December 9, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26) runs with the ball after a catch in the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
This Sunday the Miami Dolphins(6-8) will welcome the division rival, Buffalo Bills(5-9), to Sun Life Stadium. This will be the second game of the season where these teams will face off in a division battle. While the Dolphins still have a very slim chance to get into the playoffs mathematically, this game really doesn’t have any post season importance. It does however hold some importance within the division. The Bills currently have the worst record in the AFC East and are sitting in last, while the Dolphins are right ahead of them by only one game.
The Dolphins lost the first match-up between these teams 14-19 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. The rookie QB, Ryan Tannehill, had a poor outing with throwing two interceptions and only one TD against a poor Bills defense. One upside to this game was RB and return-man, Marcus Thigpen, was able to return a 96 yard kickoff for a TD.
This week Miami will be without WR Davone Bess, TE/FB Charles Clay, and RB Daniel Thomas. WR Brian Hartline is also listed as questionable for this game. QB Ryan Tannehill will be relying on other options like TE, Anthony Fasano, and RB, Reggie Bush, to help out with the loss of two, possibly three, key receiving targets. This will also be a good opportunity for young receivers like WR, Rishard Matthews, to come out an perform to show that they can be a legitimate option for Tannehill.
This week second year RB, Daniel Thomas, was placed on Injured Reserve. Many fans are extremely disappointed in Thomas and want him out of Miami, but looking at his stats this season, he actually has had a fairly good season. Does he have some flaws he needs to work on? Absolutely, but so does Reggie Bush. Can he be a potential #1 RB for the Dolphins? Probably not. He’s more of a short yardage and goal line RB. He doesn’t have great speed like Reggie or Lamar Miller, but in my opinion is the best option when you need 1 or two yards for either a first down or touchdown. Rookie Lamar Miller is more of an every down back then Thomas is.
My biggest concern with Thomas isn’t his fumbling, it’s his ability to stay healthy. This is the second year where he has had some sort of injury to take him out of multiple games. He’s fumbled 3 times this season, which is equal to the number of fumbles that Reggie Bush has. Every player in the NFL will fumble at some point throughout a season. He doesn’t seem to have near as much of a fumbling issue that he did last year or in college. Ball security is still an issue, but it seems like it has been addressed and he is continuing to work on it.
With the Dolphins season coming to an end, we need to be looking at things that need to be changed. Who needs to go, what potential free agents should be looked at, what do we want to spend our draft picks on, etc. These are all questions that GM, Jeff Ireland, and HC, Joe Philbin, will be discussing once the Dolphins season is over in a couple weeks. So for the next couple weeks I’m going to do my best to focus on what I’ll be looking for in terms of the future instead of right now if that makes sense.
With that said, here are my top 5 individual expectations for this weeks game against the Buffalo Bills:
1. Lamar Miller (Running Back)- With Daniel Thomas on IR, rookie Lamar Miller will most likely see a good portion of the carries against the Bills. Miller has been either inactive or only went on the field a handful of games this season. Many fans including myself wondered why exactly did they not play him more? It could be because they want him to adjust to the speed or it could have been more or less a safety precaution just in case Reggie Bush or Daniel Thomas went down on injury, they had a healthy RB available. On that same not it could have had something to do with his injury issues from college, and they didn’t want to risk him re-injuring himself. No one except the coaching staff knows. Regardless I’m excited to see Miller get more playing time and hopefully see what he can do against one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL.
2. Rishard Matthews (Wide Receiver)- With 3rd down specialist, Davone Bess, out again this week, and possibly WR, Brian Hartline, out as well, this may be Rishard Matthew only opportunity to show in a game situation what he can do for this team. With his speed he really should have been utilized during the season more than he was. He should have been the 3rd WR used during the season behind Bess and Hartline. Will Matthews utilize his opportunity to have a big game to show the coaching staff what they missed this season?
3. Reggie Bush (Running Back)- To put this simply, Reggie needs to have a big game if he wants resigned with the Dolphins. He had a good game last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but before that he wasn’t performing well. With the way Reggie has been performing this season I don’t see Jeff Ireland resigning him to a big contract. Reggie is a great leader in the locker room and good mentor to the young running backs on the team, but is he really worth the large contract he will be asking for? If rookie Lamar Miller has a big game against the Bills then I don’t see why Miami should spend the money that Reggie will be asking. They could use that cap space elsewhere to get a key piece like a #1 WR or CB. How will Reggie perform on what may be his last couple games with the Dolphins?
4. Ryan Tannehill (Quarterback)- Tannehill has been a very encouraging sight this season. Have the Dolphins FINALLY found a franchise QB to take the place of Dan Marino? He’s played very well this season for a rookie, and fans should be excited for the future(possibly the near future). I’ll be watching to see if he can continue to show growth and improvement this week.
5. Sean Smith (Cornerback)- Sean Smith better step up drastically the next couple weeks or he very well may be gone. He started the season looking promising. He was able to maintain coverage on receivers, made good tackles, took good angles, and got turnovers. But that seems like a life time ago. Lately he’s allowed too many yards by allowing receiver to blow past him, taking terrible angles and missing interceptions or tackles, or losing coverage assignments. He has to have a big game and shut down his assignment or he’ll be seeing the door like former Dolphin, Vontae Davis, did earlier this season. Can he step up this week?
Those are my top 5 individual expectations for this weeks game against the Buffalo Bills. Do you have a top 5 individual expectations list?
UPDATE: WR Brian Hartline is listed as active for today’s game. Not sure how effective he will be or how extensive of an injury he has, but he will be active and see some playing time.