Miami Dolphins (0-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)
Dolphins Offense vs Eagles Defense
This game on Sunday will be the culmination of quite the news week for Dolphin fans. There's been a lot of talk about how it's odd that Cam Cameron chose this week against the Eagles for John Beck to make his NFL debut. But there's what you need to know: this Eagles defense is not what it once was. It's not the perrenial top 5 defense that we've been used to seeing the past few years. They are ranked 14th in the NFL is total defense, allowing 322 yards per game. And over their last 5 games, they've actually allowed just over 340 yards per game to their opponent and over 21 points per game. In that span, Philly is 3-2.
Despite the fact that all eyes will be on John Beck and the passing game, Jesse Chatman and the running game will be the key. Chatman has done well filling in for Ronnie Brown. In his 2 starts since the injury, Chatman is averaging 101.5 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. He's run with power and even some (dare I say) speed. But some of that credit has to go to the OL, which has played exceptional all season long and continues to improve week in and week out. The Eagles rush defense is not as stout as they used to be. They're allowing a little over 100 yards per game, but do hold ball carriers to just 3.8 yards per carry. However, over their last 5, they are surrendering 120 yards on the ground per game. Look for the Dolphins to look to attack the left side often. That's where Miami runs the ball best (behind Vernon Carey) and Philly DE Trent Cole, despite being a great pass rusher, still is questionable in stopping the run.
But like I sid before, all eyes will be on John Beck and the passing attack. When you look at the numbers, you'll see that they are vulnerable to the pass. Thay are 23rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed, giving up over 222 yards per game. They allow the opposing QB to complete 61% of his passes and opposing QBs have a fairly high QB rating of 89.3. Over their last 5, the Eagles are allowing QBs to complete 65% of their passes and have given up 8 passing touchdowns while just picking off 3 passes. So the opportunities for John Beck might be there. He may be able to make a few more big plays than we are used to seeing out of a Dolphin quarterback recently. The key, though, to being successful in the passing attack is being able to counter Jim Johnson's blitzes. This Eagles defense will come at you from every angle and they'll do it on every play. They've been known for this for years, and on Sunday facing a rookie QB, you have to expect Johnson to use as many complex blitzes as he possibly can. Now, like Jason from Bleeding Green Nation said, the way you beat these blitzes is to recognize where they are coming from. John Beck will be asked to quickly read and react, making smart decisions with the ball. There's been a lot of talk on this site about the possibility of using the shotgun formation more than we've seen because Beck is familiar with it from his BYU days. I would certainly be in favor of doing so, especially if the Dolphins use shotgun and a spread offense. Going 4 or dare I say 5 wide with John in the shotgun will allow Beck to make quicker reads. It will also neutralize Philly's crazy blitzes because there's a good chance a receiver will be unaccounted for and open. We haven't seen too much shotgun this year out of Cameron's offense, but I think he needs to adapt the system to his quarterback and not the other way around. And if John is able to recognize who the hot receiver is and make accurate throws, he might actually fare better than we all think he will.
And one other thing to keep an eye on. We've seen Ted Ginn break two returns for touchdowns but have them called back due to holding calls (which didn't even affect the play, might I add). This week, Ginn should have a few more chances to make plays in the return game. This is because the Eagles' coverage unit has been struggling mightily this year. The Eagles are 29th in the NFL in kickoff return average allowed. So could this be the week Teddy gets his first "real" return TD? I don't know. But it'll definitely be his best chance yet to do so.
Eagles Offense vs Dolphins Defense
Because of all that's gone on this week, I've combined these 2 posts into one. Because of the fact that I went on a little too long above, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. The Eagles offense is 7th in yards per game and their entire offense revolves around superstar running back Brian Westbrook. He has 701 yards rushing with an average of 4.8 ypc and leads the team in receptions with 54. Westbrook has missed practice the last 2 days with "swelling and soreness" in one of his knees. However, as of now, it seems as though he's still likely to play. Zach Thomas, however, will not be playing. This means that Channing Crowder and Derrick Pope must step up their game to levels we haven't seen before if they want to slow down Westbrook and the Eagles. I'm sure the safeties will be active in run support as well, which makes me especially worried about the play action pass leading to big plays down the field for the speedy Kevin Curtis. Curtis is averaging over 16 yards per reception and I can just see him doing to us what he did to the Jets, when he torched them for 221 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. I guess this will be a good test for SI.com's Dr. Z's favorite sleeper all-pro: Will Allen. Allen, I'd imagine, will likely be on Curtis rather than Reggie Brown because Curtis is faster than Brown and has been more of a factor. Hopefully he proves Dr. Z right and keeps Kevin in check. But again, if the Dolphins can't stop (or at least mildly contain) Westbrook, than the rest won't matter. It'll be a tough task, for sure.
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