The Miami Dolphins have started this 2023/2024 season about as well as possible. They secured two road victories against the Chargers and Patriots and have caught the attention of fans and analysts, league wide. They have the 0-2 Broncos traveling to Hard Rock Stadium for their first home game of the season. Everything is pointing to this being a walk in the park for the Dolphins and that should terrify their coaching staff.
Welcome back Vance Joseph
Joseph has stuck around the NFL for a while and it’s because he’s a solid defensive coordinator. He runs mostly single high looks, so that means we’ll be seeing a lot of cover 3 and cover 1. It’s an aggressive defense that emphasizes getting to the quarterback and they’ll bring five or more pass rushers on about 1⁄3 of their defensive plays. Miami’s receivers should get one on one matchups and will need to take advantage of them. Let’s check the film and breakdown some of Denver’s more common coverage looks.
Play 1: This is about as vanilla as Joseph’s cover 3 look will ever be. The deep portion of the field is split into three zones (hence cover 3). They only rush four, which leaves four defenders to play the two flat zones and hook/curl zones in the middle of the field.
Play 2: This is a fairly standard cover 1 look. That means there is man coverage underneath with a single high safety (who shades to the trips side on this play) and a single hole defender patrolling the middle portion of the field. You can see on this play that the slot defender starts in man but then passes the receiver off to the safety as he goes vertical and drops into that mid zone.
Play 3: This is a simplistic pressure look that the Broncos went to several times against the commanders. They have three down linemen and two outside linebackers and they send all five on this play. They play man coverage on the backend and have a single high safety that will shade to whichever side needs help. Essentially cover 1, but instead of having that hole defender you’re bringing an extra blitzer.
How to attack this defense?
Well all the standard ways to attack a cover 3 defense would apply here. The seams in-between the three deep zones tend to be vulnerable and when you can use high/low concepts in the flats it puts the the flat defender in conflict and creates an easy read for the quarterback.
Against cover 1 the outside of the field away from the safety is the most vulnerable area. Any man beating concepts/routes could be used here. With Miami’s speed on the outside, double moves could be especially deadly this week. The Commanders ran screens against Denver’s man looks and had a ton of success (as can be seen in the three play video), so don’t be surprised if Miami tries a few with their speedy backs.
An offense with talent
A lot of people are down on Russel Wilson based off last season, but he can still sling it. He’s also surrounded by talent on that offense. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Brandon Johnson, and Javonte Williams are all talented playmakers. They’ve also got one of the better offensive minds in the league scheming up plays for them with Sean Payton. They lit up a solid Commanders defense last week and keeping them out of the end zone will be a challenge the Sunday.
Another good matchup for the defensive line
While the Broncos offense was explosive last week, the defensive line should have opportunities to impact the game. Russel has historically been a quarterback that holds onto the football. That’s because he has always thrived at making plays outside of structure. While he still has some of that athleticism, he isn’t as good as he used to be in those situations. The Broncos also have a couple offensive linemen that have struggled this season (Mike McGlinchey at RT and Ben Powers at LG).
When pressured and forced out of the pocket, Russel Wilson has been careless with the football this season. This will be a big game for the Miami Dolphins defensive line to make their presence felt. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/xleFH9P7GS— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 21, 2023
You can see that when the Commanders got Wilson out of the pocket, he became careless with the football. Wilson’s improvisation skills are what made him an NFL star (DangeRuss), but it seems like some of that magic has dried up. If Jaelan Phillips, Bradley Chubb and the rest of the defensive line can get after Russ this Sunday, there is a good chance that he’ll make a game altering mistake. You also run the risk of him getting out of the pocket and making a play, so it will be interesting to see what the defense emphasizes.
This is a classic trap game for the Miami Dolphins. They have everything going their way and have a reeling Denver Broncos team coming to town this weekend. It will be paramount that the Dolphins show up and perform against these Broncos. Jaylen Waddle’s status could be big for this game as well. Patrick Surtain is likely to be matched up with Tyreek Hill for a lot of this contest. If the Broncos decide to give help to his side then it will be up to other Miami players to take advantage of their 1 on 1 matchups.
While this could turn into a shootout, Miami is clearly the more talented team at this point. The Dolphins will show up and take care of business in their first home game of the season. 31-21 Miami Dolphins victory.