Now being just 2 days away from Sunday's battle between the Dolphins and Ravens at Dolphin Stadium, let's talk about 3 key matchups that will really go a long way towards determining who comes out on top. But before we do, I wanted to just address, for the final time, those comments made by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
I read an article on Thursday in one of the Miami papers about how both fans and players should not be getting angry again with Cam Cameron. But I think the writer of that article doesn't realize that it's not Cam most fans are angry with for those comments. As a fan, I'm personally not mad at Cam. I'm pissed off at Harbaugh for making those remarks - remarks that can't be taken any way other than disparaging. And that's who those 26 "hold-over" players should be angry with - which is why they will enjoy their victory on Sunday even more.
Thank goodness we, as Dolphin fans, don't have to worry about our rookie head coach making a rookie mistake like Harbaugh did - giving the opposing team some extra motivation.
Moving on, let's talk about my 3 key matchups:
Dolphins rushing attack vs Ravens rush defense
Yes, we all know that the Ravens defense is good. I'm aware that they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in over 20 games. I'm aware that the Ravens are surrendering just 66 rushing yards per game and just 2.8 yards per carry. And I know that only 10 rushes against the Ravens have gone for 1st downs - just 8.3% of all rushing attempts against.
But you know what? I don't care. Just because a team has been good against the run doesn't mean an opposing team - with the right gameplan - won't be able to run well enough to keep their offense balanced. The worst thing that could happen would be for the Dolphins to abandon the run and settle for passes 60 to 70 percent of the time. That's what other teams have done - and is why the Ravens only see 24 rushing attempts against per game. Let Ronnie Brown - who is even more fired up now after Harbaugh's ridiculous words - get 20+ carries. Allow him the opportunity to make some plays.
Keep in mind that this Dolphins' offensive line is still a better run blocking line than pass blocking. And they did have 2 terrific games in a row before last week's setback. But also keep in mind that last week was the first time all season this offensive line had seen a 4-3 defensive front. In their 4 previous games - and all training camp long - they've worked against 3-4 fronts. So I wonder if the fact that they've had another week to prepare against a 4-3 front will give the line a better chance of opening holes. Of course, as Rexx of Baltimore Beatdown says below, they use so many different defensive looks that it might not even matter.
Regardless, Ronnie Brown is the Dolphins' best offensive weapon. Use him. Let him run early and often. And getting him involved in the passing game wouldn't hurt, either. If the Dolphins can find some success on the ground, their chance of winning this game would sky-rocket.
Jake Long vs Terrell Suggs
Last week, we all anticipated that game in Houston to be a "show-me" game for Jake Long. However, the Texans decided to rush their pass-rushing star Mario Williams to the other side of Miami's offensive line - and it got Mario 2 sacks. Perhaps that's a compliment - the Texans would have rather attack a veteran RT than a rookie LT.
But now enters the Ravens nasty and physical defensive front 7. Protecting Chad Pennington will be critical for this offensive line. But the one matchup in particular that is intriguing will be Jake Long against pass-rushing OLB Terrell Suggs. Suggs already has 3 sacks this season and has 48 sacks in his 6-year career. He's a freak, really, standing at 6'3, 260 pounds but possessing good speed off the edge. We all know that Jake's had issues at times with fast pass rushers off the edge, surrendering sacks to Bryan Thomas and Marques Harris. His ability to keep Suggs out of the backfield will be a key factor in how successful Miami's offense will be on Sunday.
Cam Cameron vs Paul Pasqualoni
Ah yes. Cam Cameron. It's amazing how his offensive schemes don't seem to work without the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, and a good QB (Drew Brees and Philip Rivers). Suddenly, a guy who even I once thought was an offensive guru can't seem to come up with ways to move the football. His Ravens' offense is ranked 25th in the league and averages just 4.2 yards per play - good for 30th in the league.
To be honest, I'd take just about any defensive coordinator against a Cam Cameron coached offense. But that goes double for a Paul Pasqualoni defense. The man knows how to game plan. Yes, I know that the defense caved last week. But if Yeremiah Bell makes that play on 4th down, things are looking a lot different. So credit Pasqualoni for having his men in the right place.
The bottom line here is that the Dolphins are only giving up 89 yards per game on the ground - 8th in the league - and just 3.5 yards per rush. They will be able to shut down Baltimore's running game. So that means Cam Cam will have to out-coach Pasqualoni and find ways to have success in the passing game with a rookie QB.
I just don't see that happening.