Can the Dolphins beat the Eagles?
By Brian Miller
Three weeks ago I said the Miami Dolphins could and should beat the Philadelphia Eagles but that is not something I believe in today. The Dolphins haven’t played well enough to beat their last two opponents and the Eagles can be a tough team at home. To say the Dolphins have their work cut out for them would be understating the obvious. But the question still needs to be asked. Can the Dolphins beat the Eagles?
The short answer is no but it’s not always so cut and dry. Despite losing the last two weeks the Dolphins are playing more physical in the trenches and are staying in games long enough to give hope only to lose out in the 2nd half. Miami can’t afford to get behind in this game as they simply can not or at least haven’t shown they can come from behind. Even when the margin is small.
The Eagles have an offense that Miami thought they were getting. A West Coast spread that is fast paced and designed to wear out defenses. The Dolphins have worn out defensively over the course of almost every game this season.
Miami will need to stop the attack of Philly and that starts with taking away DeMarco Murray who is excellent out of the back-field as a receiver. Murray has 29 receptions for 210 yards on the season. Not a statistical giant but he leads the team in receptions for running backs. When he isn’t getting the ball out of the back-field, Darren Sproles is.
Sproles is not the same player he used to be but he can still create open field misses and has hauled in 24 receptions this season adding 36 rushes for 143 yards. The top Eagles running back is Ryan Matthews who has rushed 67 times for 409 yards and four touchdowns. Murray has rushed the most with 106 carries for 390 yards and four touchdowns.
Miami has done well in containing opposing running backs early but their failures to stop opposing wide-receivers has led teams to find success running the ball in the 2nd half. The Eagles top target is Jordan Matthews who will likely be covered by Brent Grimes.
Grimes had an off week against the Bills last Sunday and the Dolphins need him to regroup after that outing and keep Matthews from picking up big yards. Matthews has 48 receptions for 531 yards and two touchdowns. When the Eagles aren’t passing to Matthews or one of their running backs, tight-end Zach Ertz is the top target and the Dolphins have struggled to contain tight-ends this season.
The Dolphins defense is going to have to keep their edge containment and not allow Ertz and Matthews to find space in the secondary. This will force quarterback Sam Bradford to throw underneath to the running backs but if Miami can get pressure on Bradford the Eagles will have to keep the runners in to help protect him. Thus shutting down the Eagles formidable offensive attack.
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They key here is forcing the Eagles to minimal first downs. Using the spread and no-huddle offense, the Eagles can quickly move down field but they can also be held to three and outs and that is something the Dolphins have to force in order to win the game defensively. Thus keeping the offense on the field, Miami’s offense. The Dolphins must get pressure off the edge and the ends must also contain the running backs. That will be a big two headed test for the defensive ends and linebackers.
Miami’s offense is a Jekyll and Hyde team. They have the talent to beat anyone but they play very inconsistently and some of that is the fault of Ryan Tannehill but much of the blame goes on the offensive line whose eradic play often breaks down when the game is on the line or during drives that are progressing. Whether by missed blocks or penalties, the offensive line struggles are well documented.
Defensively the Eagles are led by safety Malcom Jenkins who has three fumbles and 52 total tackles while playing through a concussion. Off the edge, Miami will have to keep Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton away from Ryan Tannehill and the guards will need to protect the middle from middle linebackers DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Another task the line has failed at.
Kendricks and Cox have combined for seven sacks on the season from the interior linebacker position but the Eagles also use Brandon Graham from the OLB spot to blitz and he has four sacks on the season.
In the secondary, a familiar face will line up against the team. Nolan Carroll has played well for the Eagles and has two INT’s this season and one touchdown. The Dolphins could make DeVante Parker a big part of the offense but more than likely they will use Lamar Miller out of the back-field and feed the ball to Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews.
The Dolphins will find beating the Eagles less difficult if they can get their tight-ends more involved in the offense. Jordan Cameron could have a big game if the Dolphins will get him the ball. Unfortunately Miami spreads the ball too much around the field and between Cameron and Dion Sims to allow either to get into a game rhythm.
When Sunday rolls around the Dolphins will have a physical task ahead of them but it’s one they can take head on and head home with a victory if they play smart. Something they haven’t done much of this season.