Drastically Improve Against the Run.
On paper this is a bad matchup defensively for the Miami Dolphins coming into this game. The Philadelphia Eagles, with Chip Kelly’s unique offense, are at their best when they can heavily rely on the running game. Coming off a game where the Eagles rushed for 172 yards and 2 touchdowns agains the 17th ranked Cowboys rush defense,the offseason acquisitions Demarco Murray and Ryan Matthews starting to hit their stride in this offense. Sam Bradford has looked inconsistent in his first season as an Eagle, and has yet to prove he can win throwing the ball without the help of a strong run game. Bradford has shown that he struggles under pressure, but if the Dolphins are getting pummeled in the run game, he can be effective off of play action and quick passes. The 10th ranked Eagles rushing attack seems to be only improving week to week, but the same cannot be said for the 2nd worse run defense of the Miami Dolphins. Last week against the Bills the Dolphins gave up 266 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground in a 33-17 loss in Buffalo. Both LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams finished the day with over 100 yards rushing, and were able to break long touchdown runs one that was on a critical third and long. The problem for the Dolphins is that the style of offense that Greg Roman and the Buffalo Bills run, is similar to what Chip Kelly and the Eagles run. The shot gun zone running scheme spreads the defensive line out and opens up holes for their talented backs to cut up through into the open field. The Miami Dolphins touted defensive line has struggled to fill up these holes, and the linebackers have struggled scraping and fighting off blocks to field the ball carrier. DeMarco Murray is a patient ball carrier and will buy time to find the hole, so the Dolphins needs to stay engage with the play because Murray is always looking for a cut back lane. This will be a tough task containing the Eagles run game and it is not made any easier with linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are listed as questionable to play for the game with injuries. The Dolphins must fight off blocks and clog cut back lanes so that Murray and Matthews are not able to break off huge runs like McCoy and Williams were able to last week. The Dolphins must keep contain as well so Murray and Matthews are stuck behind the line bottled up the way they looked early on in the season, because if they can establish early success it will be hard to stop.
No More Safeties.
Momentum is a critical factor in every NFL game and there are few plays more momentous than a safety. Not only is the defense awarded two points, but they are awarded the ball following a punt. More than the points and loss of possession the psychological toll it takes on a team especially early a game is significant. Think back to the Broncos Superbowl against the Seahawks, once that snap flew over Peyton Manning’s head and into the back of the end zone the entire dynamics of the game changed. It is an absolutely demoralizing play as an offense and it is an exhilarating play for the defense and it is hard to gain that momentum back as a team. Ryan Tannehill has in back to back weeks had the ball snapped when he was not expecting it and end up as safeties. Against the Patriots in Foborough the momentum was already heavily favoring the Patriots, and that costly mistake early set the tone for a noncompetitive game the rest of the way. Against the Bills the possession immediately following a 48-yard touchdown run from LeSean McCoy another bad snap ended up in the back of the end zone and halted any attempt for a rebuttal to the Bills score. Those two plays of course did not dictate the rest of the game, but with a young offense momentum is an important tool but can also be a dangerous weapon if it is not on your side. In a larger sense the Miami Dolphin offense needs to get off on the right foot, because we have seen what Tannehill, Miller, and Landry can look like when they are clicking, but early disastrous plays can disrupt the flow of the game before they have a chance to establish an effective offense.