Tua: Dolphins are ‘legit contenders’ in AFC

Tua: Dolphins are 'legit contenders' in AFC
Tua: Dolphins are 'legit contenders' in AFC

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa thinks the Miami Dolphins belong in the AFC’s elite.

“We’re definitely legit contenders,” Tagovailoa said Tuesday, according to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. “There’s no doubt with the guys we have on the defensive side of the ball. With the guys we have on the offensive side of the ball. And now with this being the first time as an offense, we get to come back understanding the plays already kind of molded into the offense a little more. I think it can get very, very scary.”

The Dolphins posted a 9-8 record last season, including an 8-5 campaign with Tagovailoa under center. The 25-year-old landed in the concussion protocol multiple times and missed several games, including Miami’s wild-card loss to the Buffalo Bills. The postseason defeat extended the Dolphins’ playoff winless streak, which dates back to the 2000 season.

In 2023, Miami added to both sides of the ball. Its defense, in particular, saw big changes – the club acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey and hired Vic Fangio as its defensive coordinator. The team ranked 24th in points allowed last year.

With Tagovailoa as its quarterback, the AFC East team boasted one of football’s most efficient offenses. The 2020 first-round pick led the league in passer rating (105.5) and yards per pass attempt (8.9). Tagovailoa hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season since entering the league but remains optimistic he’ll prove that he’s Miami’s long-term quarterback.

“I’ve got to do what I’ve been doing this past year, outside of injuries,” Tagovailoa said. “Just the way I play football, play my style of football. But I think the things that have hurt me have been just the injuries. So I’ve been working really hard to hopefully elongate myself throughout to withstand seasons. We’ll see how all that plays out. And God-willing, I can make it through the entire season and we can win a playoff game, we can win a Super Bowl.”

The Kansas City Chiefs have dominated the AFC, hosting the conference’s title game for five straight seasons and winning two Super Bowls since Patrick Mahomes became a starter in 2018. The Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals faced off in the AFC championship matchup in the last two campaigns.

The Dolphins play in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions. The Bills have won the AFC East in each of the last three seasons after the New England Patriots did so for 11 consecutive campaigns. The New York Jets, who’ve finished in the division’s basement since 2020, landed four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in a trade this offseason.

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