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With the 2022 NFL season fast approaching, the South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a look at 10 storylines to watch for in a 10-part series ahead of the Miami Dolphins’ first day of training camp, which is set for July 27.

Bringing in Mike McDaniel as the Miami Dolphins’ new head coach this offseason was a 180-degree turnaround from the personality of his predecessor, Brian Flores.

McDaniel is incorporating a players’ coach approach that counters the disciplinarian, Belichickean style Flores deployed.

Time will tell if it leads to the franchise taking the next step in reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season and maybe winning a postseason game for the first time since the 2000 season. After all, Flores did seem to get the most out of his teams, leading the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons and, before that, squeezing five wins out of a 2019 roster designed to tank — although maybe he and the franchise weren’t on the same page there. That’s a topic for another day.

McDaniel has come into his first head coaching gig with a clear intent to empower players and instill confidence in them. Nowhere is that more evident than in the approach he has incorporated with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Everything McDaniel, his coaching staff and players have said publicly about Tagovailoa throughout the offseason has been ultra-positive. Offensive coordinator Frank Smith and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell have followed suit with McDaniel, stating they feel Tagovailoa can make all the throws required of him. The biggest outside criticism of Tagovailoa, of course, is that his arm strength limits his ability to throw downfield and squeeze intermediate sideline passes into tight windows.

The Dolphins’ prized offseason acquisition, star wide receiver Tyreek Hill, has led the player charge in fulfilling McDaniel’s wishes of backing up Tagovailoa. Hill has deemed Tagovailoa’s passes pretty, and has gone as far as calling him a more accurate passer than his previous quarterback in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes, who has maybe been the best in the game in the time they played together.

Hill made those comments that drew a lot of national media backlash on his new podcast that he unveiled this offseason. His voice on this new outlet for him is representative of McDaniel’s first message to Hill upon his arrival in Miami: “Just be you.”

That’s the overriding demeanor that has been seen from players in press conferences through Dolphins organized team activities and minicamp ahead of training camp, which begins on July 26.

Players appear more loose speaking publicly. They’re not uptight in the press-conference setting like in 2021, seemingly afraid that something they let slip will lead to a scolding from Flores.

Tagovailoa has had some of his most open, honest conversations with the media, firing back at “Twitter warriors” that criticize his throws after a practice where he connected on two deep passes to Hill. He has been pointed in noting that he feels greater support from his new coach than he did under Flores.

“I think support, for any of us, means a lot,” Tagovailoa said. “To be able to have the support of the head coach, the head guy, that should tell you a lot.”

Schematically, McDaniel is in Miami to revamp the offense, incorporating what made him a successful offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and run-game coordinator before that.

In San Francisco, McDaniel orchestrated one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks with his wide-zone scheme that was effective no matter who he had carrying the ball out of the backfield.

He’ll have some of the tools he needs to replicate it with the Dolphins. The team’s top free-agent addition was left tackle Terron Armstead, a bulldozer of a run blocker. McDaniel can work the Dolphins’ otherwise young line with him and fellow acquisition Connor Williams, a four-year NFL guard who practiced at center in OTAs and minicamp.

The Dolphins have built a committee in the backfield that can have any of a number of backs contribute. Chase Edmonds, over from the Arizona Cardinals, is a dynamic playmaker that can catch the ball out of the backfield. Raheem Mostert, who has played under McDaniel with the 49ers, possesses the elite speed. Sony Michel, making a South Florida homecoming, can be a physical runner. The Dolphins also still have Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed at running back, and Alec Ingold is the lead-blocking fullback that makes the run game whole.

The rushing attack can facilitate Tagovailoa’s throws. Hill and Jaylen Waddle will get open more easily, along with tight end Mike Gesicki and slot receiver Cedrick Wilson. McDaniel’s innovation and creativity offensively can put Miami’s playmakers in unique positions to contribute. And an effective ground game can relieve an offensive line that struggled in pass protection last season from being in so many of those situations.

McDaniel also came to the Dolphins with the mindset of maintaining what worked, the defense. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer will have to prove he can run that side of the ball on his own, without Flores or defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander, but virtually everything else on last year’s defense that was great the second half of the year remained constant.

Previously addressed

Can Dolphins get same production from Tyreek Hill in Miami?

Will Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer be able to prove he doesn’t need Brian Flores’ help?


How can Mike McDaniel’s coaching style, offensive mind benefit Dolphins? | Countdown to camp

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