The Miami Dolphins (1-2) enter their Week 4 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks (3-0) coming off a dominant 31-13 victory last Thursday night over the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2). The Dolphins played well in Jacksonville, putting together solid stretches in all three phases of the game.
While the 2020 season has been anything but normal, Miami’s uneven performances have frustrated fans and players alike. And if the Dolphins are going to even their record at 2-2 this week, they’ll need focus and execution against one of the league’s most dynamic talents, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins vs Seahawks matchup.
Limit Russell Wilson, if possible
Wilson leads the NFL with 14 touchdown passes, most after three games in NFL history. He’s on pace for a 75 touchdowns this season. The Seahawks offense has scored 111 points. This potent attack has spurred championship dreams in Seattle, but Chris Carson’s injury could force the Seahawks to lean even more on their MVP-candidate.
The Dolphins defense limited Gardner Minshew in Week 3. They tallied 10 quarterback hits and four sacks. Minshew, though, is not the dual threat posed by Wilson. The Dolphins struggled with similar dual threats in Weeks 1 and 2, considering what Cam Newton and Josh Allen were able to do.
The Dolphins will need to generate pressure, but Wilson is good at extending plays and making decisions on the run. The Seahawks have one of the better offensive line units, particularly in pass-protection. Wilson’s thrown only one interception so far this season, and the Dolphins secondary is allowing 7.7 yards-per-attempt.
Dolphins vs Seahawks: Protect Fitzpatrick
The Dolphins offensive line, which starts a pair of rookies, has been one of the unexpected bright spots this season. After a few years of subpar (at best) line play, the Dolphins may have found a unit to build upon moving forward. Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley have played extremely well through their first three weeks in the NFL and that will need to continue against the Seahawks.
Seattle’s defensive line hasn’t been able to consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks this season. Their edge rushers have 10 pressures and two sacks on the year. This has led the Seahawks to blitz on nearly 40 percent of passing plays, but they’ll be without one of their main blitzers on Sunday with the absence of safety Jamal Adams. The former New York Jets standout averages nine pass rushes a game, so Seattle will need to look elsewhere for pressure.
The Seahawks defense can be scored upon. Seattle allows 28.7 points-per-game thus far in 2020, so if the Dolphins can keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright, there will be opportunities to score on this defense.
More Production from the Running Back Position
The Dolphins seem to have stumbled upon a lead back that not very many people thought would take hold of the role. Myles Gaskin, a seventh-round pick last season, has been the surprise go-to running back so far this year. It’s particularly surprising given Miami’s addition of Matt Breida and Jordan Howard this offseason.
Gaskin leads the team with 152 yards rushing and 15 receptions, and he’s averaging 4.6 yards-per-touch. This after a rookie season that saw him tally just 133 yards and seven receptions in seven games played in 2019.
But the combination of Gaskin, Breida and Howard will need to more than just the 3.8 yards-per-carry average they’ve compiled so far in 2020. The Dolphins are 20th in the NFL in rushing-yards-per-game (108.0) and have four rushing touchdowns through three games.
The Seahawks allow the second-fewest rushing-yards-per-game (66.7) but that’s largely because their opponents have been playing from behind most of the time. If the Dolphins can use the run to set up the pass, they’ll be in business.
Dolphins vs Seahawks: Attack Seattle’s Secondary
While Seattle may have one of the best run defenses (statistically), their pass defense has been porous. Seattle’s defense ranks 32nd in yards-per-game (497.3) and passing-yards (430.7), 31st in yards-per-completion (8.5) and 31st in yards-per-play (6.6) and 29th in third-down defense (51.2 percent). Although their offense has been one of the league’s best, their defense has largely forced Wilson and company to put up points.
What’s going to help the Dolphins against the Seahawks on Sunday will be the fact that Seattle will be without starting safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar. In addition, backup safety Lano Hill, who has matched up versus opposing tight ends this season, could also miss the game.
A major weapon for the Dolphins should be Mike Gesicki. The Fitzpatrick-Gesicki connection has resulted in seven touchdowns in Gesicki’s past nine games. That figure is tied for most among NFL tight ends during that span. Over the past 16 games, Gesicki has 57 catches for 694 yards. Without Adams to check Gesicki, Fitzpatrick will likely target his big tight end early and often.
Dolphins Secondary Needs to Make Plays
The Seahawks sport a potent passing offense this season. Wilson piles up 289.7 passing-yards-per-game (5th in the NFL). He’s thrown a league-high 14 touchdowns and averages 9.0 yards-per-completion (3rd). The Seahawks offense ranks 25th(37.9 percent) in third-down conversions, but the Dolphins defense ranks 43.3 percent stopping opposing offenses on third down.
Wilson has spread the ball around, but in Week 3 he connected with Tyler Lockett nine times for 100 yards and three touchdowns. DK Metcalf has also been a productive weapon for Wilson. He’s leading the league with 24.8 yards per reception (min. 15 targets) and has scored a touchdown in each game this season.
Miami’s secondary has allowed 19 catches of 16 or more yards. The Dolphins secondary, which was viewed as a strength entering the year, remains battered with injury. Byron Jones continues to struggle with his groin injury, but he did return to practice on Thursday. Xavien Howard has been limited by a knee injury as well, but he’s limited quarterbacks to 54.5 percent completions against him this year. Rookie Noah Igbinoghene will continue to see playing time and will need to play well.