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Dolphins at Saints: 3 Must-Watch Matchups

LT Jonathan Martin will have a difficult matchup with DE Cameron Jordan on Monday night.

It’s been quite some time since the Miami Dolphins played in an important prime-time game. But that will happen on Monday night in New Orleans.

The Saints have been virtually unbeatable on Monday Night Football with quarterback Drew Brees at the helm. Brees has won eight consecutive starts in said games, which presents a difficult challenge, to say the least, for the Dolphins in Week 4.

Here are three must-watch matchups:

Committee vs. Jimmy Graham

I would have liked to name one player on the Dolphins’ defense whose primarily responsibility will be to contain stud tight end Jimmy Graham. But that’s just not realistic. The Saints move Graham all over the field, meaning we’ll see him lined up against a handful of Miami defenders.

When Graham operates out of the standard tight end position, expect linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe and even Miami’s safeties to get in on the action. But Graham isn’t a typical tight end. Far from it. He’ll line up in the slot and split out wide as a receiver as well, as the Saints will make sure to find favorable matchups for Drew Brees’ go-to target.

When Graham splits out wide, he typically lines up on the left side of the Saints’ formation. When he does, Nolan Carroll will be the man in coverage for the Dolphins, which could present a problem, as Graham owns a six-inch height advantage on Carroll.

Pressuring Brees will be absolutely vital throughout. If the Dolphins can’t generate a consistent rush, Brees and Graham are just too talented not to put up big numbers together.

Mike Wallace vs. Keenan Lewis

The Saints flip their cornerbacks often, which means both Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer should see snaps covering Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace. But it’s Lewis covering Wallace that will be the matchup to watch.

You see, Wallace and Lewis go way back. Way, way back. They were recently teammates in Pittsburgh for four seasons. Before that, they were teammates and best friends at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans. It goes without saying how fascinating it will be to see the two lined up against one another for the first time in the NFL.

Lewis has played well for his hometown Saints in the first three games of the season and helped contain Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald to the tune of 64 yards and no touchdowns last week. He’s also been a playmaker, intercepting one pass and forcing one fumble. But covering Wallace on Monday night will be a difficult task.

Wallace will have a speed advantage, with legitimate 4.3 speed to Lewis’ 4.47 ability. Unfortunately, for the Dolphins, though, quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn’t had enough time in the pocket to connect with Wallace deep downfield. So, getting him involved in the passing game with short to intermediate routes will be in order.

Wallace only caught two balls in Week 3, so targeting him early and often should be made a priority, much like the game plan was in Week 2.

Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo vs. Cameron Jordan

Several members of the New Orleans front seven have contributed to an improved pass rush that has produced eight sacks in three games. Five different defenders have already gotten to the quarterback. But it’s been third-year defensive end Cameron Jordan who has had the biggest impact thus far.

After eight sacks in 2012, Jordan already has three this season and projects to be a terror to a Miami offensive line that has already given up 14 sacks. And Jordan will rush from both sides of the Saints’ defensive line on Monday night, which means Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo will be assigned with blocking him.

Martin hasn’t been nearly as bad as many expected after a shaky training camp, but he’s still far from one of the league’s better blindside protectors. He gave up a sack last Sunday to Osi Umenyiora but was solid otherwise.

Clabo, meanwhile, had a miserable performance in Week 2 against the Colts, conceding two sacks to Robert Mathis. But in Week 3, Clabo didn’t allow a sack against his former team. It will be interesting to see if that momentum carries over to Monday night, especially when he’s matched up with Jordan.


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7 Responses to “Dolphins at Saints: 3 Must-Watch Matchups”

  1. Kyle says:

    Definitely concerned about Jimmy Graham but the Saints dont have too many other weapons to worry about. I think we’ll do fine against Colston bc he doesnt have much speed and Sproles out of the backfield should be contained by Ellerbe. Cant wait until monday night when we finally prove to the nation we are for real!!

  2. Joey Callaway says:

    I agree. I think the defense with come back strong. I have posted some doubtful comments, but remain hopeful for a big week and hopeful win for our beloved ‘Phins. I am really hoping that the wins can keep coming our way.

    • Kyle says:

      Its all good. I understand being realistic and thats a good quality to have. I like to get carried in my glass half full outlook sometimes but hey isnt that what being a fan is all about?

  3. Joey Callaway says:

    I am right there with ya, Kyle. It is always that class “this year is the year” mentality. But I do believe for the first time in a long time that this will be a good year for us!

  4. Eric Carmichael says:

    Cool story about Wallace and Lewis. Fitzgerald is a top 10 receiver in the NFL in my opinion, but let’s face it, Arizona is not looking great. The quarterback situation out west is weak. With that being said, I hope that Tannehill can use his more complete arsenal because of the problems that Wallace can create. I see Wallace making some big plays earlier and creating space for Hartline, Gibson and Clay. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, GO PHINS!

  5. Eric Carmichael says:

    Also, great comparison with week 2. I think Wallace will be pinpointed early!

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