Sports Illustrated predicted the Dolphins would go 3-13. ESPN rated them the worst team in football in their preseason power rankings. Las Vegas gave them the longest odds to win the Super Bowl.
And this week, a former All Pro receiver thoroughly dismissed the Dolphins’ 2-0 start.
“We’re not buying this team,” five-time Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith Sr. proclaimed Tuesday on Showtime’s Inside the NFL. “Here’s why: Week 4, New England. Week 5, Cincinnati. Week 6, the Bears. After that train wreck happens, Week 15 and 16, they’ve got the Vikings and Jags.”
The Dolphins might downplay all of this, but “we do see it,” safety T.J. McDonald said. “We do play with a chip on our shoulder.”
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So why are the Dolphins being underestimated nationally? Players offered theories this week:
▪ Several players cited the Dolphins’ mediocre records for much of the past decade. “It’s like, ‘Oh, the Dolphins, they’re going to hit a wall,’” right guard Jesse Davis said.
Receiver Jakeem Grant said: “For everybody saying we’re only going to win two games, that’s fine. We’re not the same Dolphins. We are going to come in and shock the world like we’re doing.”
▪ Safety Reshad Jones believes the low expectations “definitely had something to do with” the departures of Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey.
“When you get three Pro Bowl guys leaving, I understand how people feel,” Jones said. “But we’ve got Pro Bowl caliber guys in this locker-room. Miami is always being underestimated as a team and individual wise. We have some of the best guys individually in this league and they get overlooked. I have been one of those guys getting overlooked a lot throughout my years.”
▪ McDonald cites the lack of stars on the roster and perhaps the underestimation of what Ryan Tannehill could do coming off injury. Even beyond Tannehill’s skills as a quarterback, “it makes a huge difference in the vibe we have as a team - for us on defense, too,” McDonald said.
▪ Several players say people nationally simply did not know much about Miami’s emerging young players – from Kenyan Drake to Grant to Davon Godchaux, among others.
After being acquired from San Francisco this past offseason, it was eye-opening for center Daniel Kilgore to see “how hard Kenyan runs. With our receiver corps, you have really great athletes with good hands. It’s hard to see a dropped ball in practice.”
Said Dolphins special teams ace and former Patriot Brandon Bolden: “If you are not in this building, you won’t appreciate what I’ve been witnessing for two weeks - how amazing these guys are and how they go about working.”
Receiver Albert Wilson sees the low expectations as a combination of outsiders “not having confidence in Ryan coming back and our receiver group not being so known and putting high hopes on a rookie tight end and not having an established running back [in Drake]. But we think we’re pretty good.”
Not everyone is down on Miami.
“Adam Gase changed a lot of players on that football team; there’s definitely a toughness you see now in the Dolphins,” Phil Simms said on Tuesday’s Inside the NFL. “When’s the last time you said that together: toughness and the Dolphins? You see it when you watch them play. They’re tough, gritty.
“They’ve got a very good secondary and they’ve got a very good defensive line. They have a chance to sneak is as a wild card if it falls right because they do have some other games on that schedule where they’re the better team.”
Here’s my post today on what Raiders coach Jon Gruden had to say about the Dolphins, plus notes.
Here’s my Marlins post today on where the team stands with Lewis Brinson.
Here’s my UM post today with lots of nuggets, including the message delivered to the team by Bernie Kosar.