American Football

2023’s Most Likely Regression Candidates for the Miami Dolphins

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New York Jets v Miami Dolphins
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It isn’t fun to talk about, but it’s an inevitability…

Since Mike McDaniel took over as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, the team has seen more players trend up than trend down. While it’s perfectly rational to expect that to continue, there is no avoiding that certain players will regress-it’s the nature of the NFL. Figuring out who will break out and who will fade away is difficult to predict with much accuracy.

With that said, there are always signs or situations that make it more likely that a player will struggle in the upcoming season. Sometimes it can be due to age or health concerns. Other times it can be the introduction of a new system or new additions to a roster that will cut into this player’s snap count. We are going to look at three players today who could have down years. We’ll discuss why they’re more likely to do so and also examine why I could be 100% off the mark (which happens all the time).

Raheem Mostert

2022 Stats

Carries: 181

Yards: 892

TDs: 3

YPC: 4.9

PFF Rushing Grade: 80.7

Why He Could Regress

Mostert had a fantastic season last year for the Miami Dolphins. He logged the most yards and attempts of his entire career and finished the season with his highest PFF rushing grade, ever. He has two major things working against him going forward. First, he’ll be 31 years old this season, which is practically ancient for NFL running backs. Players who have struggled to stay healthy for the majority of their careers, don’t usually shake that off once they surpass 30 years of age.

The other thing that could work against Mostert is his usage. This will ring especially true if the Miami Dolphins do pull off a deal for Dalvin Cook. In that situation, Cook would almost certainly be the lead back, which would mean a much-reduced role for Mostert. Even if they don’t add Cook though, I could see Devon Achane cut into his workload significantly as the season progresses.

Why He Won’t

While Mostert has struggled with injuries throughout his career, that could help his longevity. Mostert only has 465 carries through his entire career, which is nothing for an NFL running back over 30. We saw no signs of him slowing down last year, if anything we saw him gain steam as the season wore on. He is also someone that has a deep understanding of the offense and has earned Mike McDaniel’s trust. If Mostert goes into the season as RB1, he could easily log 150-200 carries.

Bradley Chubb

2022 Stats

Def Snaps: 742

Sacks: 8

Pressures: 51

Pass Rush Win Rate: 10.1%

PFF Pass Rush Grade: 72.3

Why He Could Regress

The Dolphins pulled off a big in-season deal to add Chubb to their defense. They traded away a first-round pick and promptly awarded Chubb a 5 year $110 million dollar contract. The size of Chubb’s contract could work against him when it comes to the organization’s and the fan’s expectations.

Bradley Chubb is a solid player. He has always been (since being drafted in 2018) one of the 25-30 best edge defenders in the NFL. He occasionally will have big games, but for the most part, you’re going to be getting slightly above-average production week-in and week-out. He was drafted highly, but he hasn’t been in the same league as the top edge defenders in the NFL. By paying him as much as they have, one would have to conclude that the Dolphins are expecting him to take a step forward (which he may not).

The other concern here is that Chubb’s production fell off after joining the Dolphins last year. He logged 5.5 of his 8 sacks during the first eight games of the season while he was with Denver. He had two really good games last season (week 1 @ Seattle and Week 5 against Indy), both of which came with Denver. Chubb has also missed a lot of time with lower body injuries since joining the league which could happen again in 2023 (hopefully not).

Why He Won’t

The first thing we can point to for optimism is the addition of Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator. Fangio has traditionally produced really successful seasons for his pass rushers and has a lot of familiarity with Chubb from his time in Denver. It’s likely that Chubb just wasn’t a great fit for Josh Boyer’s defense, which would explain his lack of production with Miami last season.

Chubb is also just 27 years of age and has a ton of room for growth. There is a possibility that the Dolphins got Chubb at just the right time and they’ll enjoy his prime years as a pass rusher. He has a really high floor as a player, so there isn’t really a concern that he’ll be bad… just a question of how good he can be.

Xavien Howard

2022 Stats

Def Snaps: 973

Yards Allowed: 826

TDs Allowed: 6

QB Rating When Targeted: 121.1

PFF Coverage Grade: 55.2

Why He Could Regress

As a long-time Dolphins fan, this one really breaks my heart. Howard spent his prime playing years on average (to below-average) Dolphins teams. Last season was Howard’s worst as a professional, so there is a chance that we are already experiencing his late career regression.

He’ll be 30 years old this upcoming season and has experienced a ton of nagging lower-body injuries throughout his career. Last year he struggled to come back from several of these injuries and didn’t look like himself for most of the season. These aren’t usually things that clear up as players get older and learn new schemes. As much as I hate to say it, I don’t know if Howard has any high-level seasons left in the tank.

Why He Won’t

Howard struggled last season under Boyer’s tutelage… but so did half the defense. The secondary especially had a large number of injuries which led to many players being pushed into roles they weren’t ready for. The number of blown coverages and miscommunications really hurt the defense and Howard’s numbers.

This also will come down to expectations for Howard going forward. Too many times last season, the defense would be in cover 0 and Howard would be locked up with some of the best receivers in the NFL. That is an almost impossible situation for most corners and it’s something that really won’t happen much under Fangio in 2023. The addition of Jalen Ramsey also should help to take some weight off Howard’s shoulders.

I Hope That I’m Wrong

To be honest, it hurt to write this article. These are three of my favorite players on the Miami Dolphins and I want nothing more than for them to succeed. If I’m being objective though, it wouldn’t surprise me if all three had down years in 2023. Let me know below who you think could regress for the Dolphins in 2023.

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