A repeat of 2019? Dolphins should be better in December

MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-11)

New faces: QB Tua Tagovailoa, CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, RB Jordan Howard, RB Matt Breida, C Ted Karras, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Elandon Roberts, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Shaq Lawson, OL Ereck Flowers, S Clayton Fejedelem, T Austin Jackson, G Solomon Kindley, T Robert Hunt, CB Noah Igbinoghene, S Kavon Frazier, TE Adam Shaheen.

Key losses: S Reshad Jones, C Daniel Kilgore, S Walt Aikens, DE Taco Charlton, DE Charles Harris, G Evan Boehm, LS Taybor Pepper, LT J’Marcus Webb, DT John Jenkins.

Strengths: Dolphins believe they’ve finally found coach to lead them to first playoff win since 2000. Brian Flores won raves for steering remarkable turnaround in his rookie season last year, when Miami started 0-7 but improved dramatically despite NFL-record roster turnover. Strongest position on roster is cornerback, where veteran Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene join Xavien Howard, giving Miami potentially one of NFL’s best trios. That would upgrade defense that allowed league-high 39 touchdown passes last year.

Weaknesses: Offensive line is getting its annual overhaul, receiving position is thin and quarterback is in transition, with Miami likely to switch from 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick to top draft pick Tua Tagovailoa at some point. So it’s easy to wonder how Dolphins will score.

Pandemic Development: Cancellation of NFL offseason programs hurt Dolphins more than most teams because they have so many newcomers, including six free agents signed for nearly $200 million, and three first-round draft picks. Receivers Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out because of coronavirus.

Fantasy Player To Watch: Seventh-round draft pick Malcolm Perry is good match for new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s scheme, and team’s lack of depth at receiver will give him chance to make impact. Quarterback at Navy, 5-foot-9 Perry was drafted in seventh round and could see playing time as slot receiver, kick returner and even running back.

Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 70-1. Over/under wins: 6.

Expectations: Flores will rely heavily on newcomers who may need time to mesh, and that’s especially true on offensive line, where Dolphins could start three rookies. So 2020 may be repeat of 2019, with Miami significantly better in December than in September. Biggest question is when Tagovailoa starts to play, and slow start could accelerate answer.

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