The Miami Dolphins kicked of the Mike McDaniel era this week when rookies reported to the team’s facility. The Dolphins 2022 draft class featured a franchise-low four selections, but with undrafted rookies, a decent crop arrived to start training camp. With veterans poised to report on Tuesday July 26th, it’s time to consider which Dolphins are breakout candidates for the coming season.
McDaniel, the quirky offensive guru and 11th head coach in franchise history, is tasked with reshaping one of the most stagnant offensive attacks in the NFL. The Dolphins haven’t had a top-10 offense in 27 years, when Dan Marino was still under center.
Entering his first training camp as a head coach, McDaniel must identify the players that can help take Miami to the next level. The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game in 2000 but seem to have populated the roster with players talented enough to end that drought.
Here’s a look at five breakout candidates for the Miami Dolphins in 2022.
Dolphins Breakout Candidate: WR Cedrick Wilson Jr.
The headlines this offense naturally went toward the trade acquisition of Tyreek Hill, but the signing of Cedrick Wilson Jr. should also excite ‘Phins fans. Miami targeted Wilson early in free agency, which signals confidence in potential production and offensive fit.
At 6-foot-2, Wilson stands as a solid complement to Miami’s other speedy pass catchers, and he’s something of a burner himself. He fits McDaniel’s as a run-after-the-catch threat, something that, coupled with the addition of Hill, pushed DeVante Parker off Miami’s roster.
Wilson comes to Miami following a career-year with the Cowboys. He made 45 catches for 602 yards and six touchdowns. Last season, Dallas quarterbacks registered a 138.0 passer rating when targeting Wilson on intermediate routes. That figure ranked eighth among all wideouts.
Although he’ll share time and targets with Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Mike Gesicki, among others in the passing game, Wilson should provide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with a reliable redzone threat. Waddle led the Dolphins with 15 redzone targets last year, but no other player was in double figures.
Gesicki saw nine, as did running back Myles Gaskin. Departed wideouts Mack Hollins and Parker vacate 14 redzone targets between them, so Wilson could pick up the slack there. He saw nine redzone targets last season, making six catches, including three for touchdowns.
While the 27-year-old fourth-year pro has never recorded a 1,000-yard season, he’s poised to assume a significant role in the Dolphins’ passing attack.
Dolphins Breakout Candidate: RB Chase Edmonds
Miami revamped their backfield this offseason with the additions of Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, and Alec Ingold. While there’s a clear tie between Mostert and McDaniel given their shared time in San Francisco, Edmonds stands taller among Dolphins breakout candidates.
Edmonds was one of two running backs last season that registered more than 100 carries, over 5.0 yards-per-carry, and over 40 receptions. He finished top-10 in yards-per-rushing-attempt (5.1) and generated 341 yards after contact. Edmonds posted career-highs in 10-plus yard carries (19) and missed tackles forced (16).
Edmonds looks like a great system fit, too. The 49ers used a zone blocking scheme 282 times last season, 6th-most in the NFL. Edmonds thrived behind zone blocking last season, ranking first in the NFL in yards-per-attempt (5.8).
Edmonds seems to have an inside track for the starting role in Miami, and his dual-threat nature has him poised for a breakout season. He made 43 catches in 12 games last season, finishing 14th among running backs. He averaged 3.6 receptions per game, so if he had played a full season, he might have finished with 61 grabs. That figure would have put him top-5 among all running backs.
Dolphins Breakout Candidate: S Brandon Jones
While most of the offseason attention will go to Miami’s other safety Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones also looks ready to make the leap next season. He flashed an elite skill for his position last season, blitzing the quarterback, and finished with five sacks. That figure led all defensive backs in 2021. He also recorded 14 pressures.
Miami personnel official Matt Winston said recently Jones is “very reliable, in terms of what you’re getting day in and day out. You know you’re going to get some sort of explosive play. He’s got a niche rushing the passer in exotic packages. Really being a force in and around the line of scrimmage is where he’s stood out to me.”
Jones posted a 77.6 pass-rush grade in 2021 for Pro Football Focus, which ranked 10th among qualified safeties.
During OTAs, Jones told reporters he wants to avoid being labeled a “blitz only” guy. He said his goal is “just trying to be and find the best way for me that I could be well rounded.”
Dolphins Breakout Candidate: Jaelan Phillips
The No. 18 overall pick in the 2021 draft, Phillips finished with 8.5 sacks, second among all rookies last season behind only Micah Parsons’ 13. He also registered 16 QB Hits as a rookie.
Phillips played all 17 games last season, but seemed to get more comfortable as the year progressed. He recorded seven of his sacks in the second half of the season, including a run of five games registering at least half a sack. Phillips should get more run in 2022 following a rookie campaign that saw him play just 54 percent of defensive snaps overall.
Teammates recognize Phillips’ potential as well. Three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead said Phillips “has the chance to be special” in the NFL. And Phillips’ pass rush partner, Emmanuel Ogbah, noted Phillips “has the mentality” and he’s “excited to see his growth this year.”
For comparison’s sake, Jason Taylor managed five sacks as a rookie, then nine in his second season. Taylor set Miami’s single-season sack record (18.5) in 2002, his sixth season.
If Phillips follows a similar trajectory, he’ll be among the elite pass rushers in the game. Should he make a four-sack jump in Year 2, he’d finish with 12.5, a figure that would’ve tied for seventh-most last season.
Dolphins Breakout Candidate: Tua Tagovailoa
This one seems like the obvious one, so I’ve saved quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for last among the Dolphins breakout candidates. Behind an improved offensive line and with a ground attack designed by running game guru McDaniel, a run-after-the-catch design for this offense should be one Tagovailoa thrives in.
Over his 12 games last season, Tagovailoa registered 2,653 yards, 16 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions with a 67.8-percent completion percentage. He led the league in deep ball completion percentage (50.0 percent) and red zone completion percentage (64.9 percent). Tagovailoa posted the highest clean-pocket completion percentage among starting quarterbacks (76.3 percent). That’s noteworthy considering offensive line play should improve following the additions of Armstead and Connor Williams.
Tagovailoa ranked fourth in play-action completion percentage (69.0-percent), too. While he might not excel throwing into tight windows, his top-3 receivers for 2022 can all create space for their quarterback with their speed.
Following his hire as Dolphins head coach, McDaniel said of Tagovailoa: “I think it’s important that you empower the quarterback with the rest of the players around him and the scheme you bring forth. So, I think his best days are in front of him.”
Tagovailoa’s accuracy and decision-making should help him capitalize on the talent upgrades surrounding him in Miami this season.
These veterans will report to Miami’s facility on Tuesday, July 26th, set for training camp. The first practice open to the public will occur on July 30th. Follow 5 Reasons and Three Yards Per Carry host Alfredo Arteaga for updates during training camp to see who stands out among the Dolphins breakout candidates.