The Miami Dolphins are in London now arriving this morning and they have a lot of work to do between now and Sunday afternoon, morning for those in the states.
Last week is behind the team, or at least it should be. They played horribly. They absolutely looked over the Jets and they paid the price for it. The Saints are a better team but on paper their defense is not very good.
For the Dolphins last week was one that could sit uneasy with them late in the year but they can no longer control that game, they can control what happens in London where the club is 1-1 in the last decade and 1-2 all-time. They lost to the Giants in the first International Series game back in 2007 and then to the Jets. A game that cost Joe Philbin his job as head coach in 2015. Their lone win came against the Raiders in 2014.
Now with two away games under their belt they have their first “home game” of the season and even that isn’t really home. They will need to play as though it is.
When it comes to the Saints, stopping Drew Brees is the key. The Saints running back group isn’t a major threat but getting pressure on Brees could be the determining factor in Sunday’s 9:30 a.m. game. Pressure may be a key component but it’s not the only one and it’s not the biggest one.
The Dolphins have to do better in the secondary where Byron Maxwell has been unimpressive and Xavien Howard needs to get on the right track. It seems though that the problem lies with the scheme calls by Matt Burke, the teams defensive coordinator.
Burke has his corners too far off the receivers and Miami has been unable to keep receivers from making plays. Against the Saints, the Dolphins need to take away Brees’ short routes. If pressure from the defensive front forces Brees to make quick throws, playing off the receivers will leave them open for six and seven yard slants. This is the area Miami needs to work on the most.
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By playing closer to the receivers and in turn getting more physical in the first five yards, the defensive ends can apply enough pressure to force Brees into making those quick throws that would now be covered and thus increase the amount of potential turnovers or at the very least limit the yards per catch.
Against the Jets Miami played too far off and they couldn’t control the 20 yards off scrimmage and the Jets were able to take advantage. Again, this has to become a priority. Blitzing Brees will not rattle him, pressure that forces bad throws will.
Offensively the Dolphins need to regroup. There is little excuse for the talent on this team to not be scoring touchdowns. Jay Cutler knows this system but he needs to get better at directing the team on the field. Last week DeVante Parker was quiet until the end of the game and while Jarvis Landry again was the go-to target, Kenny Stills was almost non-existent.
At tight-end the Dolphins need to find a better solution. Julius Thomas is more of what fans were warned about than the player he was in Denver with Gase. The trade cost little and the cap hit was negligible but Thomas has been an afterthought. It’s time Miami uses their tight-ends and Anthony Fasano can have a larger impact in the passing game if Miami would start sliding his way instead of trying to force plays to Thomas.
In week three Jay Ajayi was unable to get anything going on the ground and it hurt the offense that is built on the balance between run and pass. The Jets took Ajayi out of the equation and the Saints will likely try to do the same thing on Sunday.
This will fall on the shoulders of the offensive lineman who had their worst week last Sunday. The offensive line has to find a way to push the line of scrimmage up-field and give Ajayi room to move. If they can do that, the offense will regain the rhythm that was seen in week one.
Overall the entire team needs to play better and Matt Haack needs to perform like he did in pre-season because so far, his punting has almost been a liability.
What team will show up on Sunday is anyone’s guess. The Dolphins will wrap that game and return home to Miami for their first game of the year at Hard Rock Stadium. Coming home with a record is paramount if they want to keep pace in the AFC East and chase a Wild Card spot later in the year, or for that matter the AFC East.