The Miami Dolphins’ 2019 campaign will kickoff Sunday afternoon in Hard Rock Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. After a full roster and coaching staff makeover this off-season, the new look Dolphins are getting tested right out of the gate.
“I think I have a good team. I think I have a good team, but every week is hard in this league. There’s a lot of talent, really across the board. If you prepare the right way, if you take the steps necessary to put yourself in position to play well, that’s what you do and we go out there Sunday, we’ll see what happens,” Miami head coach Brian Flores said.
Baltimore’s success in 2018
The Ravens have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams dating back to 2008. In the most recent matchup coming back in 2017, Baltimore picked Miami apart 40-0. Baltimore is coming off a 10-6 season that saw veteran quarterback Joe Flacco and rookie Lamar Jackson lead the team to its AFC North division title. However, their postseason dream was cut short in the wild card round with a loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers.
When Jackson took over for Flacco after a 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in week nine, the Ravens were 4-5, but went 6-1 to finish off the regular season. This will be Jackson’s first full season as a starting quarterback, and already, the Ravens have high aspirations for how far he can take them. He is a dual-threat quarterback, in both the passing and rushing game, that is extremely difficult to game plan for.
“The Ravens are a good team. We know that. They’re tough. They’re physical. We’ve got to match their toughness and match their physicality and match their execution. That’s the goal Sunday,” Flores said.
Off-season additions of running back Mark Ingram and safety Earl Thomas counter-balance the losses of safety Eric Weddle and linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs. However, the team’s defense projects to be just as good as last year.
Miami’s success in 2018
The Dolphins 2018 season ended with a 7-9 record and the firing of head coach Adam Gase. Gase was with the Dolphins for three seasons and took the team to the playoffs once. Other big-name departures over the off season include quarterback Ryan Tannehill and veteran defensive end Cameron Wake. The team decided to fill those roles with quarterback’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen to battle for the starting role, and drafting rookie defensive lineman Christian Wilkins with the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft.
Dolphins’ 2019 uncertainty
When one circles back closer to where the Dolphins are now, most of the recent buzz surrounds the team trading away its former first round draft pick, offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. The rumors were swirling for days, but nobody actually believed the team would trade one of the games’ most young, elite offensive linemen. Especially when you consider he was truly the only reliable lineman on the roster. But they did. Now, Miami is forced to patch the holes until some of those draft picks acquired from the Texans can be put to use.
The Dolphins have four linemen on the roster right now that were not on the roster a week ago. Add that with Jesse Davis, who spent most of his training camp at right tackle before being shifted to the left side of Miami’s line.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that throwing a lineman into a new starting position days before the regular season begins is a recipe for disaster. Davis, who has worked on the left side in practice since the Tunsil trade, looks like he will be the blindside protector for Fitzpatrick, for at least the first week. The Dolphins even added J’Marcus Webb, who last played with the Indianapolis Colts, just yesterday.
Flores said Wednesday that he believes he solidified his starting offensive line for his first NFL game as a head coach.
“For the most part – yes, for the most part. Yesterday gave us a good look. (Our) practice in pads gave us a good look at the entire group,” Flores said. “We have a starting lineup in mind, yeah. We feel good about it. We’ll work that group again today. That could change; but yeah, we have a group in mind.”
The Dolphins’ current roster picture
The number of young players on this year’s roster has been a main talking point of late as well. On the current 53-man roster, 28 of the players are 24 years old or younger. There is a serious youth movement happening in Miami, one that also includes six undrafted rookies.
Despite Miami cutting leadership veterans, some rookies are overly excited to make his career debut on Sunday.
“I’m excited as I have been for every other game in my life, pretty much; but this one is obviously a little different, it being my first game – my first official NFL game. I’m just excited,” Wilkins said. I’ve just got to prepare every way I do for every game. I can’t get too overexcited or play too emotional or anything like that. I’ve got to play within myself, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Friday’s injury report
On the injury report released on Friday, the Ravens have four players designated with an injury, all listed as questionable for the game: Wide receiver Marquise Brown (foot), cornerback Brandon Carr (hip), CB Cyrus Jones (finger) and fullback/defensive lineman Patrick Ricard (foot).
Additionally, Miami has seven players on the list, six of whom are questionable. CB Johnson Bademosi was limited all week (hip), DE Charles Harris (wrist) has practiced all week, LB Trent Harris (foot) has not practiced all week, guard Danny Isadora has been limited all week (hamstring), safety Bobby McCain (shoulder) has been limited all week, WR Albert Wilson (hip) has been limited all week and defensive tackle John Jenkins has an illness and his status is officially unknown, though he has not been at practice. LB Andrew Van Ginkel was on this list, however, found out Thursday that he’s on his way to Injured Reserve.
The Ravens are all the way up to seven point betting favorites in Las Vegas as of Thursday night. That’s the second highest spread in all of week one in the NFL, behind only the Seattle Seahawks (-9.5). If Fitzpatrick is able to pull out a win for the Dolphins in this one, it’s more than fair to call it an upset.