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What’s the state of the Dolphins heading into their Week 1 game against the Patriots?

Related: How does Cam Newton feel about his upcoming Patriots debut? ‘The excitement level is 1,000’

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

When Brian Flores took over as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach in 2019, he completely reshaped the team with a long-term vision in mind. The early results may not have been overly promising — one may remember that the team started the season 0-7 with a scoring differential of -161 — but the team improved noticeably over the remainder of the campaign and won five of its last nine games to finish Flores’ first year at the job with a respectable 5-11 record.

One year later, the Dolphins’ transformation continues: the team invested heavy resources in the draft by selecting five players in Rounds One and Two, and was actively involved in free agency to improve in all three phases of the game. Heading into the 2020 season with a matchup against Flores’ former team, the New England Patriots, the question is how Miami looks like at this point in its developmental process.

“I really do not know,” said Kevin Nogle of Pats Pulpit’s sister site The Phinsider when asked about the state of the Dolphins entering Week 1. “They should be better than the team they were last year, especially at the start of the season. They are positioning themselves to be a long-term contender in the division and the league, but are they ready to take that step this year?”

Across the board, Miami does appear to be much improved. Whether it is rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa waiting in the wings behind veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, a remade offensive line, or a much more talented linebacker corps including ex-Patriots Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, the Dolphins appear to be headed in the right direction behind Flores. The question is how big their step forward will be this year.

“Honestly, they are probably a year away from being a fully-rebuilt team, but I feel like they are better than last year and could be a surprise contender in the wildcard race — especially with the extra wildcard slot — late in the year,” Kevin continued. “Somewhere around .500 seems like the right step forward for the Dolphins, but I cannot rule out both a miserable season — in which we will likely see Tua Tagovailoa earlier than expected — or a surprise winning season as options either.”

The first step in either direction will be taken on Sunday, when the Dolphins travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots — a matchup that is exemplary for the team’s development during Flores’ first season: while Miami was blown out 43-0 in Week 2, the team was able to upset the 17-point favorites during the two teams’ rematch in Week 17. The Dolphins’ outlook may be somewhat unclear at this point in time, but their potential to play spoilers cannot be ignored.