The Miami Dolphins get back on the field later this afternoon with the first half of their annual home-and-home series with the Buffalo Bills. Today’s game features two teams at different extremes this season, with the Dolphins winless and in competition for the first-overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft while Buffalo is 4-1 on the season and looking to challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East crown or compete for a Wildcard poition at the end of the regular season.
The Dolphins seem to be facing a tough matchup this week. Where can they find success against the Bills? How have some of the key members of the Bills been playing this year? To get a closer look at Buffalo, I spoke with Corey Giacovelli from SB Nation’s Bills site, Buffalo Rumblings, ahead of this week’s game.
1. The Dolphins had no answer for Josh Allen last year, especially on the ground. When he would escape the pocket, it seemed like a possible sack would turn into a 20-yard gain with ease. He does not seem to be running as much this year, though. Is this by design? Do the Bills just not need that from him? How has he been as a pure passer in his second season?
The difference better Allen running this year and last year is that he is smarter. Last year, he was quick to leave the pocket and use his legs instead of going through all of his reads. This year, Allen has been looking through all of his options passing before taking off and running. The team has been designing some quarterback keepers for him but not nearly as much as people would think. This is intentionally because the team does want him to develop as a passer from the pocket and have his legs be the secondary option. The last thing the team wants is him taking a whole lot of hits that could cause potential injuries like his one against New England. Another thing to point out is that the offensive line is better so he has more time to go through all of his reads instead of facing immediate pressure and having to scramble like last year.
2. The Bills are third in the league with 187.2 yards per game allowed through the air. They are seventh against the run with 87.8 yards per game allowed. They are fourth in scoring defense, allowing 14.0 points per game. That tallies to a third-overall ranking on defense with 275.0 yards per game allowed. This defense seems to be stacked all across the board. How can Miami attack it and find any success?
This defense is tough because they all feed off of their strengths and their communication is among the best in the league. It helps that the team returned almost all of their starters on the defensive side from last year. I found that the best way to attack them is to use a lot of play action and misdirection, try to get them moving the wrong way and exploit it. Whether that be using the tight end on play action or running some jet sweeps to get to the outside. The one thing the defense does well is not allow the long ball so a quarterback has to realize that the chunk plays will be far and few in between. Taking the short gainers so you give yourself third and short is your best option.
3. I have long given up trying to figure out Frank Gore, but how is he out there still finding success? He has 333 yards on 75 carries this year with two touchdowns. What should the Dolphins expect from Gore?
Frank Gore is a living legend and one of those players that is not affected by father time. The guy run hard through tacklers and know how to find the holes. Miami has to be careful because Gore will more than likely be fresher than in weeks past. For one he is coming off the bye week and two rookie Devin Singletary should be returning from his hamstring injury so he will probably split a lot of the carries with him. When the team is at the goal line however, expect the ball to go to Gore to get those couple yards to get into the end zone.
4. I feel like there are some similarities between Ed Oliver’s start to his career and Christian Wilkins’ start to his. Basically, a solid start, nothing too dominant yet, but flashes that point to the potential that had both of them drafted as high as they were selected. How would you rate the start to Oliver’s career?
I would give Oliver a B for now but he can definitely get better. He may not have his first sack yet but that does not mean he isn’t making a difference. He is still playing hard and pressuring the quarterback even if he is not getting the hits to show for it. A good example of this was against the Titans when Oliver started rushing but after a screen pass hustled to make a diving tackle that saved a big play and a possible touchdown. Buffalo loves him and his teammates love him, it is only a matter of time before he breaks through. He still is only a rookie and is still learning.
5. The Bills are currently in the first Wildcard position in the AFC and are just a game behind the Patriots in the loss column - with that loss coming from the Patriots. At this point, is this a playoffs or bust year for the Bills? Are the fans expecting to see postseason football or is there still some worry that the 2017 end to the drought was just a one-year repreive and things could still fall apart for Buffalo?
Given the position the team is in now, I would say that it is playoffs or bust for this team. Their remaining schedule is one of the easiest in the league and the competition in the AFC is not as good as in year’s past. It is funny because this team is doing everything that previous Bills teams were unable to do. They came back from a 16 point deficit against the Jets week 1 on the road. They were able to overcome a late surge by the Bengals and were able to get that road win in Tennessee against a tough Titans defense before the bye. Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane assembled their ideal roster and culture and the team is buying into it. Fans are not and should not be worry that the end of the drought was just temporary because this team is hungry to prove the doubters wrong and will fight with everything that they have to return to the post season.