As the NFL’s Week 2 schedule arrives, the Miami Dolphins are traveling to Maryland to face the Baltimore Ravens. The Dolphins are looking to move to 2-0 on the year and make it two straight wins over Baltimore, after suffering three blowout losses to the Ravens over the previous three meetings.
What do the Dolphins need to do to mark the start of the season with two wins? DraftKings Sportsbook continues to favor the Ravens in this game, though the line has moved slightly on Friday, shifting from four points back down to 3.5. This afternoon it is time for our look at the things you need to be watching for Miami this weekend.
Can the Dolphins offensive line slow the Ravens pass rush?
Maybe this should be taken with a grain of salt because it was against the New York Jets, but the Ravens recorded three sacks and 10 quarterback hits last week. The pass rush, especially up the middle, was fierce, and they are going to be coming again this weekend looking to rattle Tua Tagovailoa. Add in that we saw snapping issues with center Connor Williams this summer, which could resurface if the Ravens are having success up the middle and he feels like he has to get the snap off quickly to get into his blocking.
The Ravens have a strong defensive line, and the Dolphins’ offensive line still has to prove itself. They also now have to do it with changes happening as starting right tackle Austin Jackson lands on injured reserve with an ankle injury. It is not going to be an easy weekend for Miami’s front five.
Can the Dolphins defensive front shut down Baltimore’s ground game?
If the Jets can do anything, it is stuff the run. They did that against Baltimore last week and the Dolphins should be watching that tape to see what worked so well. On 21 rushing attempts, the Ravens were able to gain just 61 yards, a three-yards-per-attempt average. That is not going to get it done in the NFL. (Just to point this out, the Dolphins only gained 65 yards on 23 carries last week, giving Miami an unacceptable 2.8-yards-per-attempt average - but more on that later.)
Baltimore running back J.K. Dobbins missed last week’s game as he looks to come back from last year’s ACL tear. He is close to getting back on the field and could make his season debut this weekend. If he does, it would actually be his first game in front of a home crowd despite this being his third year in the league. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic kept fans out of the stadiums and the ACL tear cost Dobbins all of the 2021 season. If he is not able to play, former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake would be in line for another start. Drake saw the majority of the carries for the Ravens last week, picking up just 31 yards on 11 rushing attempts.
Miami needs to force the Ravens to abandon the run so they can turn up the pass-rush pressure on quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Will the Tua Tagovailoa to Tyreek Hill connection take the next step?
Against the Patriots, Hill caught eight passes for 94 yards, with a long of 26 yards. Other than a brief three-play appearance in the final preseason game by Hill, last week was the only game situation snaps for Tagovailoa and Hill. There were some good moments and there were some moments that could have been better. Tagovailoa threw a one-hopper to Hill on the first play as he dealt with a high snap on the start. There was another play where Hill came open on a crossing route, but Tagovailoa did not see him - probably because Tagovailoa is just not yet used to considering Hill open as his speed pulls his away from a defender.
The Dolphins are not going to be a team that is throwing 50-yard bombs on every snap, but they will get better at both adding the long ball into the game plan and Tagovailoa will learn he can throw Hill open more than any other wide receiver in the league. The two will get better as they play together more. We should see that start to evolve more this weekend.
Can the Dolphins keep up the pressure on Lamar Jackson?
The Dolphins threw the kitchen sink at the Ravens last year, winning 22-10. Jackson was 26-for-43 for 238 yards, giving him a 5.5 yards per attempt average, with one touchdown, one interception, and a 73.6 passer rating. Running the ball, he tried to take off nine yards, only picking up 39 yards. Miami recorded four sacks with seven quarterback hits in the game. The amoeba defensive front caused all kinds of issues for the Ravens, and the Dolphins need to do that again.
Miami has to get pressure on Jackson, but they have to be smart about it. They cannot lose containment of him just because they are getting close to him. Running quarterbacks can crush the Dolphins, and they cannot allow Jackson to get started because they might struggle to slow him down.
The Dolphins defense is made to create pressure. The system put players in position and masks what they are doing. Players like Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, Melvin Ingram, Trey Flowers, Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler, Jerome Baker, Brandon Jones, and Jevon Holland can all create pressure. If Andrew Van Ginkel sees more playing time as he recovers from an appendectomy, he can also be a really good pass rusher. Miami needs all of them making plays this week - and use this as containment preparation for next week against the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen as well.
Will the Dolphins’ running game show up?
The offensive line issues and changes impact this, but the Dolphins running game needs to show up this weekend. Chase Edmonds ran 12 times for 25 yards, with Raheem Mostert adding 16 yards on five carries. Neither of those totals are good enough and the Dolphins know it.
This is an offense designed to use play action to open up passing lanes. Without a ground game, the play action is ineffective. The pass rush is going to ignore the fake and focus solely on Tagovailoa, cutting down his time to find a receiver and get the ball to Hill, Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, Mike Gesicki, or one of the running backs coming out of the backfield. The Jets rushed for 83 yards on an average of 4.9 yards last week against Baltimore. Miami needs the running game to show up so they get after the Ravens.