The 49ers and Dolphins both enter the 2020 season with different expectations for what’ll be asked by each fan base. The 49ers have hopes of making another Super Bowl appearance — along with a different outcome. And the Dolphins hope to break their playoff drought and sneak their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
It'll be crucial for the 49ers to get off to a great start on the season as their schedule gets much tougher later on in the year. And with the 49ers having superior talent on their roster, plus the Dolphins having to fly across the country, San Francisco should have a drastic advantage in this early season contest.
Here is the fifth installment of the 49ers opponent breakdown as they face off against the Miami Dolphins in Week 5:
2019 Record: 5-11, last place in the AFC East
2019 Meetings with 49ers: N/A
Season in Review: The Dolphins entered 2019 with minimal expectations as they entered full-rebuild mode. After getting outscored 59-10 and 43-0 during Weeks 1 and 2, the team traded away their rising star, Minkah Fitzpatrick, for multiple future draft picks. As time went on and first-year head coach Brian Flores was able to make his mark on the team, the Dolphins finished the season winning five of their last nine games.
Key Additions: CB Byron Jones, LB Kyle Van Noy, RB Jordan Howard, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Shaq Lawson, OT Ereck Flowers
The Dolphins certainly weren't shy about spending their money on high-priced free agents this offseason. The team added two of the most sought after players on the market -- Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy. Both inked deals to be the centerpiece of their improving defense.
Jones will enter just his third season of playing cornerback after previously taking the field as a free safety. His coverage ability is top-notch — however, his game hasn't quite translated into forcing many interceptions since making the position switch.
Van Noy is a guy who can rush the passer or play in space as an off-the-ball linebacker at a high level. Given his relationship with Flores during their time in New England, he's likely to continue to do both as he has done for the Patriots over the last four seasons.
The Dolphins added additional beef up front along the defensive line with Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson who play the run and the pass effectively. Their two additions on offense should also help improve the running game with veteran rusher Jordan Howard and offensive tackle Ereck Flowers being inserted into the equation.
Key Departures: CB Aqib Talib
The team lacked considerable talent so they didn’t lose many key pieces. Their largest departure consists of Aqib Talib, but he never played a down for the Dolphins -- they traded for him last season simply to acquire a fifth-round pick. Plus he’s also entering his age 34 season so regression is likely to come. Plus, the additions they’ve added via free agency and the draft — Miami has upgraded in their secondary.
Notable 2020 Draft Picks: QB Tua Tagovailoa, OT Austin Jackson
For over a year, Dolphins’ fans have been calling for Tua Tagovailoa to become their savior. If not for his significant injury concerns to end his college career, Tagovailoa would’ve likely heard his name called within the first three picks, and not dropped to the Dolphins at pick No.5. Tagovailoa’s health has progressed immensely since his horrific hip injury against Mississippi State last year, but Ryan Fitzpatrick may still take the field as the starting quarterback, at least initially.
Offensive tackle Austin Jackson was drafted with the hope of protecting Tagovailoa for the foreseeable future. Jackson enters the NFL after being regarded as one of the more athletic tackles in college football. He’s extremely agile given his 6’5”, 317-pound frame, but still remains a bit raw. Jackson is set to fight for a starting spot with Julie’n Davenport in training camp.
Prognosis: Considering all the investments ownership has put into the team this offseason, the Dolphins have raised the bar for themselves in 2020. The quarterback position still remains uncertain who knows if Tagovailoa will be the guy under center?
But even if he’s not, Fitzpatrick should be able to string along a couple more victories than he did last season with the new pieces that were added in free agency and the draft. Playoff hopes are still probably at least a year away as the Bills are trending upward and the Patriots still have the mastermind to their operation in Bill Belichick. Nonetheless, the Dolphins should be much improved from where they finished last season, with the potential of finishing 2020 near the middle of the pack in the AFC.