The Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints are in the final preparations for their Sunday morning game from London. Will the Dolphins be able to bounce back after they were destroyed by the New York Jets last week? What will they have to do to beat the Saints?
To get a better idea of what the Dolphins will be facing on Sunday, I turned to SB Nation’s Canal Street Chronicles for answers to some questions. Chris Dunnels was kind enough to take the time to provide some answers. You can also check out my answers to his questions over on their site.
1. The Saints are currently sixth in the league in passing offense, averaging nearly 380 yards per game. Is this just Drew Brees? Where should the Dolphins be focused to try to shut down Brees' ability to throw the ball?
Yes, it is mostly just Drew being Drew, but understand that a lot of those passing yards have come in garbage time in the Saints first two blowout losses at the hands of the Vikings and Patriots. If the Dolphins want to limit Brees's arm, the best way to do that is to keep constant pressure in his face. Make him force throws and get rid of balls earlier than he'd prefer, before routes have a chance to develop.
2. Everything about the Saints offense seems to point to their offensive line being vulnerable. Where can the Dolphins exploit the line and how bad has it been thus far this year?
The Saints' offensive line has struggled not because of poor performance generally, but because of injuries to two of the Saints starters. Terron Armstead was lost before the season started, and Zach Strief was injured the Saints Week 1 game. This has caused the Saints to do some shuffling on the offensive line, moving different players around, and they seemed to hold their own against the tough Carolina Panthers defensive front. If the Dolphins want to take advantage of the Saints' injuries to the offensive line, I would focus on trying to confuse backup Senio Kelemente and rookie Ryan Ramczyk. But there is also a (slim) chance that either or both of Strief and Armstead are back this week as both have returned to practice for the first time since their respective injuries. With the Saints looking to a Bye week as an extra week to make sure Armstead and Strief are fully healthy, I wouldn't be surprised to see both on the sidelines in London.
3. On the other side of the ball, the Saints have not been able to stop opposing offenses, with an average of 311 yards per game allowed through the air and 127 yards per game on the ground. Where can the Dolphins attack to find that kind of success?
Get rookie LB Alex Anzalone in man-to-man or catch S Kenny Vaccaro in a zone coverage scheme. Anzalone was single-handedly responsible for two touchdowns against the Patriots when he busted coverage against the Pats pass-catchers. Vacarro, who has been the subject of trade rumors recently, has a problem giving up his zones and leaving opposing wide receivers wide open for big gains. I would stay away from targeting Marshon Lattimore, though. The 2017 1st Round Pick has looked great so far in limited action.
4. The Saints have a couple of former Dolphins draft picks on their roster, with wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., and defensive tackle Kendall Langford. How has Ginn adjusted to the New Orleans offense and how is he being used? What is going on with Langford that he is the guy being cut and re-signed?
Ginn is being used exactly as you would imagine: he's the primary return specialist for punts and used as a deep threat to take the cover off opposing defenses. It also isn't a huge shock when he's handed the ball on an end-around to try to let him get to the edge and use his speed for big gains.
Kendall Langford... Who? I mean, yes he's signed with the Saints multiple times, but at this point he's mostly just roster depth. He's yet to see the field this season. You would think after the injury to Nick Fairley that Langford might see time at Defensive Tackle this year, but the Saints have a lot of depth at DT this year (just not much quality depth, mostly just warm bodies).
5. New Orleans, at 1-2, is currently fourth in the NFC South, behind the 3-0 Atlanta Falcons, 3-1 Carolina Panthers, and 1-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Obviously, it is extremely early in the season, so what are realistic expectations for the Saints in 2017?
If you put on your Black-and-Gold rosy glasses and squint hard enough, you can see a realistic shot at going 9-7 and in the Wild Card hunt. But, being completely honest, nothing between 3-13 and 11-5 would surprise me at this point.