As the Miami Dolphins continue to prepare for the 2020 regular season as best they can during this most unusual offseason, we will be dissecting their upcoming opponents.
Next up will be the Denver Broncos, who will be the opponents at Empower Field at Mile High on Oct. 18.
2019 Record: 7-9, second in AFC West (no playoffs)
Last Dolphins-Broncos Meeting: 2017 at Miami — Dolphins 35, Broncos 9
The Dolphins came in on a five-game losing streak but ended it in convincing fashion with big plays on offense, defense and special teams. On offense, the Dolphins got touchdowns on a 42-yard run by Kenyan Drake and a 23-yars pass from Jay Cutler to Kenny Stills. On defense, Xavien Howard recorded the first two interceptions of his NFL career, and he returned one of them for a touchdown. The Dolphins also recorded two safeties for the first time in franchise history, including one after Terrence Fede blocked a Denver punt.
Season in Review:
Vic Fangio's first season as Broncos head coach got off to a frustrating start, with the team losing two games by two points on its way to an 0-4 start. Two more losses by two and four points, respectively, had Denver at 3-8 before the team put rookie quarterback Drew Lock into the starting lineup. Behind Lock and an opportunistic defense, the Broncos went 4-1 in their final five games to finish 7-9. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton and linebacker Von Miller both were selected to the Pro Bowl.
Key Veteran Additions: RB Melvin Gordon, DT Jurrell Casey, CB A.J. Bouye
Gordon signed with the Broncos as a free agent after his holdout-affected 2019 season with the Chargers. Despite missing the first four games in his failed attempt to get a long-term contract, Gordon finished with eight rushing touchdowns, giving him 36 over the past four seasons. He will serve as a great complement to Phillip Lindsay, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of his two NFL seasons. The Broncos then made two solid trades for proven starters on defense, Casey and Bouye. The deal for Casey was particularly impressive considering all it cost them was a seventh-round pick for a five-time Pro Bowl selection the Titans decided they could unload to deal with their salary-cap situation. Bouye was a little more costly (fourth-round pick), but he also figures to step right into the starting lineup.
Key Departures: QB Joe Flacco, DE Derek Wolfe, CB Chris Harris Jr.
Flacco's departure was inevitable after Lock's emergence late last season, though the Broncos now are left with Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien and rookie free agent Riley Neal as the backups behind Lock. Wolfe, who signed with the Ravens as a free agent, will be missed considering he started the past eight seasons and had a career-high seven sacks in 2019. Harris is a four-time Pro Bowl selection, though he did not have a great 2019 season based on his opponent passer rating when targeted of 112.7.
Notable 2020 Draft Picks: WR Jerry Jeudy, C/G Lloyd Cushenberry, TE Albert Okwuegbunam
Jeudy was considered by many draft analysts as the best wide receiver in the 2020 draft, even though Alabama teammate Henry Ruggs III was selected three spots earlier. Jeudy, however, was the more productive of the two in college as he averaged 1,239 yards and 13 touchdowns the past two seasons. Cushenberry, taken in the third round, was a two-year starter at center for LSU and he earned second-team All-America center in 2019. Okwuegbunam could end up being a steal in the fifth round and he should at the very least provide a nice complement for Noah Fant. Okwuegbunam had 23 receiving touchdowns the past three years at Missouri.
The Broncos are being viewed as a team on the rise after their strong finish last year and the promise shown by Lock. Denver stocked up on offensive playmakers in the offseason with the additions of Melvin Gordon and Jerry Jeudy, as well as second-round pick K.J. Hamler, a wide receiver from Penn State. The additions of Casey and Bouye no doubt will help the defense. But there are areas of concern, starting with the lack of a proven backup quarterback. Linebacker Von Miller made the Pro Bowl last year for the ninth time in 10 seasons, but his eight sacks represented the second-lowest total of his career and he turned 31 in March. The pass rush also lost Wolfe to free agency and Bradley Chubb will be coming back from a torn ACL sustained in the fourth game last year after he had 12 sacks as a rookie in 2018.