By CBSMiami.com Team

(CBSMiami)- There has been plenty of speculation about how sold the Dolphins are on Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback. As a rookie, the fifth overall pick had an up and down season as the team went 6-3 with him as a starter, but he averaged just 181.4 passing yards per game and 6.2 yards per attempt, rarely taking shots down the field. With rumors swirling that the team may be involved in discussions of trading for Deshaun Watson, head coach Brian Flores gave Tagovailoa a vote of confidence this week, saying he’s “a starter.”

Still, after missing the playoffs last season, the hopes of the team taking a step forward rely on Tua taking a step himself. That is exactly what NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo is expecting will happen.

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“There’s no question he’s improved I think you’re going to see him take that step,” Romo said on a conference call. “The biggest thing is always, the teams around you matter as well. It’s not just your team. I do think that Miami, what they’ve built over the last 3, 4, 5 years to get to this point, you’re seeing a team that had a plan and that had a lot of draft picks and I think they’ve drafted well. I think they have a very good coaching staff. I think Flores was a great hire. He really does a good job of creating a culture where the team believes in him and the system and you’re going to get the best out of each player.”

The Dolphins certainly used their draft capital in hopes of coaxing improvement out of Tagovailoa this season. The team selected his former teammate, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, with their first pick and then followed that up with the selection of offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg in the second round. And they used free agency to bring in wide receiver Will Fuller V and running back Malcolm Brown. The pieces around him are there and the defense, which Flores and company have built this team around, looks to be strong once again.

Does all of that add up to the Dolphins breaking the playoff drought and returning to the postseason for the first time since 2016? Well, that’s where things are a bit more complicated in Romo’s view.

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“I also think though that division is about to become one of the more dominant divisions in the NFL. Buffalo with Josh Allen is probably the front runner right now because of what they did last year and Josh’s development. But, I think Bill Belichick needed a season with all of the opt outs and everything, but I’m convinced the Patriots are for real. No one wants to play them,” Romo said.

But, there is good news despite that disclaimer about how tough the division is. Romo believes there’s enough on this Miami roster to reach the playoffs.

“I think that Miami has a lot of talent and ability and I think they’re definitely a playoff team,” Romo said.

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He’s not the only one either. ESPN’s Football Power Index projection system gives the Dolphins a 54.3% chance of making the postseason with a projected record of 9.3-7.6 (or about 9-8) this season. Winning Week 1 against the Patriots (53.4% postseason chance) would go a long way in improving that number.

CBSMiami.com Team