In head coach Mike McDaniel's first season overseeing the Dolphins' offense, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa become the youngest player to lead the NFL in passer rating (105.5) since Dan Marino in 1984. Miami also ranked sixth in the league with 364.5 yards per game, giving the team its first top-10 offense since 1995.
But after helping lead the franchise to its first playoff berth since 2016, McDaniel had little interest in focusing on the team's offensive accomplishments. Instead, he's been dialed in on finding avenues for improvement.
"It was kind of a critical offseason for me," he said. "I didn't look at our offense, and say, 'Wow, we did all this stuff good.' I saw all the stuff that we could improve upon. Now, the stuff that the players and coaches did last year, you shouldn't minimize that because there was substantial growth, but that's not where we're trying to go."
Now working with a full season of experience and knowledge as an NFL head coach, a break from the always-hectic regular season schedule has given McDaniel and his staff valuable time to reflect on their offensive system in its entirety.
"I think it's important in the offseason that you give the season – there's a lot of things that go into it," he said. "There's a lot of pressures and you're just trying to win the next game. Taking a step back, I think affords people a little more open mindedness."
That self-evaluation period is already seeming to pay off as the offseason program continues to roll along.
"From route running to how we block people, to everything in between; the consistency of our fundamentals and detail has been huge and we've had as a result, I mean, the growth that we made in Phase 1 and Phase 2, relative to last year, is astronomical," Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel shared as he reflects on the 2023 offseason.
Another likely reason for the positive growth McDaniel is seeing is the comfort and understanding that comes with playing in a system for the second straight season.
"Yeah, last year I feel like we were learning," said wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. "Now we kind of know the details and what he's looking for, what Tua's looking for. So getting to the spots, beating man coverage, things like that. So it's just more knowledge of the offense."
Waddle holds the franchise record for most receiving yards in the first two years of an NFL career with 2,371 and is the only player in Dolphins history to begin his NFL career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Entering year three, the former sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is looking to become even more of a consistent threat to opposing defenses.
"I feel like just knowledge," Waddle said when asked how he grew as a player from last season. "Another year under my belt. I get to see how the league works even more. I think preparation, seeing defenses and knowing what a defense is going to do, how they plan on playing us and adjusting the game. I feel like it's a lot I can grow from in the first two seasons. Still growing, just trying to stack days together."
According to McDaniel, Waddle's hunger is shared by his teammates throughout the locker room.
"All I've seen is an offense, I've seen a team that isn't satisfied with where they're at," he said. "They see 2023 is an opportunity to really move past where we were last year. And that's the way they've approached it. Here with the Miami Dolphins, we come to work to get better. And we don't spend any time or any focus on anything but that."