By: Jason Sarney
The Miami Dolphins are on the Left coast preparing for a tough contest against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers Week 5. Although there was early week anticipation of perhaps the young Left arm of Tua Tagovailoa making his rookie debut, the Right arm of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will lead the Dolphins onto Levi’s Stadium’s field at 4:05 pm est on Sunday.
The Dolphins sit at 1-3 and the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick has been underwhelming, yet at times there has been a glimpse of the last remaining fumes of “FitzMagic.” With the gritty journeyman in his 16th season, believe it or not this game can be historic for Fitzpatrick.
With a career 2,984 completions, Fitzpatrick needs 16 to become the 27th player in NFL history to reach 3,000. Say what you want about this stat, but it is ironic he is above Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly at the moment, yet ready to join #26 on this list in the 3,000 club.
None other than former Fin, Jay Cutler.
Fitzpatrick enters the game with four passing touchdowns and a pair of rushing scores to go with five interceptions. The numbers, and the decision making as well as distance of the throw all need to improve for Fitzpatrick to have any chance at retaining his starting role.
The task is made a bit easier with a banged up Niners team, having several cornerbacks and defensive regulars already designated out for Sunday afternoon.
On the Dolphins side of things, they are going to be down defensive end Shaq Lawson and tight end Durham Smythe, however they do seem to be getting the services of cornerback Byron Jones as he returns to practice following a groin injury.
Returning for the Niners, albeit still a bit battered and bruised, are the battery of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back and former Dolphin, Raheem Mostert. Mostert is a home-run threat runner who can consistently create big plays has he is currently averaging 6.4 yards per carry in 2020 and 6.1 in his overall career on 201 attempt.
Another heavy yardage threat for the Niners is arguably the best overall tight end in the game in George Kittle. Not only a tremendous asset in the superior Kyle Shanahan running attack as a blocker, Kittle doubles as a freight-train style receiving threat who undoubtedly will be targeted plenty.
In his two games this season, Kittle has been targeted 20 times, hauling in 19 of those passes for 227 yards and a score. It will be paramount for the Dolphins to figure out a way to neutralize Kittle, especially in the open field as he has the ability to turn a quick hit play into a 50-yard score.
The Dolphins secondary should be able to keep the lackluster receiving corp. of the Niners in check, but the linebackers and safeties will have to perform above and beyond when trying to stop Kittle.
In terms of the Dolphins offense, their main contributors have been DeVante Parker and Myles Gaskin with a sprinkle of Mike Gesicki and Preston Williams.Parker has been playing inspired football despite some injury battles, but he has played through pain and leads the team currently in receiving with 24 receptions 279 yards.
Gaskin has led the rushing unit with a solid 4.0 yards per career mark, while the acquisition of Jordan Howard is looking to be remorseful, as he has unfathomably been held to less than a yard per carry at 0.8.
Of course, with many unsuccessful attempts at goal line carries, this will of course affect any average, and he did find the endzone three times. Make no mistake, the promotion of undrafted rookie running back Salvon Ahmed, may raise questions of the team’s confidence in the depth of the room.
Matt Breida has played well in limited action, while matching the 4.0 yards per rush his counterpart Gaskin is putting together. Other than Howard and Fitzpatrick, no other Dolphins rusher has scored yet this season.
The rushing attack is not helped with rookie left tackle Austin Jackson being placed on the IR this week, however a relatively short stint on that list is possible due to looser rules because of Covid-19. Taking the young blockers spot will likely be Julién Davenport, who is in his fourth season. He joins an offensive front that is improving and gelling, and his role will be extremely important tomorrow in the overall success of the unit as well as offense in general.
The Dolphins must put together a total team effort with all three phases clicking against a formidable opponent like the Niners. Regardless of a portion of the fan base clamoring for the young rookie Southpaw, the crafty veteran must have a Magical performance for this team to have a chance of flying back home as victors.
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