6. Miami Dolphins
So much of the 2023 season for the Miami Dolphins is going to be dependent on what this team can get out of Tua Tagovailoa. Is he going to be healthy enough for them to make a deep run in the playoffs? Are they even going to be able to compete with the Bills for a division title?
I think so, and it’s for one primary reason: Vic Fangio.
The Dolphins landing Fangio as their new defensive coordinator was a massive addition this offseason, perhaps bigger than any player move they made. That’s saying something because the Dolphins obviously added Jalen Ramsey this offseason.
Fangio’s impact will be noticed immediately. He can call a defense against any type of offense and frustrate teams. The NFL is trending toward the two-high safety look Fangio began implementing years ago. He makes the Dolphins a true contender, especially with a healthy Tagovailoa.
5. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers cycled through every QB on their roster last year and might have stumbled onto a long-term situation.
Surprisingly, that player is not Trey Lance — the player the 49ers traded a ton of picks to move up and get in the 2021 NFL Draft — but the final pick of the 2022 NFL Draft, Brock Purdy. Purdy came off the sideline as the 49ers dealt with injuries to Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, and he not only kept the offense moving, he actually showed that he can be a difference maker in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
At the end of the season, Purdy suffered an elbow injury that might have required Tommy John surgery if he were a baseball player, but as it stands, he’s currently in line to return for camp and open as the QB1. This 49ers roster is unbelievably good on both sides of the ball. Their X-factors this season will be the play of Purdy and how the defense responds to losing coordinator DeMeco Ryans (replaced by Steve Wilks).