and New York Jets are also primed for improvements, notably the latter who appear to be stronger after selecting three quality players in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

The onus will be on McDaniel to close the gap to the Bills at the top of the division, knowing that the performance of the Dolphins’ offense will be key. Josh Allen and the Bills were sensational last season, and the quarterback will be determined to lead his team to a third-straight AFC East title. Miami lost both games to the Bills in the 2021 campaign, but with new faces such as Tyreek Hill in the line-up, McDaniel will be optimistic that the Dolphins can match their rivals score-for-score.

Hill was an integral part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ unit that dominated the league for four seasons with Patrick Mahomes. The wideout will now look to forge a similar relationship with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, starting alongside Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson Jr.

The Dolphins have the weapons to hurt teams across the AFC, but Tagovailoa has to take the next step. Without a significant step forward from the quarterback then the Dolphins will be heading in a similar direction under McDaniel as they were under Flores. Tagovailoa has underwhelmed in his two seasons so far in the NFL, but the system McDaniel has emerged from at the San Francisco 49ers has the ability to mask problems at the quarterback position. Jimmy Garoppolo was not a world-beater, but under the guidance of McDaniel, he was able to usher the 49ers towards a Super Bowl appearance in 2019 and a run to the NFC Championship Game last term.

If McDaniel can unlock the same performances out of the 24-year-old and pair that with the speed and talent the Dolphins have at receiver, then Miami might just be one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2022. They could even be a dark horse for a run towards the AFC Championship Game if they retain the defensive discipline they boasted under Flores. McDaniel’s first year as a head coach could be a very entertaining affair.

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