Can the Miami Dolphins defense slow down Andrew Luck and the Colts?

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 22: A Miami Dolphins fan cheers during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 22: A Miami Dolphins fan cheers during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins are coming off a much-needed bye week and Ryan Tannehill is returning, but can the defense keep up with a resurgent Andrew Luck?

The Miami Dolphins defense has been a Jekyll and Hyde experience so far this season. Sometimes they’ll come across as an elite run-stopping and turnover-causing group and sometimes they’ll look like deer in the headlights.

With that being said, which unit will show up this week? Will the bye week be enough for the starters to have rested up or is the bevy of injuries in all position groups too much to overcome with the Colts offense breathing down their neck? Let’s check out the injury report to get an idea.

Injury Report

T.J. McDonald and Reshad Jones: both of Miami’s starting safeties are still banged up. Jones still has the shoulder injury and will likely fight it through the rest of the season. McDonald is listed as Questionable with his knee injury, so this might open the door for Minkah Fitzpatrick to get more playing time in the free safety slot.

Xavien Howard: he has an ankle injury but was listed an FP for every practice this week. It’s a minor injury at this point, so it’s not overly worrisome.

Charles Harris: he was a full participant all this week. It seems Harris has healed up over the bye and I hope he can use that opportunity to do something on Sunday.

Davon Godchaux: he has a shin injury and was a limited participant only on Friday. He’ll be a game-time decision.

Andre Branchhe has a shoulder injury but was an FP all this week; he’ll be on the field.

Stephone Anthony: he’s nursing a quad injury but was also an FP, so he’ll be ready to go if called upon.

Miami Dolphins defense v. Indianapolis Colts offense

We’ll start with the most obvious player the Dolphins need to worry about: Andrew Luck. It’s hard to imagine that, at one point, his career was in flux. He’s come roaring back from that shoulder injury that cost him all of 2017 and part of 2016. He’s back to being a dynamic quarterback and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be the biggest threat for the Colts.

On a fun note, it’ll be a battle of 2012 first-round quarterbacks since Ryan Tannehill will be returning from his “capsular injury”. For as much praise that class of quarterbacks received coming out of college, it’s not really an inspiring group at this point, but maybe Luck v. Tannehill could re-ignite some excitement in a battle of former top-10 picks.

I got a little off track there, but Luck is having a dark-horse MVP season. It gets lost behind Patrick Mahomes and his ridiculous stat line, but Luck is having a great season. He’s thrown 29 TDs so far, which is the same as Drew Brees. He could also potentially set a personal record for touchdowns with his current record being 40.

Another noteworthy item in this game is the playoff implications. Both teams are 5-5 right now. The loser of this game will face an uphill battle the rest of the season. The AFC 6th seed is wide open for the taking and there are 5 teams right now that are 5-5. This game is huge for the Dolphins.

Something different about the 2018 Colts is the emergence of a decent offensive line. The addition of the hog molly Quenton Nelson at 6th overall this past April has worked wonders for a unit that has been mostly terrible in recent years.

The Colts’ starting center Ryan Kelly, who has been having a good season, has been ruled out for Sunday, so that’s the best thing to look at in this particular matchup. I have my doubts about the Fins defensive line in this scenario.

The Miami Dolphins defensive line is kind of a mess. The DT position is in shambles and I don’t think any of the guys–Akeem Spence, Sly Williams, Ziggy Hood— should or will be on the roster next season. This predicament should have the Dolphins front office studying defensive tackles long and hard for next spring. I am willing to give Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor more development time though.

The defensive ends are solid in fits and starts. Robert Quinn will have some hot streaks but will also go missing some weeks. Cam Wake still has it but not as much as a few years ago. Charles Harris is… I’m not sure what he is, but his playing on Sunday will help me figure it out. Andre Branch is what he is.

The Colts have a nifty little backfield. Marlon Mack, when healthy is a shifty, do-it-all back. Nyheim Hines is the Colts’ equivalent of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Wilkins is just a pretty good handcuff. They aren’t superstars by any means, but it’s a nice group and I could very much see them slice and dice the Dolphins.

The Dolphins starting linebackers are up and down, but if you ask me about their long-term potential, it’s something I’m very excited about. Kiko Alonso has been playing great and he’s just fun to watch. He’s a dynamic linebacker that has been a godsend for the Dolphins defense this year.

Jerome Baker is getting his own paragraph this time. He’s pulled ahead of Raekwon McMillan because he’s just been playing better. The 2018 third rounder looks like a great piece to build around.

Now for the corners, it’s a position that has talent on both ends of the spectrum. Xavien Howard has announced himself as a world-class corner, and despite a few hiccups here and there, will likely find his way to a Pro Bowl this year and maintain his role as one of the Miami Dolphins’ best players.

On the other hand, the other outside corner position is troublesome. Bobby McCain is a great nickel, but he’s not a perimeter guy. Minkah Fitzpatrick could possibly fit into that role full time and I’d be perfectly OK with that.

I’d also be fine with moving Fitzpatrick to the outside because I’m fine with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald at safety. There are some hiccups there as well sometimes, but for the most part, I’m good with those two.

The Colts receivers aren’t anything to write home about. T.Y. Hilton might still be the closest thing to WR1. Their tight ends aren’t very exciting either, but I’ve seen second stringers look like stars against the Dolphins D before. Eric Ebron has had some success in his change of scenery with the Colts. The other tight ends, Erik Swoope, Ryan Hewitt and Mo Alie-Cox, are all injured and I doubt that they’re factors.