Hey guys, sorry I’m late getting this up. I’m sure a lot of you are busy celebrating Miami’s win over Oklahoma last night. Conversely after my Saturday I’m ready to toss a coaching legend out on his ear. But that’s a totally different article. It’s time for the Bills to visit Miami in a rare 4 o’clock home game for the Fins. Miami comes into the game looking for its first win, Buffalo is trying to battle injuries and get back to .500 through the first quarter of the season. Let’s look at the keys to this week’s game.
Run First: Buffalo comes into the game riddled with injuries. Up the middle the team is without DT John McCargo and LB Paul Posluszny. Considering the one thing Miami seems to have been able to do effectively the last two weeks is run the ball (especially out of the Wildcat) and that this is Chad Henne’s first start, this point should be fairly obvious. Buffalo isn’t going to be a slouch against the run, they have some wily veterans like Marcus Stroud and Aaron Schobel still on the field, but they also have a lot of youth on defense.
This is where the Wildcat needs to play a major role. Young players are often inexperienced or overzealous, both of which work favorably for the ‘Fins. Out of the Wildcat a lot of focus will fall on rookie Aaron Maybin on the edge. If Maybin can play like a veteran and live up to his first round billing then he could have a solid day. But if he doesn’t play smart and misses assignments, fails to keep contain, etc… it could be a big day for Miami’s backs.
Miami will need to attack Buffalo’s line out of traditional formations as well. They need to run early and run often to keep the pressure off of Chad Henne both literally and figuratively.
Keep Chad Henne Upright: This point works on two levels. Chad Henne needs to have the opportunity to get into the flow of the game and build confidence. If he can get into a rhythm he could have a good day against a depleted Buffalo secondary. But if he’s hit frequently and has constant pressure in his face it’s going to make life difficult for him. His receivers need to do him some favors today too and catch the balls they’re supposed to, but even more the line needs to protect Henne and keep him on his feet. This point also goes hand in hand with the running game, if Miami can run the ball they’ll avoid dropping Henne back in obvious passing situations and letting the Bills pin their ears back.
The other reason the Dolphins needs to keep Henne upright is that things will get really dicey if, God forbid, anything happens to Henne. Not to belittle Pat White but I doubt he’s far enough along in his progression as an NFL quarterback to come in and play well and Tyler Thigpen hasn’t been here for a week yet. In fact, Henne getting hurt would be catastrophic. I don’t pretend to know the mental durability of Pat White, but in similar situations a young, very green quarterback coming into a game before he’s ready and playing poorly can literally ruin a player. That may seem dramatic, but regardless the Dolphins need to keep Henne upright so when they do decide to play Pat White it’s on their own terms.
Take Shots Downfield: I personally didn’t see Chad Pennington’s arm as a liability. In fact underthrowing the deep receiver usually wasn’t his problem, he was usually over the head of Ted Ginn. However, what I will not pretend to know is how much the Pennington’s perceived lack of arm strength affected play calling. That’s moot now though because Chad Henne has a howitzer for a right arm. Now let’s see it.
This is going to be big because, a.) we’ve all been dying to see vertical passing in Miami since Marino and b.) it will help the running game tremendously. If Miami shows they want to attack over the top then you can forget about 8 in the box, especially with Leodis McKelvin, Bryan Scott and Donte Whitner out for the game. In fact in light of the Bills’ injury woes the Dolphins might even complete a few of these passes. Regardless though Miami at least needs to try, even if just to keep the defense honest (and most of us from damaging our televisions).
Finish Drives in the Redzone: I’m going on record right now as saying I do not want to see Dan Carpenter putting it through the uprights today unless he’s kicking from the 2 for an extra point. Miami needs to score touchdowns. I don’t know what moves they could make to ensure they do score touchdowns in the redzone, that’s what they pay the coaches for, but I have some ideas of things they haven’t tried yet.
They could run the Wildcat down there. Miami has this habit of running that formation beautifully until it can see the goal line and then they abruptly forget about it. Against Indy the Dolphins punched it in with a Wildcat play from the 8 yard line. Then they went the next 6 quarters without calling a Wildcat play in the redzone.
Also, maybe we could see Patrick Turner in a game. I remember drafting the guy to be a redzone presence and even if he hasn’t been practicing well, it can’t hurt to toss it up to him once or twice down there and see if he can beat one of Buffalo’s backup defensive backs. In fact, Jairus Byrd is a rookie safety out of Oregon who will be starting for Buffalo today. In college just last year at USC, I’m sure Patrick Turner would be expected to make that play against Oregon. All kidding aside though, Miami has to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals or turning the ball over. You cannot win without scoring touchdowns.
Get Off the Field on 3rd Down: Miami is 25th in the league when it comes to holding teams on 3rd down. When you compare that to the fact Miami is 3rd in the NFL allowing just 66 yards rushing per game it becomes very obvious where the glaring deficiency is on Miami’s defense. This could be a challenge. First and foremost Miami needs to continue to dominate against the rush. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson form a pretty solid tandem of backs and Buffalo will certainly try to get them their touches. You can’t get off the field on third down until you get to third down, so before Miami can focus on the obvious passing downs they will need to shut down Lynch between the tackles and cover Jackson in the flats and out of the backfield. Shutting down the Bills backs will go a long way towards getting Buffalo into 3rd down passing situations.
Make Trent Edwards Beat You: All of these defensive points run together, forgive me, but Miami needs to make Trent Edwards beat them. I actually am hesitant to say that because Edwards has solid receivers and Miami is admittedly weak in the secondary. So he probably could beat the Dolphins. But at any rate if someone on the Bills does it, it needs to be Edwards and not Marshawn Lynch. Miami has to make Edwards throw on third and long, they need to get in his face and he needs to feel this game tomorrow morning.
If Trent Edwards can handle all of that, then God bless him he deserves to win. But as much as I hate to knock a Stanford man, I doubt Edwards has the moxy to beat Miami without a running game. Regardless, Miami has the best chance of winning this game by shutting down the run and forcing Edwards to beat them. And with the way the defense is playing at this juncture, that’s about the only choice Miami has anyway.
Keep TO Quiet: I can’t believe I’m actually about to admit this. I actually felt badly for Owens last weekend. As he sat in the post game press conference each reporter made a thinly veiled attempt at getting Owens to say something, anything, that they could spin and report on ESPN all week. He did it to himself, but it’s also another example of the media taking things too far to get storylines for a game. Well this week, all I want to see from TO is him walking up and down the sideline while the commentators surmise he must be upset with the play calling. Basically what I’m saying is I’d like to still feel a little sorry for TO after this game, which can only happen if he stays covered and quiet.
This isn’t going to be easy at all. Terrell Owens, for all his flaws, is insanely prideful and one hell of an athlete. He’s going to have a lot to prove in this one, he had his catch streak snapped last week and sat through a week’s worth of media badgering even despite trying to play the good soldier. He’s going to be playing angry today. I hope I’m wrong I just think TO comes out with something to prove today against our young secondary and he could have a very big day. If that’s the case it’s going to happen like it or not. This secondary has a ways to go before it can impose its will on a receiver the likes of TO. I’m not trying to demean the secondary, there are very few secondaries that can truly stop a number one receiver, ours could be that type someday but as of Sunday October 4, 2009, they have done nothing so far to indicate that they are.
All I can say is if TO does decide to revisit his potential as a top-tier receiver today I hope Ted Ginn is watching through his ridiculous kicker’s facemask while a future Hall of Famer plays the game angry, with purpose.
And Finally, At the End of the Day I Still Don’t Want to Know Anything About Dave Schouman: Here’s what I do know about him, he’s a 3rd year player from Boise State and he’s the Bills’ TE. I don’t want to know anything else. For the last three weeks Miami has watched premiere Tight Ends abuse their safeties and mock its linebackers. Buffalo does not have an elite tight end, the first team this year without one, but that doesn’t mean Miami can screw around and not pay attention to him. I can handle Lee Evans or TO catching passes, but for the love of God if Dave Schouman drops a mid-major deuce on our defense I will probably end up breaking something.
Conclusion: Well that does it, I’m off to mainline Gatorade and Advil, this headache is all I have to show for a night of Seminole-induced binge drinking. I apologize if the quality of this one diminished as it went on. Back to the game though. Miami can win this one if they play their game, control the clock and manage to hold Buffalo on passing downs. On paper this one actually sets up to the Dolphins advantage, in fact, I think Miami will get itself to 1-3 today.
Prediction: Miami 27-Buffalo 17