By: Jorge Hinojosa
Every week, I will be breaking down that week’s match-up in a simple way, focusing on what we should expect from the Dolphins, what improvements to look on and what the opposing team will challenge us in.
So, this week, the week of Tua’s first start, our Miami Dolphins will be hosting the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium, with the kick-off slated for noon Sunday.
How we got here?
The Rams come to this game having beaten the Chicago Bears on Monday Night 24-10 and having held the Bears offense without a touchdown until the 4th quarter. They did this behind an efficient Jared Goff (23/33-219-2TD-0INT), and a steady running attack that featured Darrell Henderson (15 attempts for 64 yards) and Malcolm Brown (10/57 & 1 TD). The defense played really well and dominated the Bears offense, they finished with 2 interceptions and 4 sacks off Nick Foles.
The Dolphins on the other hand come into this game off a bye week, where they found themselves in the National spotlight after news was leaked that Ryan Fitzpatrick was being benched in favor of rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Before that, the Dolphins had shut out the Jets behind a very solid first half by the offense and a bend-don’t-break defense that had 3 sacks and 1 interception.
When the Rams have the ball.
The Dolphins defense has been holding up well as of late, helped in large part to excellent showings against the 49ers and Jets. They are currently 8th in yards. This week they will have a much tougher test against a good Rams football team that runs and passes well.
A point of concern this week for the Dolphins has to be the running game, they are 30th in yards allowed per carry, allowing a whooping 5 yards per carry, and the Rams are good at running the football, averaging 4.4 yards per carry which is good for 14th in the NFL. The Rams are able to do this not only through a power game that has already given the Dolphins problems (like against Seattle and the week 1 game v the Patriots), but will also use motion and run outside.
That being said, the Rams are comparatively better at passing than running, they are 8th in the league in yards per attempt, averaging 8 yards. The Dolphins pass defense should be able to hold up despite being 15th in yards/attempt against, and X and Jones should be able to beat the receivers outside, but Kupp is a threat in the slot, and the Dolphins will need to make sure he doesn’t go against a linebacker or they could be in trouble.
When the Dolphins have the ball:
I will not go into detail about what we’ve seen of the Dolphins so far, especially as the change to Tua was probably made with the idea that he has a higher ceiling (albeit a lower floor, right now) than Fitz. That being said, the Dolphins are facing the best defense in the NFL when it comes to yards/ pass attempt so don’t expect this to be an easy outing for the rookie QB. They are also 11th in yards /running attempt so the OL better improve what we’ve seen from them, as they are currently 28th in yards per run attempt.
It will be interesting to see if Tua will be as happy as Fitz was throwing downfield against the Jets and 49ers. But we should expect him to attack the short and middle parts of the field a lot more. The Dolphins will probably move their WR’s around a lot trying to prevent Ramsey from shadowing DVP.
What to expect?
I expect a close game where both teams will try and impose their will by running the ball early, often, and successfully. I expect to see the Dolphins call safe plays for Tua, quick routes and some RPO concepts and I have a feeling he will focus on Ford and Gesicki in the middle of the field and will probably look for on Parker the outside instead of Williams, specially early on that being said look for ‘Glitch’ to have a big game if Ramsey shadows DVP. That match-up will be fantastic all day long. On defense, the Dolphins will need to blitz and hit Goff early and get him off his rhythm, make sure he is uncomfortable. I expect to see the Dolphins defense to try and fool him a lot by hiding what they are going to do pre-snap but the key to this game will be the Dolphins ability to stop the run. If they don’t it will be tough to slow down a Rams’ offense that is designed to play with a lead.
In regard to Tua, I will not judge him based on this game alone and I plead with all of you to see this for what it is. The rookie’s first game in the NFL, his first real game action after a horrific injury so no matter if it’s great or terrible, let’s try and not rush into judgement.
Please welcome Jorge Hinojosa to the PhinManiacs team! Please follow him on Twitter @FranciscoHinoPe