Despite early setbacks, fans still hold playoff hopes for hometown Dolphins

South Florida has been buzzing about the players in aqua and orange. The Miami Dolphins have been hard at work at their new facilities in Coral Gables. With a total of three new starters from free agency and the draft, along with the already known players from previous seasons, this team can easily be the best Dolphin team in the past decade. 

With all of the pre-season hype, the Dolphins have struggled early, as their record is 1-3, dropping three games to their division rival Buffalo Bills, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts. Tua Tagovailoa suffered broken ribs in the home opener against the Bills, and has been out for the last two games. Without Tua behind center, newly-signed Jacoby Brissett has taken charge, but Miami has still struggled with offensive productivity. They were shut out by Buffalo in an embarrassing 35-0 home loss, as that contributed to their low average of only 15.5 points per game. On the other side of the ball, the defense has lived up to expectations by playing like a top ten defense. Although they may have given up a high number of points, their offense hasn’t given them any favors in field position or time of possession. They had a defensive touchdown two weeks ago against the Raiders that gave them their first score of the game. Xavien Howard already has one interception on the year, and has looked good as the face of this defense.

Before last season, Miami has been known around the NFL as the definition of mediocre. Ever since 2008, which is the last time the Dolphins won their division and made the playoffs, there has only been one other winning season. That was Miami’s 2016 season when they went 10-6 and lost in the Wildcard to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite last season’s 10-win season, the Dolphins still couldn’t win the division and missed their opportunity for a Wildcard appearance in the playoffs. 

“The Dolphins haven’t been very good in a while, but fans from all over including myself have playoff expectations for this team,” junior Cole Esterline said.

Another Dolphin fan, senior Fernando Piedra, also had high hopes for the new and improved Miami squad.

“I feel like we’re going to do good. We did well last season, but with the new players we’ve gotten and the good players we kept, I’m excited to see what we can do this year,” Piedra said.

Furthermore, sophomore Kristian Hobbs explained how the team can either overachieve and make the fans ecstatic, or underachieve and make the fans feel like it’s just the same old Dolphins team that’s been around for more than 10 years.

“It’s definitely going to be a very interesting season,” Hobbs said.

It has been over ten years since the Dolphins have won the AFC East. Mostly because of the sheer dominance that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have had over the division. Ever since he left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami fans have been eyeing that top spot. Sadly, there’s a new and young team in the division that has proven they can take over, and they are in the same boat as the Dolphins.

“It’s going to be hard since they have the Bills in their division. They have a very talented young quarterback in Josh Allen. It’s going to be a competitive division. But they can win it for sure,” Hobbs said.

The Buffalo Bills went 13-3 last year and won the AFC East. They won their AFC Wildcard game against the Indianapolis Colts and then beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional. They ended up losing a close game in the AFC Conference Championship to the Kansas City Chiefs. Nevertheless, the Bills are hungry to make another run at the Super Bowl.

“I think our only contender will be the Bills. They were really good last year and they have the potential to be even better this year. But I think as long as we play the way we can play, we can control our own destiny,” Piedra said.

Fan favorites among students represent both sides of the ball. The first player voiced is most likely the unanimous vote for best player on the Miami Dolphins according to fans.

“[It’s cornerback] Xavien Howard. I want to see him ball out again like he did last year,” Piedra said.

Howard has made the Pro Bowl twice in his career. He made Second-Team All-Pro in 2018, and then was a First-Team All-Pro in 2020, leading the NFL in interceptions leader both of those years.

Hobbs mentioned another exciting player on the Dolphins roster that has been a part of the organization for a period of time. While he may not be a known name on a national scale, kicker Jason Sanders is very well known in the 305. He was named First-Team All-Pro in 2020 for the first time in his career since he came into the league. In his first year in 2018, he won PFWA (Professional Football Writers of America) Rookie of the Year.

“I’ve actually kicked with [Sanders] before. He’s coming off of another breakthrough season last year, so it should be exciting,” Hobbs said.