The AFC East -- and AFC at large -- appears to be a murderers' row of Super Bowl-ready challengers heading into the 2023 season.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa believes his Dolphins should be counted among them.
"I think we're definitely legit contenders," Tagovailoa told The Palm Beach Post on Tuesday after surprising the Miami Edison High School football team with equipment and uniforms. "There's no doubt with the guys we have on the defensive side of the ball, with the guys we have on the offensive side of the ball. And now with this being the first time as an offense, we get to come back understanding the plays already kind of molded into the offense a little more, I think. I think it can get very, very scary, pretty dangerous."
The offense was plenty scary in 2022, head coach Mike McDaniel's first year at the helm and wide receiver Tyreek Hill's inaugural season as a Dolphin.
In the 12 games that Tagovailoa started and finished, Miami averaged 26.4 points and 369.3 total yards per contest. Those numbers have even brighter potential moving forward as the heightened comfortability in McDaniel's second year allows the Dolphins to hit the ground running come training camp.
And the defense, which lagged far behind Miami's high-octane offense last year while allowing the ninth-most points in the league, is set up for a rebound. The front office made shrewd moves between seasons, trading for three-time All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and luring Vic Fangio back to the sidelines as a defensive coordinator.
Ramsey should prove invaluable for a secondary that functioned like a sieve last year, while Fangio figures to bring improvement across the board. In his last two stints as DC (four years apiece with the 49ers and Bears), Fangio called a top-10 scoring defense six times.
There's few who would argue with Tagovailoa's evaluation of Miami's ceiling, considering the talent on the roster and in the coaching room.
The potential spanner in the works is the fourth-year QB's injury history. He's never lasted a full NFL season, and the Dolphins went 1-3 in the four games he didn't start while dealing with multiple concussions in 2022.
Labeling Miami as a contender only works with Tua in the lineup, so he's taken measures during the offseason to ensure the team maintains that title.
"I think the things that have hurt me have been just the injuries," Tagovailoa said, per the Post. "And so, you know, I've been working really hard to, you know, hopefully, elongate myself, you know, throughout to withstand seasons. And so, you know, we'll see how all that plays out. And God-willing, I can make it through the entire season and we can win a playoff game, we can win a Super Bowl, all of that good stuff."