The Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens are all 6-2 through the first eight weeks of the season, which means Miami is in the mix for the No. 1 seed in the AFC if it can keep on winning.
There has been a lot to learn about this Dolphins team in Mike McDaniel’s second season as head coach, and a lot of it has been good.
Miami has weathered the losses of key players like Terron Armstead, Jalen Ramsey and De’Von Achane for extended periods of time this season, and it has seen players like Raheem Mostert, Tyreek Hill and Tua Tagovailoa take their games to new levels.
There is still a long way to go for the Dolphins (nine more regular season games), but the team has the looks of a playoff team and potential Super Bowl contender.
Here are five things that the Dolphins have taught us through their first eight games of the 2023 campaign.
1. We love playing at home
The Dolphins are protecting home field at an elite level so far this season, going 4-0 with multiple big wins on their resume.
Miami has wins by 50, 15, 21 and 14 points at home, leaving no doubt in any of the team’s games at Hard Rock Stadium.
That is extremely important for multiple reasons.
Secondly, the Dolphins have a chance to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which would give them home-field advantage in the playoffs against all other AFC opponents. That could be a huge advantage, especially since the weather in Miami is usually warmer than many other places in the NFL.
The importance of taking care of business at home (Miami has five more games at Hard Rock Stadium in the regular season) cannot be overlooked.
2. Tyreek Hill and Tua Tagovailoa may be the NFL’s best duo
In Miami’s Week 8 win over the Patriots, Hill became the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 or more receiving yards in the first eight games of the season.
He’s on pace to finish the season with over 2,000 receiving yards, something that has never been done in the regular season in NFL history.
“It feels great,” Hill said. “God is great. I’ve been calling my shot since I came in this league. A lot of people doubted me, saying I couldn’t do this and do that, but it’s all about believing in yourself.”
Hill has done it with the help of Tagovailoa, who is having a terrific season of his own. The former No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is leading the NFL in passing yards per game (302.0), passing yards and passing touchdowns this season.
He’s thrown 18 scores in total for the Dolphins, with eight of those going to Hill (which leads the NFL).
Overall, the duo has connected 61 times for 1,014 yards on 87 targets. That’s an insane pace through eight games, and it makes Miami’s offense extremely hard to stop.
Having a connection like the one Hill and Tagovailoa have could be what takes the Dolphins over the top this season.
3. Ground game is nothing to be messed with
Last season, Mostert was the team’s leading rusher, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and tallying 891 yards in 16 games. Those are solid numbers, but the team has taken things to a new level in the 2023 campaign.
In just eight games this season, Mostert already has 520 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Not only that, but Achane has become a crucial player for the team as well.
While the rookie is currently on injured reserve with a knee injury, he’s been a beast in the four games he’s played in so far in 2023 – rushing for 460 yards and five touchdowns.
The improved rushing attack (Mostert averaging 5.4 yards per carry and Achane averaging 12.1) has subsequently opened up the passing game for Miami. That has allowed Tagovailoa to lead the NFL in passing yards.
The dual-threat ability of the Dolphins on offense is a big reason why they’ve scored the most points in the NFL (271) so far this season.
4. Defense will only get better
Miami made a concerted effort this past offseason to improve its secondary by acquiring Ramsey in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
While Ramsey missed the team’s first seven games due to a torn meniscus, he showed immediately why the team traded for him in Week 8.
The Pro Bowler recorded his first interception as a Dolphin, picking off Mac Jones.
GUESS WHO'S BACK? @JalenRamsey
— NFL (@NFL) October 29, 2023
McDaniel seems pretty excited to have Ramsey back in the lineup, even though the cornerback didn’t have a pick-six against the Patriots.
Mike McDaniel on Jalen Ramsey pic.twitter.com/xK80cycE25
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) October 29, 2023
“He totally disappointed me,” McDaniel said jokingly. “He called that he was going to come back and have a pick-six, not a pick-field goal. He did phenomenal. You want to talk about something that goes above and beyond? You can’t manufacture what he brought to our team in any other way.”
The Dolphins have allowed the 14th most passing yards in the NFL this season, so adding Ramsey to the team’s secondary could really change how the team performs on that side of the ball.
Overall, Miami is 13th in the NFL in opponent yards per play allowed, so it’s not out of the question that the team could become a top-10 unit in the NFL in that category if it starts to slow down the passing game.
Ramsey should play a huge role for the team when it comes to slowing down top quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson and Joe Burrow in the playoffs.
5. We’re allergic to winning big games
This isn’t a knock on the Dolphins, as they’re 6-2 through the first eight weeks and have played some great football.
But so far in the 2023 campaign, Miami has beaten up on a lot of bad teams. Here are the current records of the teams the Dolphins have won against:
- Week 1: Los Angeles Chargers (3-4)
- Week 2: New England Patriots (2-6)
- Week 3: Denver Broncos (3-5)
- Week 5: New York Giants (2-6)
- Week 6: Carolina Panthers (1-6)
- Week 8: New England Patriots (2-6)
Miami has done a good job beating who it has to beat, but not one of the team’s six wins has come against a team that is above .500 at this point in the 2023 season.
The Dolphins’ two biggest games of the season to date – at Buffalo and at the Philadelphia Eagles – both ended in losses.
The frustrating part for Dolphins fans is that the team was blown out by the Bills, losing by 28 points in what would have been a huge win to really take a stranglehold on the AFC East race.
Miami’s matchup with the Eagles was a little more understandable since the team was without a few key offensive lineman in that game and struggled a bit against the Philly pass rush.
Still, losing by two touchdowns isn’t exactly what fans were hoping for in a Sunday Night Football game against one of the league’s best teams.
If Miami truly wants to be a Super Bowl contender, it needs to take down a top team this season.
That could happen in Week 9 against the Chiefs in Germany, and it would give the Dolphins a pretty clear path to the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they can win the game.