We enter the phase of the NFL schedule where, if we are going to make moves, it happens right now.
Even at a quick glance, you could discern that the beginning and end of the Miami Dolphins 2016 regular season schedule were the most difficult: 1) Start the year on the road 3 of 4 games, with the 3 road games consisting of high quality 2015 Playoff participants, 2) finish the season with 3 divisional games, 2 of those on the road in Orchard Park and in East Rutherford.
The middle 8 games of the season will determine the trajectory of this team, and we’ll finally begin to start having more answers than questions. It begins with a team we destroyed last year 38-10: the Tennessee Titans.
In terms of game plan, on defense, the Dolphins need to stop the run, simply put. DeMarco Murray is having a fine season, while also having Derrick Henry in the wings, not to mention a mobile QB in Marcus Mariota. We disrupted everything with our defensive line last year, and I believe that will be the template going into Sunday.
On offense, we strive for balance. Find a way to have a better distribution of plays than last Thursday: 13 runs to 32 passes.
Here are 3 match-ups that will help shape the conversation on Sunday:
3) Tony Lippett Vs. Tajae Sharpe
Why is a CB/WR match-up one of the most important going against the #4 rushing attack in the NFL? To keep them one-dimensional.
Marcus Mariota has struggled so far this year. Tajae Sharpe, all 6’4” of him, just happens to go against one of the tallest CB’s in the NFL in Tony Lippett. In terms of body size and athleticism, I think this is a near perfect match-up. I’m very curious to see how Lippett defends a possession-type receiver, and whether he can play close to the line of scrimmage without sacrificing the big play.
AJ Green kicked our butt last week, but that’s what he does, he kicks ass in a lot of games. In betwixt AJ Green plays, I saw Lippett making some nice plays on the ball, and had the body language that says he isn’t scared of the moment. I’m looking forward to watching him develop.
2) DeVante Parker Vs. Jason McCourty
Like Tony Lippett, this is not only a key match-up, but a learning tool in projecting DeVante Parker’s NFL career. Week 2 against New England, and we’re nodding our head up and down with Parker’s performance. 5 catches 2 weeks later, and we’re shrugging our shoulders up and down with Parker’s performance. What do we have in this guy?
Not only is Jason McCourty one of the better Titans defenders, but Parker will be sharing targets with Jarvis Landry, who should have a favorable match-up most of the day against Brice McCain, whose limitations we know first-hand. Can Parker make plays if Landry gets surrounded?
1) Ryan Tannehill Vs. Ryan Tannehill
What’s Ryan Tannehill’s mindset 10 days removed from an ass-kicking? I’ve seen a pissed off Ryan Tannehill shred. I’ve also seen an insecure Ryan Tannehill muster zilch against the most porous of defenses.
We can’t continue to fail on 3rd down. We can’t continue to fail to sustain drives beyond 3 and 4 plays. We can’t keep committing turnovers.
Does Tannehill find some confidence at home, or do we leave Hard Rock Stadium scratching our heads?
What key match-ups do you see Phinsider Nation? Let’s hear it in the Comments!