Miami Dolphins (1-0) @ Dallas Cowboys (0-1)
Friday August 19, 8:00 EST Cowboys Stadium
Now that you’ve removed your finger from the panic button and prepare for another installment of Dolphins football, let’s get you ready for the game. The Cowboys came out on fire against the Rams in their opener taking the opening kickoff in the return to Los Angeles back to the house. I laughed my ass off and called my girlfriend (who is not a football fan) into the room to share the hilarity and even she found it funny.
Their special teams was clicking, the offensive line was destroying the Rams vaunted front, and Dak Prescott put on a clinic.
The Dolphins were, well, less impressive. I’m really looking forward to this one because the Cowboys offer a lot of strengths that can provide a litmus test for some of the weaker areas of the Dolphins. Not just that, but they played a pretty similar style to what I think we’ll see with the Patriots in that week 2 game of the regular season, so this could serve as a nice appetizer.
Dallas ran a power football style of a ground attack on Saturday night and had smashing success with it. They beat up a Los Angeles defensive line that is as good as it is deep and the Dolphins starters should see some time in this game.
They also want to keep their passing game in the middle of the field as it is easier on a rookie quarterback which was a big area of concern for the ‘Phins in New York. They will run short crossing routes from their perimeter guys, they will have the slot and tight ends run quick hitters, short hitches and jerk routes so our linebacker’s coverage skills will be tested.
They allow virtually nothing by way of the pass rush so I’ll be curious to see if they work on some blitz packages or consistently drop seven into coverage – probably a bit of both. Once they wear the defense down in the middle, they look for one on one opportunities to attack the perimeter deep. They were successful in this area against St. Louis and I really want to see how Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett handle man coverage down the deep boundaries.
Defensively, the Cowboys aren’t as impressive. Their corner play is awful so look for Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker (if he ever fucking plays) to get some good opportunities. They played mostly off coverage in their opener so the underneath routes are there.
Against the run, the defensive line does not do a good job of keeping the linebackers clean. I’m hoping to see a concerted effort to get the running game going and get Ryan Tannehill into some manageable third down situations.
Let’s dive into some specific things to watch for in this nationally televised game.
1.) Dolphins first team DL vs. Cowboys first team OL –
I touched on this briefly, but there are some premiere match-ups in this game. Ndamukong Suh should get some playing time and rushing from the three technique challenging all-pro center Travis Fredrick and pro-bowl right guard Zack Martin is as good of a battle as there is in this league. Jordan Phillips will need to follow up his impressive performance on Friday with a good showing against Fredrick and left guard La’el Collins to win the job over Earl Mitchell.
These guys’ ability to clog those lanes is imperative for us to get another look at Kiko Alonso in the middle of the defense.
I’m excited to see the substitution packages with Wake, Williams, Jason Jones, Andre Branch and now, Chris McCain. Keeping the edge in the ground game is imperative and there needs to be a modicum of pass rush to effect the rookie passer. Mario Williams vs. Tyron Smith, who never allows pressures, could give us an idea of where Mario is at.
Tackling needs a great deal of improving too. The Dallas backs are extremely slippery and often powerful.
2.) What exactly do we have at linebacker? –
Kiko Alonso made the right reads, but failed physically. Neville Hewitt was late to react to plays, Koa Misi did what he normally does (nothing), and Jelani Jenkins was in a similar boat. Spencer Paysinger played well, James Michael-Johnson showed me some positive signs and Mike Hull looked good. This group could honestly be shuffled entirely at this point. This is a great test for them against a great running team. I’m also intrigued by what James Burgess, Akil Blount and Tyler Gray can do. Each is a potential practice squad player.
3.) Impressive secondary play to continue –
This is another test for the much maligned secondary. Dez Bryant will move across the formation and get looks against Maxwell and Lippett and those match-ups are power on power. Dez was incredible in week one and I’m expecting him to eat the lunch of the Miami defense, so being proved wrong would be a sight to see.
Bobby McCain has a great match-up of his own working against Cole Beasley. Beasley uses crisp route running and quick feet to beat his man. McCain has become a favorite of mine so I expect to see him negate Beasley.
Then there’s the safeties. I was raving about the play of Walt Aikens and I’m extremely curious to see what they do with him if Reshad Jones plays. Aikens could become a poor man’s Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus belongs more in a center field role. The return of Jones in this scheme will dramatically improve the run defense and I’m sure he’s itching to hit something.
4.) The offensive line shuffle –
I’m writing this on Monday and Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod have been getting first team reps and it’s not yet clear what the first team line will look like Saturday. I’m hoping it doesn’t include Dallas Thomas, but he’s survived this long so who knows.
The Cowboys are probably the thinnest team in the front seven in the league. Miami needs to dominate them from the word go, get a push in the ground game and keep the chains moving. I fully expect to see one long, sustained touchdown drive from the first team offense and it starts here. Linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens could spoil these plans, but I think the addition of Tunsil and the equally impressive athleticism of Billy Turner could have the Dolphins guards getting up field on some pulls and traps.
The tackles need to play much better as well. Ja’Wuan James and Branden Albert are written in pen as the starters, so I hope they act like it.
Something to keep in mind here is the audition of our defensive line and the Dallas offensive line. A potential trade partner, this could be the live look the coaches need to pull the trigger on a move.
5.) Backups on offense rolling over their impressive first game performances –
Jakeem Grant and Isaiah Pead were sensational on Friday and Brandon Doughty played a pretty good game as well. Grant is going to go off again. He’s going to get a lot of reps against some backup defensive backs and further prove his status earning time with the starters. I want to see Leonte Carroo make some tough contested catches in this game as well.
Pead is said to have been the most impressive back in camp and his running style proved it on Friday. He ran with reckless abandon and was quick in and out of his cuts. He could, and should, gash this defense in the second half.
Adam Gase said he’s impressed with Doughty’s ability to make the wrong read and still get a completion. This skill, if you’ll call it that, translates well into the sandlot version of football that pre-season delivers so expect another strong showing from him.
6.) Backups on defense rolling over their impressive first game performances –
Terrance Fede gave Jason Jones a push for running down snaps with the first team on Friday. I’d like to see him continue that trend and hopefully factor in more as a rusher. I also want to see more of him kicked inside as an interior nickel rusher. Chris McCain beat up some not so great Giants linemen and now gets a run at the best line in football. If he can bend the edge against Tyron Smith, then we’re really onto something.
Walt Aikens got my defensive game ball in week one and I’m anxious to see more of him. He was horrendous last year but he gained 20 pounds and seems fit for a role more suited for his play. If he keeps hustling and maintains his quick trigger, he’ll do just fine.
Chris Jones and Julius Warmsley duking it out for the fourth tackle job is something to keep an eye on, especially if they see any early reps. Even still, the Dallas backup offensive line could start for a lot of teams.
Brandon Harris, Lafayette Pitts and AJ Hendy all impressed in the opener and could see expanded roles with the second and third teams. I would love to see all three make the team but that would mean the likes of Jordan Lucas, who was a draft pick opposed to Pitts and Hendy being undrafted, getting cut. The former Nitney Lion is officially on notice.
7.) Someone, anyone, earn a backup offensive line job –
Coach Gase mentioned only dressing seven linemen on game day meaning position versatility is key (it’s the only thing I can think of in terms of why Dallas Thomas is still here.) But beyond the top six, we’re looking at a bunch of hot trash. Originally I had the team keeping eight, but I think it will be nine now. Kraig Urbick, Jamil Douglas and Sam Young were all guys I expected to play well. Oh contraire, Pierre – they were as bad as can be. Ulrick John, Rueben Carter and Anthony Steen were no better. Somebody needs to emerge out of that group – even if it’s just one guy.
If you’re reading this far, it means you love critiquing every piece of the roster and making your own judgements. There’s a lot to be excited about all the way to the bottom of this roster in these next two games. I would also like to see Coach Gase cut out some of his rookie errors. The timeout after the kickoff and the 12 men on the field call was a complete pre-season gaff by the coaching staff but there’s time to iron those things out.
Undefeated and looking for more. The Dolphins are perfect(ville) so far and it would be nice to keep it that way. Alllllllllright Miami.
Be sure to check out the Perfectville Podcast.
Also, I will tweet live @travis_writes
And you can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the game, everybody