While this article typically includes three Dolphins’ players and two opposing team’s players that are likely to play a large role in the outcome of the game, it would be a welcomed change if even one member of the Miami Dolphins performed up to his potential and put the team in a position to win come the fourth quarter of Sunday’s tilt against the Tennessee Titans.
Although Miami’s defense has played fine – considering the fact that you should emerge victorious against the New Orleans Saints if you hold them to 20 points – the offense has essentially been shutout the last two weeks as the last time the team scored was a meaningless Jay Cutler to DeVante Parker connection in a 20-6 week three loss to the New York Jets as time expired.
Fresh off a 57-14 thrashing courtesy of the Houston Texans, the Titans should be plenty motivated come Sunday as they find themselves in a three-way tie atop the AFC South at 2-2.
On the other hand, the Dolphins have quickly found themselves in the basement of the AFC East at 1-2 – and as they look to capture their second win of the season – here are the five players that’ll play a key role in determining the outcome of Sunday’s game.
Yes, I know I cheated and went with a member of the coaching staff instead of a player, but Gase is in a position where he needs to lengthen Cutler’s chain and give him more opportunities to stretch the field throughout the game.
The horizontally focused offense the team has shown through the first three games clearly isn’t working while the run game hasn’t been very impactful against suspect run defenses.
It would be wise for Gase to put a little more responsibility on Cutler and let him play his game, which may lead to some actual points scored on the offensive side of the ball. Even if Cutler ends up throwing more interceptions than the team is comfortable with moving forward, is the team legitimately comfortable with handcuffing him and possessing the lowest points scored per game in the National Football League?
And for the sake of the health of all of us, would it be possible to call just one screen pass to a wide receiver each week instead of every other possession?
If Cutler is given a longer leash after leading the team to just six points over the last two weeks, he’s going to need to connect on his attempts when given the opportunity.
Cutler did a nice job extending plays in the team’s first game against the Chargers but has since looked timid and very uncomfortable in the pocket, practically laying down to avoid big hits. He’s going to have to do a better job maneuvering around an inconsistent pocket and take advantage of his shots downfield if Gase opens up the offense this week.
Connecting on a few chunk yardage pass plays to the playmakers Miami lines up on the outside will in turn make Jay Ajayi more impactful, inevitably leading to points on the scoreboard and a chance to compete when the game’s on the line.
In his first game back last week following his suspension to begin the season, Timmons played effectively both against the pass and run recording six solo tackles and a hit on Saints’ quarterback, Drew Brees.
This week, Timmons will be asked to not only seek out and tackle the Titans’ two-headed monster at running back in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, but also contain a dual-threat quarterback in Marcus Mariota – if he’s able to overcome his latest injury – while helping in coverage against one of the best and most underrated tight ends in the NFL, Delanie Walker.
The Dolphins’ defense has been great against the run this year allowing just 77.7 rushing yards per game, currently fourth best in the NFL.
Murray, who isn’t having as great of a season as his 5.1 yards per carry portrays, may be forced to play an even more significant role in Sunday’s game against Miami if Mariota isn’t able to play and the team turns to backup quarterback, Matt Cassel.
Tennessee’s lead running back has just one game over 50 rushing yards so far this season, and if you take away his 75-yard touchdown run week three against Seattle, he has just 140 yards on 41 carries, a 3.4 yards per carry average.
Despite being thrown to the fire as a starting rookie cornerback, Jackson leads Tennessee with five passes defended and is one of three Titans who have recorded an interception this season.
If Cutler is indeed given more freedom to throw the ball downfield this week, the Dolphins may target their veteran receivers against the rookie and test the Titans’ 28th-ranked pass defense.