With the Tyreek Hill deal, the Miami Dolphins become the immediate playoff challenger

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MIAMI – The Miami Dolphins have not played a top-10 offense since 1995, the longest drought in the NFL. If that streak extends another season, it will not be due to lack of talent.

Within 24 hours, Miami Pro Bowl tackle Terron Armstead signed for a five-year contract, then swapped five draft picks for the Kansas City Chiefs for All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill on Wednesday to officially become an AFC challenger.

Considering the playoff hopeful moves that Chargers (Khalil Mack), Broncos (Russell Wilson), Bills (Von Miller), Raiders (Davante Adams, Chandler Jones) and Browns (Deshaun Watson) have all made, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier had need to break through in coach Mike McDaniel’s first season.

McDaniel made it clear from his inaugural press conference what his team’s needs were. When asked about his faith in third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, he reminded everyone who listened that Tagovailoa was not solely responsible for the success of this offense.

“I’ve never seen a quarterback win a football game alone,” he said. “He should have someone to throw to. He better not be tackled before throwing, so someone should rather block.”

With Hill and Armstead alone, the Dolphins are better off in both divisions – but these are just the latest moves in what has been a week-long offensive identity change.

The Dolphins improved their backfield by adding Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert, strengthening their offensive line with Connor Williams and adding another speedster as a receiver in Cedrick Wilson. Paired with Armstead and Hill, it’s six likely starters taking the field to Miami next season, most of whom have one thing in common – speed.

“Absolutely amazing speed,” said back Alec Ingold. “Everyone is going to run. Shoot, the whole attack is running.”

And Ingold, another likely starter for Miami in 2022, was just talking about his backfield mates.

Adding Mostert, Edmonds and Wilson is one thing. Trade with Hill – sources told ESPN that Miami abandoned a first-round pick (No. 29), a second-round pick (No. 50) and a fourth-round pick, plus a fourth- and sixth-round pick in the 2023 draft – gives the Dolphins the NFL’s leading home run threat regardless of position.

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Hill’s 26 receiving touchdowns on passes have thrown 20 plus yards down the court over the past five seasons – four more than the Dolphins have in the same period. Since Miami drafted Tagovailoa in 2020, its wide receivers have averaged 2.64 yards separation on goals, according to the NFL Next Gen Stats, the fourth-lowest grade in the league.

Hills’ 3.59 average yards of separation ranked 13th most in the NFL last season. The Dolphins’ leading receiver, Jaylen Waddle, finished as No. 26 in the NFL in the same category at 3.32 yards.

Waddle and Hill are now possibly creating the fastest wide-receiver duo in NFL history, but don’t let their speed interpret them as deep-ball threats. Waddle and Hill finished ninth and 10th in yards, respectively, after catching last season.

That’s a critical statistic to keep in mind, given Tagovailoa’s average goal depth last season (6.92 yards) ranked fourth lowest in the league. He attempted the second-fewest passes of at least 25 yards last season among qualified quarterbacks, but he led the league in completion percentage on such passes.

This is officially a make-or-break season for Tagovailoa. Gone are the excuses from his infamous supporting cast, abysmal offensive line and subordinate coaching staff.

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