When the Miami Dolphins step on the field tonight to play the New England Patriots, they can expect Bill Belichick to game plan towards taking away the Dolphins top playmaker. Belichick is brilliant at taking away an opposing teams top players. How he does it is anyone’s guess but he drives home this singular attack.
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Tonight, Belichick will likely target Jarvis Landry thus removing Ryan Tannehill’s top target on offense. If the Patriots can remove Landry then the game shifts towards Greg Jennings and Rishard Matthews. Lamar Miller could be a big key to the Dolphins success however. Should Landry be held in check, the Dolphins running game could open up allowing the Dolphins to grind out yardage and consume time.
Landry has become an integral part in the Dolphins offense and the Patriots are not going to be able to cover him with a linebacker. No matter how good that linebacker may be. It’s likely the Patriots will use a combination of linebacker and safety to keep Landry from making plays. If the Patriots have to use two players to cover him, then it will free up someone else somewhere else. For the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill must recognize this and not try to force feed the ball into Landry’s hands.
The Patriots do not have a lot of film on Dan Campbell but they do have film on Landry and Tannehill and that could prove important to stopping Landry from making big plays. The Dolphins need to recognize this potential problem and elevate the game plan to use the tight-ends and other receivers more often. Using Miller out of the back-field will also keep pressure of Tannehill.
The Patriots could however go another route and that is to take away the Dolphins running game forcing them to pass. The problem with this however is that the Patriots are not strong at the cornerback positions and that would give the Dolphins an opportunity to exploit those weaknesses. For the Dolphins the lack of a deep passing attack shortens the field which will allow Patriot defenders to play tighter. The Dolphins may want to take a few shots deep to keep the Patriots corners guessing. Otherwise New England could play within 10 yards of the line.
Bill Lazor is going to need to mix things up offensively. Not necessarily trick plays but plays designed to test Patriot weaknesses. The Dolphins have not used the read option much this season but it could be something Lazor could use to keep Tannehill mobile. Tannehill throws better on the run and out of the pocket and while the Patriots don’t have an elite defensive line they do have a good one that will try to pressure Tannehill into making bad decisions.
With no prep time for this weeks game, the Dolphins will need to keep things physical and simple on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they have their work cut out for them.
Belichick is going to try to take away the Dolphins much improved pass rush. The Dolphins have 10 sacks over the last two games and it will be a task for the Patriots to shut down Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh. Belichick could use Leggarette Blount to help block the pressure which would take the running game out of play for New England. He could also lean heavily on the running game, something other teams have had success at against the Dolphins, in order to keep pressure off Tom Brady.
The Dolphins are going to need to take Rob Gronkowski out of the game plan. Miami believes they have the personnel to do that and a scheme that will help but that will likely mean one on one coverage with Julian Edelman who has had big games against the Dolphins in the past. Edelman has 26 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns over the last three meetings between the two clubs. Taking away Gronkowski won’t be enough.
Compounding the problem for the Dolphins defense is the quick release from Tom Brady. The Dolphins linebackers will have their hands full tonight as Brady will likely turn early to the short passing game in an attempt to free the space downfield. What we have learned over the past several games is that if Miami can get solid continual pressure on Brady he will get out of rhythm and rush his passes. If he is dumping the ball on receiver screens and legal pick plays the Dolphins are going to struggle to keep the offense from moving the football.
The Dolphins have a lot of challenges ahead of them tonight and the biggest one is recognizing what part of the Dolphins offense and defense Bill Belichick will try to take away and then use that to their advantage. If they can do that, they have a shot.