The Miami Dolphins will invade Orchard Park, NY tomorrow at 1:00PM. A place they haven’t won in 5 attempts dating back 6 season (they played one game in Toronto). The Phins have struggled with winning opening games dating back to 2006. So it goes without saying that tomorrows game is an important one. So let’s take a look at what the match-ups are and where the Dolphins may find victory…or defeat.
Before we get started though, a few little tid-bits that have come in the last few days.
Upon Bill Parcells stepping down, it was reported on NFL.com by Vic Carucci that BP told him that he was “very disappointed” in the development of Chad Henne. This is the 2nd time in as many weeks that a report has surfaced about BP opening his mouth about one of the Dolphins QB’s. Last week it was he was completely against the Pat White pick. Interesting.
Speaking of Pat White, he has signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals.
One last note, our Phinphanatic.com chat room will be open and ready tomorrow afternoon around 12:45. See you there.
Now, on to the game at hand. Week 1, Miami vs. Buffalo.Miami enters the game with more questions that answers. When the Phins traded for Brandon Marshall, it was thought that the powerful rushing attack would get only better. So far this pre-season, Henne hasn’t been able to get the ball to his wide-receivers and when he does there has been a lot of drops. The rushing game itself has been anemic. Averaging just over 1.5 a carry through the first 3 games.
While fingers can be pointed at Henne’s touch or the dropped passes, the reality of the offensive woes thus far are directly attributed to an offensive line that is far from the national billing it was receiving early on. In fact, a unit that was supposed to be one of if not the best in the league, now seems to be simply trying to stay afloat. Changes at depth and at the starter positions have left the Phins thin at guard and tackle.
Against the Bills, the Dolphins will face a weaker defensive front compared to what the following three weeks will bring. The Dolphins best hope lies with pushing the line of scrimmage back and allowing the running backs to exploit the suspect Buffalo defensive line and linebackers. In order to do that, they need to get the passing game involved to keep 8 men out of the box. The problem? Buffalo has one of the best secondary units in the NFL.
There are a couple of keys to this game to put points on the board. If Miami can keep the defense squared up front with 7 men, they can use TE Anthony Fasano to slip behind the LB’s. By doing so, they will free up the running game by pulling the LB’s into coverage. Fasano needs to be on his game as well. Dropped passes and fumbles that plagued him in last years opener can not happen again.
Brian Hartline seems to be the immediate beneficiary of Brandon Marshall’s presence. As the Bills will almost assuredly roll coverage to the number 1 receiver side. Hartline should face one on coverage and his ability to run crisp routes should open him up for a solid 7 or 8 catch 80 to 90 yard game. That’s not bad for a number 2 wide out.
While it would be nice to the see the Dolphins air it out more this year, OC Dan Henning has yet to show anything more exciting than the typical run, run, pass, run, WC, run, quick out pass. It’s old. If normal fans can tell what the offense is going to do, then you can bet a seasoned DC will be able to figure it out as well. Henning must break free from that safe formula and let his players play ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, there are as many questions. The Dolphins have already said that Ikaea Alama-Francis will get the 1st and 2nd down snaps ahead of Koa Misi allowing Misi and Cameron Wake to attack on obvious passing downs. IAF is supposedly a better run stuffer and Misi has struggled all pre-season with containment on the outside. The Bill will be starting the electrifying C.J. Spiller in the back-field and the Bills will try and get to the outside where he can exploit the corner with his speed.
Trent Edwards does not possess a strong arm, but when he plays Miami he musters all he has and gets it done. Edwards is a lot like Jay Fiedler was. A methodical QB who utilizes his check down receivers quickly and often. Spiller is expected to be one of those check-down options. If Miami can’t stop him, they won’t stop Spiller.
This will be the responsibility of the Miami LB’s. Karlos Dansby is supposed to be one of the best in pass coverage and he will get his chance tomorrow to prove it. Tim Dobbins will start in place of the mysteriously injured Channing Crowder, and we already covered Misi and IAF. That leaves Cameron Wake.
Wake is not a pass coverage LB and the Bills will know that. Wake must not only get pressure on Edwards, he needs to knock him down hard a few times so that Edwards starts to get rid of the ball too early. By doing so, the Dolphins can keep the WR’s from getting into their routes which should lead to turnovers and incomplete passes.
In the secondary, Miami will open with Jason Allen starting opposite Vontae’ Davis who will likely spend his day matched up with Lee Evans. The Bills don’t have a strong WR corp but they do have guys that can get open and catch the ball. Allen isn’t going to find a cake walk here. Chris Clemons will need to get sharp quickly so that he can help Davis with Evans allowing Yeremiah Bell to blitz in what is expected to be a lot more defensive scheming from DC Mike Nolan who showed nothing of his hand in pre-season.
Which brings me to Nolan.
Nolan could be the best addition this past off-season. But he has yet to even let Phins fans taste what he brought in Denver. Does he have the right personnel? Will he open it up against Buffalo or keep it tucked away for the Vikings? Does he have anything at all? The fact is no one really knows.
The Dolphins defensively will need to be sharp against Spiller and the Edwards check down. If they can do that, they will keep this game close in their favor. Unfortunately, I don’t see Henning bringing anything to the offense that everyone hasn’t already seen before and because of that, I don’t see Miami putting up more than 23 points at best and to be honest, I see a lot of 3 and outs that will have fans on Monday screaming for Greg Camarillo.
Of course all of this is an assumption based solely on what we have seen in pre-season from Henning’s offense. He may very well surprise us all. Including the Bills. But I’m not betting on that.
Prediction: Miami 20, Bills 16