All week, the discussion around the Miami Dolphins has focused on the health of running back Reggie Bush. Bush injured his knee against the New York Jets last weekend, missing the entire second half. However, an MRI on Monday showed no structural damage, and Bush has worked hard to recover from, what he describes as, simply a bruise. With or without Bush, however, the success of the Dolphins this weekend may come down to the wide receivers.
The Dolphins are playing the Arizona Cardinals in NFL Week 4 action. Excuse me, the Dolphins are facing the undefeated Arizona Cardinals in NFL Week 4 action. The Cardinals' defense has been exceptional this year, and features a man some people are already declaring the best cornerback in the NFL, Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals offense is currently 29th in the NFL in passing yardage and 26th in rushing yards. However, on defense, they rank ninth in passing yards allowed, and 18th in rushing yards allowed. They have not given up more than two touchdowns in a game - over the past 12 games. Peterson is a huge part of the success the Cardinals are having this season. The Cardinals line him up against the opposing team's best wide receiver, and he simply takes them out of the game.
According to Pro Football Focus, the receivers being covered by Peterson have only been targeted 16 times through three games this year. Even more impressive, Peterson has only allowed five receptions.
Against that kind of play, the Dolphins bring in the 20th ranked wide receiver in the league (Davone Bess), according to PFF, the 37th (Brian Hartline), the 93rd (Legedu Naanee), and the 142nd (Anthony Armstrong). If the Dolphins hope to find any success, and hope to get the Cardinals to back off the line of scrimmage to allow Bush, Daniel Thomas, or Lamar Miller to have any running lanes, those four receivers are going to have to find a way to step up and beat Peterson.
While Peterson has been incredible this year, allowing opposing quarterbacks a 14.6 passer rating when throwing toward him, the opposite can be said for the Cardinals other starting cornerback, William Gay. Gay has allowed, according to PFF"s preview of this game, 175 yards through the air this season, the 12th most by any cornerback in the league. He has allowed 17 receptions on 27 targets to his receiver.
Bess reestablished himself as the Miami top receiver last week, catching five passes for 86-yards after being nearly invisible the first two games (8 catches for 88 yards combined). Hartline, meanwhile, exploded on the stage against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 with a 9-reception, 111 yard performance, then was held to one reception for 41 yards last week.
Meanwhile, Naanee has not caught a pass this season, only being targetd by rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times (none last week). Armstrong at least has stats, despite missing the Raiders game, with three catches for 12 yards on the season.
The Dolphins have been using tight end Anthony Fasano (10 receptions, 85 yards) and the running backs (Bush - 10 receptions, 72 yards; Thomas - 2 receptions, 43 yards; fullback Jorvorskie Lane - 2 receptions, 25 yards) as well as the receivers, but the team is still ranked 25th in passing yards this season.
Miami's receivers are going to be the key to success for the Dolphins this week. None of them have to break out and have a stellar day; they simply need to be solid enough to open up the running attack. If the Dolphins can establish an effective passing attack, look for them to succeed against the Cardinals. However, if the Cardinals are are able to stack eight guys in the box to stop the run, it could be a long day for Miami.