By: Jason Sarney
Although it seems as if there were weeks in-between the Dolphins last game, the added rest following last Thursday’s victory over the Jaguars is perfectly timed for this week’s huge test against Seattle. The Dolphins play host to the 3-0 Seahawks led by current MVP front-runner, Russell Wilson.
The quarterback is playing lights out with an NFL record 14 passing touchdowns just three games in to the 2020 NFL season. He is averaging 308.3 yards per game, which equates to 925 yards. He has a lone interception, and his ability to improvise and extend a play makes him a nightmare to prepare for.
However, safety Bobby McCain took a different approach when asked on Wednesday about his feelings getting ready for Wilson and his whole pack of Seahawks. “Very exciting. We know he’s playing good football right now. We know we have to have a good week of practice, a great week of practice, to be able to perform well on Sunday,” said the defensive leader and team veteran.
McCain will be part of a secondary tasked to slow down Wilson’s Dynamic Duo of Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Lockett is just a few days removed from a touchdown hat-trick of a performance last Sunday against Dallas, and has 259 receiving yards three games in. Metcalf is as consistent as can be, averaging 99 yards and a score over these opening three games. He has had outputs of 95,92, and 110 yards with that three-game scoring streak to boot.
While the McCain should see plenty of opportunity to get into the action, the arduous task of slowing Metcalf and Lockett down will fall on the cornerback group. A group that is down one pricey free agent in injured Byron Jones nursing a groin injury. Should Jones not go, the spotlights will be on the young corners who will fill in for the lock-down cover-man. Xavien Howard, who is nursing an injured knee himself, will have to play to the peak of his ability.
Rookie Noah Igbinoghene could slide into the Jones boundary role opposite Howard while second-year man Nik Needham could handle slot coverage duties. Also worth noting is the presence of promoted Tae Hayes off the practice squad who got action last Thursday night against Jacksonville. Jamal Perry could see time as well, and it is of mass importance one of these young corners, if not them all, step up on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking of stepping up, linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a stellar performance Week 3, and not only forced and recovered a fumble on a sack of Gardner Minshew, he annihilated a blocker on a QB hurry that led to a forced throw and incomplete pass. In speaking with South Florida media yesterday, Van Noy talked about his ability to get to the passer. “I just pride myself in being a disruptive player. Whatever you want me to do, I got you, and that varies week to week,” he said.
Getting to the passer is exactly what Van Noy needs to do against Wilson, and he is well-aware. When discussing Wilson’s athleticism and how to defend him, the first-year Dolphin was crystal clear. “You want to get pressure on him. You want to be able to do what you need to do to get back there; and I think if we do it as a team – the coverage doing their part, the rush doing their part and marrying it together – I think we’ll be all right. It’s not easy though. It’s easier said than done.”
While the defense is aware of what they need to do, it is pretty obvious that even a successful defensive outing in containing Wilson and his targets will still lead to plenty of points. Miami must be able to continue the progress their offense made from last week.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was fantastic and started the Thursday night contest a perfect 12-12. He finished with less incompletions than he did overall touchdowns. Fitzpatrick was 18-20 for 160 yards and tossed two TD passes and rushed for another. He even caught a batted ball for the coveted pass/catch combo. He did not record a receiving yard, but did get the “W.”
The offense was a collective effort as DeVante Parker was the leading receiver and big targets Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki scored within the red zone. Adding to the multi-dimensional attack was the continued emergence of second year running back Myles Gaskin.
Gaskin totaled 95 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches. He hauled in five receptions including an impressive grab that proves he very well could be the lead runner Miami has been desperate for. Jordan Howard, who’s role currently is goal-line back, is not performing as per his free-agent contact so far. Regardless of a score in each contest, Howard is averaging less than a yard per carry and has been stopped on short yardage many more times than he has succeeded.
For the Dolphins to succeed on Sunday, offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, has to continue to get creative, much like we saw when Jakeem Grant took a reverse toss 29 yards as well as a pretty timing route play that Fitzpatrick hit perfectly for 19 yards. Grant is an X-factor that can lead to scores in two facets of the game should he be able to break a long return in either a punt of kick return.
Within all facets of the game, all levels, the Dolphins need to be close to perfect on Sunday to hold court, and even their record to 2-2 on the season. Head coach Brian Flores is well aware of the task at hand.
“They’re going to come here; they’re going to play well,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “So we know this is going to be a big, big challenge. Everyone talks about the offense, but they’ve played well in the kicking game, they’ve played well defensively.”
All three phases must be up to task on Sunday, as the Dolphins face arguably their toughest challenge yet in the Brian Flores era…that until they meet the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes later in the year.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman