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Are the Miami Dolphins a Top-5 Defense Heading Into 2023?



The Miami Dolphins spent this offseason looking to improve a defense that disappointed in 2022. By hiring an elite defensive coordinator in Vic Fangio and trading for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the expectations for Miami’s defense have risen. We dive into whether the Dolphins can make a leap in 2023.

An Analytical Look at the Miami Dolphins’ Defense

One of the biggest surprises of the 2022 season was how much the Dolphins’ defense struggled to translate their talent into production. Miami was supposed to benefit from keeping defensive coordinator Josh Boyer from the previous regime’s staff and from a mid-season trade for edge rusher Bradley Chubb. Instead, the Dolphins cratered to 24th in defensive EPA per play and were abysmal against the pass.

Miami dropped from finishing 16th in scoring allowed, 15th in yards allowed, and eighth in turnovers produced to much worse figures. The Dolphins fell to 24th, 18th, and 30th in those respective categories. Opposing offenses destroyed Miami’s pass defense despite the Dolphins having a loaded group of pass rushers and a talented secondary.

Boyer’s blitz-heavy approach simply didn’t work. Miami ranked 15th in defensive DVOA; 25th against the pass and fourth against the run. Despite the strategy continuing to fall flat, Boyer continued to blitz in hopes of turning up the pressure on quarterbacks.

MORE: Miami Dolphins 2023 Season Preview

Miami’s defense wasn’t awful, but things always feel worse when an aggressive scheme backfires. They ranked 26th in third-down conversion rate, joining abysmal defenses like Arizona, Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, and Chicago at the bottom of the league. At least Miami’s run defense was elite, but some of that was because only one defense faced more passing attempts.

That shouldn’t have been the case for a defense boasting cornerback Xavien Howard and pass rushers Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram, Christian Wilkins, and Bradley Chubb, among others.

Dolphins 2023 Defensive Outlook

miami dolphins
Nov 13, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Melvin Ingram (6) and linebacker Jaelan Phillips (15) rush in to sack Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being a below-average unit in 2022, PFN’s own Arif Hasan ranked the Dolphins as the seventh-best defense heading into 2023.

Miami’s defense will improve simply by adding a mastermind in Fangio. Fangio’s defense has become a staple of many successful teams, forcing teams to methodically move the ball down the field before stiffening in the red zone. He described his philosophy as doing “anything and everything” to ensure offenses don’t score.

Fangio’s results speak for themselves. He produced some of the NFL’s best defenses while he was Denver’s head coach from 2019-2021, then helped the Eagles in 2022 as a consultant. Miami can expect their cornerbacks to be protected more with complex pre-snap looks and to receive more help in coverage from their safeties.

Adding Ramsey to a room with Howard and second-year CB Kader Kohou makes for a high-risk, high-reward group that needs to pay off. Both Ramsey and Howard are playmaking threats who aren’t the stickiest defenders in coverage, so safeties Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, and DeShon Elliott will need to give them over-the-top support. Fangio’s past stops have been extremely fruitful for both corners and safeties alike, so it’s fair to expect quality seasons from Ramsey and Howard.

MORE: Best Cornerbacks in the NFL 2023

There’s an immense amount of front-seven talent to help the back end play better. The decisions to extend Chubb and add David Long and Malik Reed will help support Miami’s upside.

Getting Emmanuel Ogbah back from a torn triceps injury that cost him eight games is also considerable. Along with a third-year jump from Phillips and Wilkins entering his prime years, Miami simply doesn’t have an excuse to again struggle to pressure QBs.

Are the Dolphins a Top-5 Defense in 2023?

It’s incredibly simplistic to say, but the Dolphins can play to their talent level in 2023 and see a massive jump without any remarkable efforts. Not only did Boyer fail the talent with his blind faith in non-stop blitzing, but the individual talent fell short in their opportunities.

That either means some positive regression will come or the collective talent has been misevaluated by the majority of onlookers.

Reaching the top five is a gigantic improvement, but the pieces are in place for Miami to get to that range. If Fangio is right that Ramsey is the best cornerback he’s coached, and if he can get Chubb and Phillips to combine for 26.5 sacks as Chubb and Von Miller did under Fangio in 2020, the Dolphins’ defense can be incredible. There’s not an obvious talent weakness on the unit besides its defensive tackle depth.

However, the individuals have to hold up their end of the bargain. The Dolphins blitzed 349 times in 2022 but produced only 58 hurries and 40 sacks. Howard and Kohou both allowed over 59% of targets to be completed, and neither Holland nor Jones was impactful in coverage.

Fangio will put the players into better positions to succeed than Boyer did with his scheme and pre-snap looks. But they’ll be tested early and often, as the AFC East brings a combined four matchups against Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers. Week 1 features a trip to face Justin Herbert, and Miami later faces Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson.

MORE: Miami Dolphins 2023 Schedule

Can the Dolphins’ best players turn back the clock to their 2021 performances while also getting peak play from younger contributors? Fangio brings some promising improvement, but it’s also possible Miami again struggles with a true alpha pass rusher, and their top two corners are past their primes.

Miami has top-five potential with its defense, and its floor is higher than last year’s shocking result. Even if they land around 15th, the Dolphins’ defense will be playoff-caliber, considering the strength of their offense. The range of outcomes is greater than most, however, due to Miami’s uneven play throughout last year.

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Should Antonio Brown Make the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame?




The NFL has given the stage to some of the world’s greatest athletes and performers. While some players have maximized their opportunities and eventually made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL’s process for inducting some of the greatest of all-time talents has created uncertainty for hopefuls.

And after former Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted his own Hall of Fame résumé, we’re diving into whether Brown should make the Hall of Fame.

Should Antonio Brown Make the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Brown has the on-field résumé of an NFL Hall of Famer. A Super Bowl champion who made first-team All-Pro four times and the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, Brown helped redefine how evaluators looked at dominant wide receivers. At only 5’10” and 185 pounds, Brown was as unguardable as any player to have ever played the position sans Jerry Rice.

Brown’s incredible stretch of play from 2013 through 2018 made up the vast majority of his production, though he also made the Pro Bowl in his second year in 2011. In the six-year span, he caught no fewer than 101 passes for 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns in any season. He led the NFL in receptions twice, in yards twice, and in touchdowns once. His 2015 season featured a career-high 136 catches for 1,834 yards.

After his fantastic career in Pittsburgh came to an end due to a contract dispute, Brown’s off-field issues destroyed his reputation and opportunities. He was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders but never played a down for them, and was released later that season after playing just one game for the New England Patriots.

MORE: Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023

Brown rejoined Tom Brady in Tampa Bay for two seasons but ended his own career by storming off the field during a game midway through the season.

Entering 2023, Brown’s all-time ranks are impressive. He sits 21st with 928 receptions, 24th in receiving yards with 12,291, 25th with 83 touchdowns, and is fourth all-time in yards per game with 84.2 across 12 seasons. The only receiver with a similar résumé who isn’t in the Hall of Fame and is eligible is Torry Holt.

Still, Brown’s on-field case isn’t quite bulletproof. His lack of longevity is a glaring hole compared to others who finished their careers with more yards. Across 25 games between 2018-2021, Brown totaled just 107 receptions for 1,251 yards and nine touchdowns. He cost himself the opportunity to continue producing at a high level in those last three seasons.

Even a modest projection of another 2,000 yards from 2019-2021 would have put Brown 11th all-time in yards behind Reggie Wayne. Of the top 25 leaders in receiving yards, Steve Smith, Wayne, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Henry Ellard, Holt, Irving Fryar, and Jimmy Smith are eligible but not yet in the Hall of Fame. To get in, Brown’s biggest case is that his peak earned him the nod over the lower peaks but better consistency than his peers.

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Why Antonio Brown Won’t Make the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brown’s statistical case is strong but not perfect. However, when Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis made the Hall of Fame despite only four productive seasons in his seven-year career, there became more of a gray area when it came to voting. Davis, like Brown, was transcendent during his peak, and that should be part of the voting process.

Brown may have to wait for others to get in, though. Larry Fitzgerald is a lock to get in eventually. Smith and Wayne have strong cases, and both Johnson and Holt may be borderline. Brown had a better peak than each of those players, but the same precedent that got Davis in hasn’t been made at wide receiver yet.

Then, there’s obviously Brown’s off-field issues. We saw Terrell Owens, an unquestionable top-three NFL wide receiver, fail to make the Hall of Fame until the third time he was on the ballot. Owens ranked eighth in receptions and third in receiving yards and touchdowns, but both the players and media on the voting committee punished him for being an outspoken personality.

Owens called out the voting process in 2021 when Calvin Johnson made it as a first-ballot inductee over Holt and Wayne, saying “there’s no justification” to who gets in and when they do. While Owens had to wait to enter the Hall of Fame, Brown’s list of transgressions will be much more troublesome for his own case than Owens’ outspoken personality.

From 2018-2022, Brown found himself benched with the Steelers, was traded to the Raiders before being released after fighting with then-general manager Mike Mayock, was sued for sexual assault and later released by the Patriots after threatening text messages were made public, suspended for eight games for a separate felony assault and battery charge, supplying the NFL with a fake vaccination card, then undressed mid-game and ran to the Buccaneers’ locker room in his final NFL contest.

MORE: Predicting the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin lauded Brown’s “unbelievable will [and] work ethic,” but the team opted against bringing him back at any point. New England head coach Bill Belichick was willing to give Brown a chance after falling out so quickly with the Steelers and Raiders, but his ominous comments after signing Brown that the team would have to “see how [it] goes” were justifiably cautious that it would ever work out.

Brown also fell out of favor with Tom Brady after Brady pushed for the Patriots and Buccaneers to sign him.

It’s hard to burn so many bridges in the NFL and continue to be rewarded. Owens couldn’t be denied his eventual entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Brown’s case can be swept under the rug and forgotten much easier. His off-field antics have undoubtedly cost him millions of dollars and will likely be the reason he doesn’t make the Hall of Fame.

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Are the Arizona Cardinals Tanking in 2023?




The Arizona Cardinals made the shocking decision to release former All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday afternoon. With Arizona unable to trade their star playmaker, they decided to cut bait now instead of prolonging the process. We dive into whether that means the Cardinals plan to tank in 2023.

Are the Arizona Cardinals Tanking in 2023?

After enjoying one winning season in three years with Arizona, Hopkins wasn’t shy about his desire to be traded this offseason. He was willing to restructure his contract if he needed to and even went so far as to spell out which quarterbacks he’d like to play with and outline the caliber of defense and management of what his next team would have.

MORE: What Does a DeAndre Hopkins Contract Potentially Look Like?

Alas, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Arizona opted to release Hopkins after unsuccessfully shopping him all offseason. His $19 million unguaranteed salary figure was “prohibitive” for contenders since that number would’ve still been a factor in a reworked deal.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport clarified the Cardinals made the move prior to June 1 so they could incur his entire $22.6 million dead cap hit on their 2023 books and not spill over into 2024.

We don’t know whether new Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort swung and missed on any opportunity to get compensation back for Hopkins. Releasing Hopkins now saved the team $7.38 million in cap space this season and $14.9 million next season. Moving on from Hopkins after June 1 would’ve spread his dead cap more into 2024 but also may have netted Arizona a draft pick.

Regardless of whether there was ever an opportunity to trade Hopkins, the Cardinals have clearly waived their white flag for the 2023 season. This should’ve been the expected route by the end of the 2022 season. Arizona had little to show on their roster despite being relatively capped out entering the offseason.

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said quarterback Kyler Murray won’t be rushed back from his torn ACL. Even if he’s ready by midseason as expected, the Cardinals could be well on their way to bottoming out. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy is also rehabbing an unspecified injury that will “limit him in the offseason.”

First-year head coach Jonathan Gannon will face the 12th-hardest schedule this season, and that’s before factoring in any improvement from a healthier Los Angeles Rams team. Already down Murray and Hopkins, the team is also facing a trade request from star safety Budda Baker. Everything about this Cardinals’ offseason has projected a rebuilding situation.

The Cardinals signed only one external free agent worth more than a minimum salary, and that was linebacker Kyzir White. Defensive lineman Zach Allen, 26 years old, and 25-year-old cornerback Byron Murphy departed in free agency.

After Arizona traded down from the third overall pick in order to land the Houston Texans’ 2024 first-round pick, the Cardinals could be in a position with rare draft capital in next year’s class. If Murray doesn’t prove to be a franchise QB this season, Arizona could be able to replace him without moving additional assets. And if the Cardinals are bad despite Murray showing the “growth” that former general manager Steve Keim mentioned he needs, Arizona can invest in Murray further.

There’s no upside in the Cardinals trying to rush Murray back and competing in 2023. Losing Hopkins hurts, especially as he was still producing as a No. 1 wide receiver in 2022, but the rest of the roster is quite bad and somehow expensive.

Arizona already telegraphed their decision to tank and rebuild when they opted against drafting Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. with the No. 3 overall selection, as taking on future picks is rarely the strategy of a team trying to win right away.

That doesn’t mean internal development won’t be important.

Murray has to grow as a leader and a player. Marquise Brown is fighting for a long-term deal. A quality pass rusher and cornerback has to be identified and developed for Gannon to have any chance of surviving the next few seasons.

But wins aren’t the priority in 2023 with a roster that is arguably the worst in the NFL. With any luck, the Cardinals can become a team on the rise in 2024 if Murray recovers and improves, and the team can allocate their draft picks to revamping the roster around him.

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Which Veteran RBs Could Be Set To Fall Off a Cliff in 2023?




Father Time remains undefeated. Every player in the NFL will inevitably decline at some point in his career. Some last longer than others, but all players lose the ability to play professional football eventually. In fantasy football, we need to avoid drafting these players. With so many of the top running backs getting older, the end is near. Here are the running backs at risk of falling off a cliff in 2023.

Which Veteran RBs Could Decline This Season?

There have been many studies done on the age at which NFL players typically decline. It varies based on position. For running backs, an overwhelming majority of RB1 seasons occur between the ages of 22 and 28.

Of course, outliers exist. Not every running back will go full Shaun Alexander the moment he turns 29. I use Alexander as the prime example because, at age 28, he carried the ball 370 times for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. The very next season, he was done. His yards per carry went from 5.1 to 3.6, and he was never fantasy relevant again.

MORE: Top 250 Fantasy Football Rankings 2023

The NFL saw an influx of talent at the RB position from 2015-2017. That’s where the bulk of the elite running backs over the past near-decade came from. It’s now 2023. Those guys are getting older, and within a couple of years, there will be none of them left in terms of fantasy relevance.

To be clear, I’m not saying any of these backs will definitively fall off a cliff this season. This is merely a list of fantasy RBs who could be looking at a precipitous decline in 2023.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

I’m sure no one is surprised to see Derrick Henry’s name front and center on this list. He is, by far, the oldest running back in the top 24, let alone the top 12.

Henry has been a sure thing ever since establishing himself as an elite rushing force in 2019. Since then, he’s averaged 19.6, 20.8, 24.2, and 18.9 PPR fantasy points per game, respectively.

Henry’s also amassed 1,877 career touches, 1,337 of which have come over the past four seasons, which includes his injury-shortened eight-game 2021. Henry has led the NFL in carries per game for four straight seasons. No player has touched the ball more over that span.

Henry is 29 years old with a massive amount of tread on his tires. We’ve seen a noticeable decline in his efficiency each of the past two seasons. He averaged 4.9, 5.1, and 5.4 ypc in 2018-2020, respectively. In 2021 and 2022, that average was down to 4.3 and 4.4.

MORE: 2023 Dynasty RB Rankings

Henry also stopped breaking tackles as well last season. His evaded tackles per touch rate went from a second-ranked 38.8% in 2021 to a 34th-ranked 23% in 2022. Just 4% of his carries went for 15+ yards. That rate was 5.6% in 2020 and 5% in 2019.

The Titans project to be a bad team this year. They have a subpar quarterback and one of the weakest wide receiving corps in the NFL. I’m not saying it will happen, but don’t be surprised if Henry ends up averaging under 14 ppg this season, marking the beginning of the end for the King.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

For now, Dalvin Cook remains on the Minnesota Vikings. The fact that he may not stay with them is one of the many reasons he’s trending downward for 2023.

Cook is 28 years old. He’s not quite at the age where we expect a decline, but there are certainly warning signs.

Cook has touched the ball 1,503 times in his career. While he finally played a full season last year, it was not exactly pain-free. Cook has dealt with a medley of injuries, specifically to both of his shoulders. Those injuries have an increased likelihood of recurring each time he gets hurt, which only increases more with age.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The injuries clearly took a toll on Cook’s productivity last season. His 4.4 ypc was a career-low, and just 4.5% of his runs went for at least 15 yards. He even saw his passing game role decrease, setting a career-low target share of 8.9%.

Cook’s 14.0 ppg was good for an overall RB14 finish, his lowest of his career (not counting his rookie season that was cut short after four games due to a torn ACL).

We’ve now seen Cook’s efficiency decline for two straight seasons. He’s had a ton of injuries and is getting older. It’s possible he ends up on another team where he doesn’t see the volume he did in Minnesota. All of this is to say Cook carries more risk in 2023 than he has at any point in his career.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara comes with additional risk beyond his play. But even without the looming suspension, I would have no interest in Kamara for the 2023 fantasy football season.

Not only is Kamara getting up there in age (28), but the bigger concern is his decline in efficiency. Efficiency was Kamara’s calling card his entire career. As a rookie, he averaged 6.1 ypc and then was consistently between 4.6 and 5.0 for the next three seasons. In 2021, however, we started to see signs of decline.

MORE: Fantasy Football Sleepers 2023

That’s when his yards per carry dropped to 3.7, and just 2.9% of his runs went for 15+ yards. Kamara’s evaded tackles per touch rate went from second in the league to 41st. By all accounts, Kamara was an awful runner, but he was able to maintain his elite RB1 status on the heels of his receiving.

In 2022, it was more of the same. Kamara averaged 4.0 ypc, with his 15-plus-yard run rate at 2.7%. His evaded tackles per touch rate also fell to 49th. This time, though, Kamara’s fantasy ppg did not survive, plummeting to 14.1, by far, the lowest of his career.

After two straight years of declining play, how likely is it that Kamara suddenly rebounds at age 28? Derek Carr’s addition certainly helps, as the offense should be better. But I just think Kamara is a declining player.

Even when running backs decline as runners, we’ve seen pass-catching backs maintain their receiving ability. This occurred with guys like Matt Forte, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell. Kamara’s name certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those all-time greats.

Kamara will still have fantasy value because of his pass-catching. But if the rushing declines even further, Kamara may struggle even to reach the 14.1 ppg we saw last season, making him a very risky proposition in 2023.

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