By: Jorge Hinojosa
So, after the Dolphins thoroughly dominated the Rams for 3 quarters last Sunday, they now face a cross-country trip to finish off their schedule against the AFC West.
4:00 pm EST at Arizona Cardinals
How we got here?
The Cardinals come to this game off their bye week. Last time out, in Week 7 they won against the Seahawks in OT. In that game, Kyler Murray finished with 3 TD 1 Int and threw for 360 yards while adding 67 on the ground. The Cardinals would actually put up over 500 yards. However, lost in the offensive explosion is that the Cardinals defense forced MVP favorite, Russell Wilson into 3 interceptions.
The Dolphins on the other hand come into this game behind a 3-game winning streak that included thorough domination of two of the Cardinals AFC West foes, at San Francisco in week 5 and at home v the Rams last week in Tua’s first start.
When the Cardinals have the ball.
This Cardinals team is one if not the top offense the Dolphins will see all season. Not only do they have one of the best receivers in the game in Deandre Hopkins, who is the league leader in receptions and yards, but also has a dynamic running attack that ranks 3rd in the league thanks largely due to the fact that Murray can just take off at any moment. Last week we saw a dominant Dolphins defense that was able to blitz in cover 0, and take advantage of Goff’s lack of mobility, but mobile QB’s have hurt them this year and it is no coincidence all 3 losses came against QB’s that present a dual threat (Newton, Wilson and Allen). Unlike those teams though, the Dolphins don’t have to worry as much about a power running attack. They will however see a lot of motions, misdirection and quick passes.
I would expect the Dolphins to try and get Murray to beat them through the air, by containing him in the outside and making sure everyone stays on their lane. The match-up between D-Hop and the Dolphins corners will be fantastic to watch and it will be interesting to see if they have Byron Jones shadowing him throughout the game or if they will line X on him as well. The other match-up that will be interesting is Rowe or Needham v Fitzgerald on the slot.
Rowe has been a shutdown machine all season playing against tight ends, but he might be better suited for this match-up than the second-year corner. The key for the Dolphins will be keeping Murray contained, the Dolphins secondary is facing a tall challenge but should still be able to contain the Cardinals receivers on the outside and limit their big play potential.
When the Dolphins have the ball:
As we have mentioned on the PhinManiacs podcast network and website, last week’s offense was disappointing, and it was a positive sign to see Chan Gailey talk about how they dialed back with the big lead. That being said, the Dolphins could very easily find themselves playing catch-up in this game and will need an offense that can play for 4 quarters, something that has yet to happen this season. The Dolphins will also be dealing with a depleted running back room after Gaskin and Breida came down with injuries opening the door for Jordan Howard to reclaim his starting spot or for Salvon Ahmed or Patrick Laird to make a claim for more playing time.
I expect (and hope) that this will be the game when Lynn Bowden and Malcolm Perry start to make a contribution on offense. The Cardinals defense is not an easy foe, yes they don’t have the D-line that the Rams but their secondary is very, very well coached and very aggressive. I expect the Dolphins to be more aggressive and test their perimeter with DVP and Preston Williams but the game will come down on the Dolphins being able to turn short, quick passes into long gains behind the speed of Grant, Bowden and Perry.
What to expect?
This is going to be a much tougher game for the Dolphins than last week’s against the Rams. I expect both teams to have big plays early and to tighten up as the games goes on. I would not be surprised if the Cardinals end up winning this game, simply because their second year QB is now fully comfortable in the NFL and has the weapons to best use his skill set (something the Dolphins don’t have for Tua just yet).
That being said, it’s going to come down to the Defense that can make more stops and take the ball away that is going to determine the end result.I definitely expect to see the playbook open a bit for Tua and to see the team give him chances to make things happen.
Please welcome Jorge Hinojosa to the PhinManiacs team! Please follow him on Twitter @FranciscoHinoPe