History often repeats itself. But sometimes, the unexplainable happens—sometimes, history is, in fact, just that: history. I mean, in all honesty, history is meant to be broken, isn’t it?
Well, hopefully Dolphins history will be broken this Sunday in Miami. The Miami Dolphins have never, in their history, beaten the Houston Texans; that’s right, they’re 0-7 all time against the franchise. For whatever reason, over the years the Texans have had the Dolphins’ number.
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Since Dan Campbell became the interim head coach in Miami, the Dolphins have taken on a new identity—one that mirrors Campbell. As a player, Campbell—known for his tenacity and old-school football approach—is administering the same approach to the Dolphins players.
But let’s be real here. There’s more to football than outmuscling your opponent. In fact, in the NFL, it’s more about the X’s and O’s, if anything. In recent years, the most successful coaches have been football nerds. Guys like Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Mike McCarthy, and Andy Reid have made a living out-smarting their opponents with the countless hours of time and preparation put in well before Sunday begins.
In no way am I underestimating the importance of toughness; after all, this is still football. Coaching assistants, coordinators, and position coaches put in just as much time and effort in preparing for a football game as a head coach. And this, in fact, is what Dan Campbell has to rely on.
Now that all the excitement from his first win has subsided, things get a bit more complicated for Dan Campbell. Now, he has to reverse roles. He no longer can just be Mr. Tough Guy; he has to become a coach—a football nerd. Now is the time for Dan Campbell to be a student. Sure, he can motivate men, but he must ask for help and learn from his coaching staff.
By beating the Texans this Sunday, Dan Campbell has a chance to rewrite Dolphins history. On paper, Miami is a more talented football team than the Texans. Overall, they have better personnel and will have their home-crowd behind them.
On offense, the Dolphins must continue where they left off last week by being a balanced offense with emphasis on running the football. Like we saw last week, the Dolphins, with the right direction, can certainly run the football. Against the Titans, Miami implemented a lot of two tight end sets, pulled their guards, and even had big boy Earl Mitchell play fullback a handful of times.
Being more balanced on the attack opens up play-action, bleeds the clock, and gives the Dolphins defense a rest—all things we saw come to fruition in Nashville last week. Miami must again use a lot of misdirection runs and get the ball out of Tannehill’s arm quickly in order to reduce J.J. Watt’s impact and destructiveness. Statistically, the Texans hover around the middle of the pack in defending both the run and the pass so it won’t be easy pickings for Miami, but certainly attainable.
Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Defensively—plain and simple—Miami has to get to Brian Hoyer. The Texans rank fourth in the NFL in passing yards in just under 300 yards per game and lit up Jacksonville through the air last week. No, Brian Hoyer is not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but he has weapons and is capable of utilizing them. By getting to Hoyer, the Dolphins can limit Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’s productivity. Hopkins has been a man amongst boys this season. He leads the league in receiving yards and is second in both receptions and touchdowns.
Despite posting an impressive quarterback rating this year of 103, Hoyer isn’t the most elusive quarterback in the pocket and has the tendency to buckle when under pressure. If Miami can provide distress, they have a chance to force Hoyer into bad decisions and open up the game with turnovers.
Dan Campbell and the Miami Dolphins have a good shot at reaching .500 on the year, which was a pipe dream two weeks ago. A win and Dolphins fans will be drinking Dan Campbell’s Kool-Aid.
Luckily, for Campbell, the majority of his players have talent. And maybe these players need to be led by a man, not a coach. A guy they’ll fight and bleed for. Maybe all that Dan Campbell has to do is be a cheerleader and spokesman for the players. But if he wants his new job to stick, he better start hitting the film room, asking questions, and taking advice. It’s this week that his coaching career actually begins.