The Miami Dolphins must move on from the beating they took on Monday Night Football, and they must do so quickly. Finishing the first five games of the season at 4-1 would be an outstanding accomplishment, but it’s far from a guarantee.
Miami had the wind knocked out of their sails in front of the entire nation and will get the reigning Super Bowl champions, who will be a desperate football team after falling to 2-2 last Sunday, on a short week.
Let’s see how the Dolphins match up with the Baltimore Ravens:
Dolphins pass defense vs. Ravens passing attack
The Dolphins’ pass defense feel to 25th overall, which is only two spots ahead of their lackluster ranking last season, after the drubbing they took from Drew Brees and the Saints on Monday night. Overall, Brees torched Miami’s secondary for 413 yards passing and four touchdowns.
Brees lights up most defenses, but Monday night was one of the best games of his career, so there is no excuse for the Dolphins. But Miami’s starting boundary cornerbacks weren’t really to blame. Brent Grimes continues to be one of the best in the business and Nolan Carroll, despite gambling on a potential interception that went for a touchdown to running back Darren Sproles, continues to looked improved.
But the Dolphins’ safeties, linebackers and nickel corner Jimmy Wilson were absolutely abused in coverage for much of the night attempting to contain tight end Jimmy Graham and the aforementioned Sproles. The pass rush was solid early on, as Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon were each able to bring down Brees for a sack, but disappeared without Cameron Wake during the Saints’ 21-0 run.
Luckily, for Miami, a much-needed break is on the horizon. After a three-game stretch in which the Dolphins faced three of the top quarterbacks in the NFL in Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, a struggling passer is on the slate when the Ravens come to town. Joe Flacco, with seven interceptions in the first four games, ranks 27th in the NFL in quarterback rating.
The Dolphins’ pass defense should be poised for a bounce-back performance. Baltimore did attempt to shore up their pass protection, which has allowed 12 sacks on Flacco, on Tuesday evening by trading for former Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe, and Torrey Smith currently has the third most receiving yards in the entire league.
This Ravens aerial attack shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it’s a matchup that favors the Dolphins.
Dolphins rushing attack vs. Ravens run defense
The Dolphins’ running game has shown some life in the past two weeks and was in the midst of a potentially breakout performance before the offense was forced to play catch-up in New Orleans.
Running back Lamar Miller has been very effective during the past three games, averaging 4.9, 7.8 and 5.6 yards per carry in said contests. But for some reason, Daniel Thomas has been stealing most of his second-half repetitions. Thomas is said to be the better pass protector, but according to Pro Football Focus, he has struggled to be a reliable one this season.
The Dolphins must try to get Miller more touches. He’s just becoming too productive not to.
In New Orleans, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman finally employed some read option and sprinkled in some pistol formation as well. With an athletic signal caller like Ryan Tannehill at the helm and a speedster like Miller by his side, it was a good look for Miami’s offense and should become more incorporated as a change-of-pace style for the unit as the season progresses.
This rushing attack’s Week 5 matchup with the Ravens likely won’t garner continued improvement, however. Led by run-stuffing defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, the Ravens have only allowed 3.5 yards per carry this season, which is tied for fifth in the NFL.
The Dolphins will have to at least try to run the football, but it will be an uphill battle all game attempting to do so. However, more read option and pistol formation could help spark a little production from Miami’s ground game.
Dolphins run defense vs. Ravens rushing attack
After getting gashed on the ground in Week 4 versus the Falcons, defensive tackle Paul Soliai returned to the field in Week 5, which enabled the Dolphins to return to their stout ways defending the run.
Miami held New Orleans to a mere 68 rushing yards, oftentimes dominating the opposing offensive line at the point of attack. It was one positive in an otherwise forgettable night.
Similar success should be expected in Week 5 versus the Ravens. Baltimore currently ranks 28th in total rushing yards and 30th in yards per attempt. Running back Ray Rice has been hobbled by a hip injury and the Baltimore offensive line hasn’t provided much push up front.
There’s no excuse for the Dolphins not to keep this rushing attack in check, which would force the Ravens’ offense to become one dimensional on Sunday.
Dolphins passing attack vs. Ravens pass defense
Ryan Tannehill had one of his worst games as a pro in New Orleans, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble. But he’s still a young quarterback. Mistakes are still going to happen from time to time. What was more concerning is the continued ineptitude of Miami’s pass protection.
Tannehill has already been sacked 18 times, which puts the Dolphins on pace to surrender 72 sacks on the season. There simply hasn’t been time in the pocket for Tannehill to take many shots downfield, and if that trend continues, defenses will begin to sit on Miami’s short passing game and more turnovers will come.
Enter the Baltimore Ravens and arguably the most dangerous pass rush the Dolphins have faced thus far. Terrell Suggs, who already has four sacks, and Elvis Dumervil, who has two, have the potential to terrorize Jonathan Martin and Tyson Clabo on Sunday afternoon.
With time, I think Tannehill has the ability to carve up the Ravens’ secondary, but there is far from a guarantee he will actually have any. The Dolphins should be able to produce some explosive passing plays on Sunday, but I’m expecting a few negative, drive-killing sacks as well.
Attempting to establish some continuity between Tannehill and Mike Wallace should be made a priority heading into the bye week. That connection needs to build some momentum for the beginning of division play.
I like Dolphins rookie kicker Caleb Sturgis, who is a perfect 7-for-7 on his tries, over Ravens kicker Justin Tucker in the kicking battle.
But Baltimore punter Sam Koch, who averages 48.9 yards per punt, has been much better than Brandon Fields this season and return man Tandon Doss has already brought back a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. A slight edge goes to the Ravens.