The Miami Dolphins take on the Baltimore ravens on Thursday Night Football, if there is one thing we all learned over the weekend is that any given sunday your team can get punched in the mouth. Wether you’re the Rams going up against a Derrick Henry-less Titans, or the Cowboys #1 ranked offense going up against the depleted Broncos, or even the Bills who were seen as a top contender getting shut down by Jacksonville’s Josh Allen. Anybody can get it. We’re going to break down 3 things to look out for against the Ravens.
Now I’m not trying to imply that Miami will pull off the upset against the buzzsaw that is Baltimore, although you never know. Instead what I wanted to focus on was 3 things you want to see from the Dolphins to get signs we are going in the right direction. Regardless if we win or lose good performances in these 3 aspects can at least confirm we may be on the right path, and highlight players that won’t need replacement going into next season.
More Consistent Defense:
The Dolphins were definitely one of the top 5 defenses in the league during the 2020 season, the Dolphins have also definitely had an abysmal dropoff as they rank as one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2021. Although the defense has had signs of life like holding the Bills to only 3 points at the half in Buffalo, they alwas seem to run out of gas and crumble in the 2nd half.
Even with that I would like to see certain players like Christian Wilkins continue the growth he’s had in the season, Andrew Van Ginkel needs to start making impact as he is sometimes a ghost on the field. Emmanuel Ogbah has been one of the most consistent performers, and it would make sense for the Dolphins to consider resigning if Ogbah keeps performing.
Jerome Baker was getting criticized for the lack of production he was getting after signing a big deal in the off season, Baker seemed to be getting back in form against the Houston Texans so I hope he can make a couple plays against the Ravens.
Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are the most expensive CB tandum in the league, however this season they’ve been playing far from that level. Overall the secondary has been much weaker this year and although Jones and Howard have made big plays on occassions, the consistency has not been there and it’s led on to opponents burning the secondary for a big play or a touchdown almost every game.
I want to see the Defense put up a fight at least in the first half, the offense’s lack of ability to stay on the field will probably lead to the defense folding late due to fatigue. But I want to see effort and plays made before we reach that point. A performance like that won’t help much if the offense can’t produce, but it will give a sample size to players that still perform (to a degree) against elite opponents.
See The Rookies Make Plays:
In my opinion the 2021 draft for the Miami Dolphins was the best draft of the Chris Grier and Brian Flores era. Rookies like Jaylen Waddle, Jevon Holland, and Jaelan Phillips have shown flashes of tremendous upside. If they keep improving and showing consistent performance even against a tough opponent like the Baltimore Ravens, then they should be considered as one of the core pieces in building the team going into next year.
Jevon Holland is probably the most electric prospect yet, a safety who pops out of the screen every single snap due to his tremendous effort and quickness. Holland managed to get his first career interception against the Texans last Sunday, but his hustle shows in always showing up in the trenches to make a tackle, rushing the passer for a sack, or big time pass deflections.
In terms of effort Holland might be the most consistent performer on the defensive side of the ball, he’s a rookie so there will be mistakes but those flashes of playmaker and star will only come around more consistently if he continues to grow as a player. Can he make a play or two against Lamar Jackson? We’ll see.
Jaelan Phillips might be the most underrated player on the roster, Phillips was criticized due to some lack of production compared to the other rookies but when you watch the film Phillips is the one constantly being double teamed. Phillips is also being put in unfamiliar roles of pass coverage at times when in reality he is a pure pass rusher.
The Miami Dolphins have not given Phillips enough snaps to work a decent sample size in most games, or put him in positions to succeed at times. But when his job is to solely rush the passer and create pressure, he has shown signs of greatness and freak athlete. You want to see that growth continue and see if Phillips can bring some pressure on Lamar Jackson who is currently one of the most sacked QBs in the league.
The Baltimore Ravens offensive line is no luxurious unit so we could expect Miami’s defensive line to bring some difficulties to Lamar Jackson, creating pressure so that our secondary can capitalize off of an error. Or pass rush enought to put Jackson in uncomfortable spots and keep him off sync throughout most of the game.
Of course that is a best case scenario, in reality I only want to see a couple plays made by the rookies. Plays that will probably not be game changing but provide a good sample size of the quality of players the Miami Dolphins drafted in 2021.
The Return of Tua Tagovailoa:
The 2021 season was outlooked to be Tua Tagovailoa’s breakout season in which he would prove himself as a franchise QB, and shut down all the noise. Unfortunately although Tagovailoa has shown an improved level of play he has not been able to stay healthy. In part this has been to the putrid offensive line the Miami Dolphins have, but it also starts to paint a pattern that has stuck with Tua since college. Too many injuries.
Fractured ribs in week 2 and fractured middle finger after week 8, if Tua Tagovailoa were to miss TNF against the Baltimore Ravens he will have only played through 4 full games in the 2021 season when we are in week 10. Tagovailoa’s ability is NFL starting quality and he has shown improvements from last season, however a player’s best ability is very often availability. Especially at the QB position.
After Buffalo Tua had a 9 game tryout to either prove himself as a franchise guy or raise his value for a team in case the Miami Dolphins were to be looking at a trade. However Tagovailoa is being held back by injuries yet again, it is uncertain if Tua will be playing on Thursday Night Football.
The best case scenario for both Tua and the Dolphins is for Tua to play in week 10, the team has to see if Tagovailoa has what it takes to compete against a top half defense like the Ravens. If he can play through injury and still perform, however all signs point to Jacoby Brissett being the starter against Baltimore.
Uncertainty has surrounded Tua Tagovailoa throughout most of his NFL career, another missed game on thursday would just make the situation much worse. I hope Tua can play and perform at a decent level against the Ravens tonight.