The Miami Dolphins welcome the Buffalo Bills to Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in a Week 2 showdown. Miami, coming off a loss to the New England Patriots in Week 1, are looking to tighten up the divisional standings, looking to bring the Bills, who beat the New York Jets last week, back to 1-1 on the year, rather than letting them start the year 2-0.
If Miami is going to win this weekend, they have to have strong performances from several key positions. The team is rebuilding for the long-term, but that does not mean they cannot also have success now. Here are our top five Dolphins players to watch against the Bills.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback
Is there any doubt where the Dolphins players to watch list for this week has to start? Fitzpatrick had an off game last week. It was not as bad as a three-interception stat-line would seem to indicate when one of the picks came as the receiver fell down and another came when the receiver was mugged in the endzone with no penalty called. It was not a Fitzmagic performance, however, and the Dolphins need more magic and nothing close to tragic each week. Can Fitzmagic return against his former team?
Okay this is not a player but a position group, but it is hard to identify the one player who needs to improve on his Week 1 performance, and the Dolphins cannot have another performance like the run defense had against the Patriots. Facing Cam Newton, the Dolphins did not seem to have an answer for a running quarterback. This week, Josh Allen (14 carries, 57 yards, 1 touchdown) is a running quarterback. They have to do better.
“First of all, we’ve got to stop the run,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said this week. “If we stop the run and make them one-dimensional, it’s going to take care of itself. We’ve got guys that can chase after and get after the quarterback. We have to focus on stopping the run first. That‘s the most important thing this game.”
Xavien Howard, cornerback
The Dolphins have Howard on a “pitch count” as he returns from a knee injury that required surgery this offseason. Facing the Bills, the Dolphins are going to need more from Howard, who could be responsible for matching up on Stefon Diggs. Byron Jones will also feature into the Dolphins’ defensive plan as they look to slow Allen’s aerial attack (33-for-46, 312 yards, 2 touchdowns), but the Dolphins need more from Howard and they need that to start this week.
Jordan Howard, running back
Howard is the Dolphins’ starting running back, but came away from Week 1 with a stat line of eight carries for seven yards with a score. Meanwhile, Myles Gaskin - listed as the third-string running back - ran nine times for 40 yards. Miami has to have a better performance from their starting running back, and Howard needs to show that he is going to be able to give Miami a season in which Fitzpatrick is not the team’s leading rusher.
Another position group makes the list. The five Dolphins starting offensive linemen, left tackle Austin Jackson, left guard Erek Flowers, center Ted Karras, right guard Solomon Kindley, and right tackle Jesse Davis, played decently last year for a unit who had never played together in a game before last week. They were adequate, but they have to continue to move forward as a unit, create space for the running backs, and protect Fitzpatrick better througout the game.