Sneak Peek: Schedule Release, Rookie Minicamp

Exploring what the Miami Dolphins 2021 regular season schedule might look like
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After some quiet time following the 2021 NFL draft, the action picks up again this week around the NFL with the release of the regular season schedule followed by rookie minicamps over the weekend.

As is always the case, the regular season schedule unveiling is highly anticipated even though everybody already knows every team's opponent based on the NFL formula. This is just about finding out when those games will take place and, perhaps even more significantly, the number of prime-time games for each team.

Here's where things stand in that regard with the Miami Dolphins:

-- The Dolphins had only one scheduled prime-time in 2020, that being the Week 3 Thursday night game at Jacksonville, as the result of low expectations produced by the team's 5-11 finish the previous year. Yes, the Dolphins ended up with a second prime-time game in Week 16 at Las  Vegas, but that came after the NFL had scheduled five games for that weekend as TBD and was going to pick two or three to move to Saturday and the Dolphins-Raiders matchup ended up being easily the most compelling of the five.

Fair or not, the number of prime-time games assigned when the schedule is revelead is somewhat of a referendum on the league's expectations for every franchise — unless we're talking about the Bears and Giants, who seem to get more than their fair share of national exposure regardless.

Based on the Dolphins' 10-6 finish in 2020, one would expect them to get more national TV exposure this season and a good guess would be three prime-time games. If the Dolphins somehow end up with only one national TV game again at the start, consider that a red flag.

-- The Dolphins are among the candidates to kick off the season Thursday, Sept. 9 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the traditional opener for the defending Super Bowl champions, though we'd have to say it's unlikely they'll get the call.

Tampa Bay's home opponents in 2021 will be Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, Dallas, the aforementioned New York Giants, Buffalo, Miami and Chicago.

First off, let's consider that since the "kickoff opener" began in 2002, it has featured division games only three times — in 2008 (Giants-Washington), in 2012 (Giants-Cowboys) and in 2019 (Bears-Packers), though that last one didn't feature the defending Super Bowl champions but instead was an ode to the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

The Giants and Bears certainly might help with TV ratings because of their large fan bases, but they might lack from a competitive standpoint.

That leaves the Dolphins, Bills and Cowboys, and based on the combination of the matchups and the fan bases, it says here the Dolphins might be third in the pecking order here. This might come down to whether the NFL wants the best matchup (obviously Bills-Bucs) or the best combination of matchup and drawing power (Bills-Cowboy).

-- Finally, when it comes to the schedule, there's the issue of a London game, with The Athletic reporting Tuesday that Jacksonville will play two games in England in 2021.

Among the nine teams scheduled to play road games against the Jaguars in 2021 are, yes, the Dolphins. And they're certainly no strangers to playing in England, having done it four times, most recently in 2017 (20-0 loss against New Orleans).

The Jaguars' other home opponents in 2021 are AFC South rivals Houston, Indianapolis and Tennessee, as well as Buffalo, Arizona, Atlanta, San Francisco and Denver.

DOLPHINS ROOKIE MINICAMP

There was no post-draft rookie minicamp in 2020 because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but it's going to resume this weekend.

There's no word yet as to whether the Dolphins will be conducting on-field work or just have meetings — they've done both in the past — nor is there official word as to exactly who will be attending beyond the 2021 draft picks and rookie free agent signings.

The seven draft picks, of course, are Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, Jevon Holland, Liam Eichenberg, Hunter Long, Larnel Coleman and Gerrid Doaks. The only official UDFA signing was that of former North Carolina Central basketball player Jibri Blount, though through social media we always know the Dolphins have signed TE Carl Tucker, G Robert Jones, DT Jerome Johnson and CB Jaytlin Askew.

In the past, first-year players also have participated in the rookie minicamp.

The Dolphins roster lists 14 first-year players: CB Terrell Bonds, DE Nick Coe, S Brian Cole, CB Javaris Davis, CB Tino Ellis, C Tyler Gauthier, S Nate Holley, T Jonathan Hubbard, LB Kylan Johnson, WR Kirk Merritt, TE Chris Myarick, DE Tyshun Render, QB Reid Sinnett and LS Rex Sunahara.

Additionally, Brazilian import Durval Queiroz Neto is listed as a rookie on the roster, even though he spent the past two seasons on the practice squad after joining the Dolphins through the NFL's International Player Pathway Program.

Speaking of Queiroz, he posted a video on Twitter last month showing the training he did in the offseason.