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Top 5 Things to Watch in Tua’s Week 8 Season Debut

Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa. After Coach Flores announced Tua as the starter on October 20th the world has been on fire with every type of opinion toward our face of the franchise. I did my own analysis of the 5 snaps vs the Jets which will be posted below. Now that his first start is finally here it has made it next to impossible to talk or focus about anything else. I will do my best to bring you SOMETHING else to watch for in Week 8 when your Miami Dolphins host the LA Rams, so without further ado, lets dive in.

 

Offensive Line:

It would not be an official Dolphins piece without a mention of how bad the offensive line is if you followed the national media guidelines to covering this team. I want to be clear that by no means is this group a top oline, but they sure aren’t a bottom 5 oline either. Keep that in mind as you watch them this Sunday go up against Aaron Donald and company and the heavy scrutiny they will face if they do not protect the franchise. I have full confidence that this group will come out determined to prove the media wrong and own the line of scrimmage. Also check this analysis of the online play by an ex lineman.

 

 

Rush Offense:

Coming off a week where we were able to average 5.2 yards per carry, we will need another effort like this to help Tua. One of the things that I hope the Dolphins attempt to do is continue to run the ball regardless of the score. We need the Ram’s defense to truly believe we want to run the ball because if this is a game that forces Tua to throw more than 35 attempts, I don’t think that’s the recipe we want for his first start. We need Myles and Breida to step up and have another good day rushing for Tua and this offense to function as designed.

 

Chan Gailey:

One of the things that’s become apparent as the year has gone on, is what a great hiring Chan Gailey was. At the time I was hesitant of such an old coach transitioning Tua into a modern NFL considering he last coached in 2016 with the Jets but Chan has destroyed those notions emphatically. This offense, per next gen stats, has the longest average distance between the two widest players in the offensive formation. AKA a spread offense, which is what Tua excelled in. I expect the Dolphins to try to receive the ball first to start the game getting Tua comfortable. Gailey has shown that he has the ability to game plan a strong 15-25 plays to start the game and would not be surprised to see the Dolphins up early in this game.

 

 

Flores vs McVay:

With all the attention going to Tua and rightfully so, no one has brought up the history of McVay vs Flores. Both of them being very familiar with each other, with Flores having figured out his offense on the biggest of stages. This game is one that I think both of these coaches are exact opposites in that McVay is a genius on the offensive side and Flores having earned his job through his work on the defensive side. Strength vs Strength, this will be a matchup that will be decided with what the weakness of each coach does. For McVay that means his defense and for Flores that of course means his offense.

 

Team Response to QB Change:

If you only followed the national media like ESPN, Good Morning Football, Skip and Shannon and others, you may have gotten the idea that this team is upset and confused over the change of QB. I assure you that only a handful of players were shocked with less than that feeling as strongly as Fitz did in his conference the Wednesday after the announcement. Let me clear this notion up as the players are all behind Tua and that includes Fitzpatrick, even if he did sulk a bit. Tua’s involvement overall with the team is what makes me think that they know this kid is the real deal. You hear different stories from Tua having a Tuesday meeting with Flores every week to watch tape, to Tua asking specific defenders like Bobby McCain and even Josh Boyer came out this past week to speak on Tua trying to dissect the defense point of view. With all that being said, I fully expect an energized team that’s ready to stand up and defend their new QB.

 

Ultimately, one week will not let us know what we can expect from Tua for the next 4 years but a start on the right foot will go a long way to shut up the national media. For all the talk of how good the Rams are no one is mentioning a west coast team being forced to fly cross country to play what essentially is a 10 am game for their body clocks. I cannot wait for next week’s installment of Stock Watch to see how we performed so make sure to keep an eye for it. Till next time guys, Fins Up!

Dolphins Win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins dominated the New York Jets on Sunday. The Dolphins 24-0 win stands as the team’s first shutout since 2014. Improving to 3-3 on the year marks the first time in the Brian Flores era that Miami has been at .500. With the Jets floundering to 0-6 under Miami’s former head coach Adam Gase, it becomes more clear with each passing week that the Dolphins have the right leader in Flores.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins D Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins haven’t shut out an opponent since they blanked San Diego six seasons ago. They hadn’t shut out the Jets since the 1983 AFC Championship game. The defense’s domination delighted Dolphins fans as they shut down the purported “offensive guru” Gase.

Miami’s defense elevated its play on Sunday, limiting the Jets to 2-of-17 on third down tries. For the season, the Dolphins top the NFL in third-down defense, allowing just 31.3 percent of conversions. Miami stands fourth in scoring defense (18.8 points-per-game) and sixth in sacks (17).

In the win over the Jets, the Dolphins held Flacco to 148 net passing yards. Last week, the Dolphins surrendered just 128 net passing yards to San Francisco, making this effort the first since 2010 Miami has limited opponents to fewer than 150 net passing yards in consecutive games.

The defense kept the Jets to just 93 yards in the first half, allowing just five first downs and forcing six punts. This helped Miami build a 21-0 halftime lead.

Ogbah, a Great Investment

Among the other free agent additions for 2020, Emmanuel Ogbah’s name might have been an afterthought. But he’s become a force for this defense in the pass rush.

Ogbah recorded two sacks in the Dolphins win over the Jets. His effort stands as Miami’s first two-sack performance since Cam Wake and Akeem Spence both had a pair of sacks versus the Jets in November 2018. Ogbah’s now recorded five sacks this season, tied for second-most in the AFC. Sunday also saw him register six QB hurries and two more QB hits.

The Dolphins are getting the most out of their two-year, $15 million investment in Ogbah. He’s registered a sack in three straight games and at least half a sack in five straight. He’s just a half-sack shy of his career high (5.5)

Howard Returned to Form

Xavien Howard registered his fourth interception of the season after he picked off Joe Flacco in the second quarter. Howard has clearly returned to his 2018 ballhawking form after a knee injury limited him to just five games last season.

Sunday marked the fourth straight game with an interception for Howard. His four-game streak is the second-longest in team history, behind safety Dick Westmoreland (five straight games with an INT in 1967). Howard’s four picks this season are tied for most in the NFL and he’s ninth in pass-breakups (6). His 16 interceptions since December 2017 are the most in the NFL in that span. He’s made an interception in 11 of his 46 career games.

Adding Byron Jones aided this secondary and Howard specifically, but Howard has elevated his play in 2020. He’s held opposing quarterbacks to 12-of-26 passing (46.2 percent) with just one touchdown and four interceptions.

Gaskin, a Bell Cow?

Seemingly overlooked this offseason with the additions of Matt Breida and Jordan Howard, Myles Gaskin felt like the forgotten man amid all of the Le’Veon Bell chatter this week. Gaskin posted a video to social media of his highlights, then followed that with his best performance as a pro.

Gaskin gained a career-high 91 rushing yards on 18 carries (5.1 average). He added four receptions for 35 yards as well. His 126 all-purpose yards also set a new career-high for the second-year running back. The last time the Miami saw a running back total at least 126 scrimmage yards was Kenyan Drake’s 193 performance versus New England in December 2017. Gaskin’s 91 rushing yards are the most by a Dolphins RB since Kalen Ballage ran for 123 yards versus Minnesota in December 2018.

Gaskin’s emergence as a legitimate NFL starter belies his seventh-round pedigree. He continues to take a larger share of the running responsibilities, and his ability as a pass-catcher helps keep opposing defenses honest. Gaskin’s play has resulted in back-to-back healthy scratches for Jordan Howard.

Bye Week Comes After Dolphins Win Over Jets

The Miami Dolphins saw their scheduled shuffled by the NFL last week. In the wake of COVID-19 positives for the New England Patriots, the league changed the schedules for eight different teams. For the Dolphins, that meant they faced New York in Week 6 instead of Denver. It also means Week 7 becomes their bye, instead of Week 11.

The Bye comes at the right time for the Dolphins, as several veterans are hobbled. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy landed among the inactives after groin and foot injuries limited his participation in practice this week. During the game, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel exited in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He did not return.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill hurt his hand in the third quarter. In the fourth, wide receiver DeVante Parker (groin) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (shoulder) also sustained injuries. The early Bye affords these players a week of healing and rest ahead of an important stretch for the Dolphins.

Miami has a slate of six winnable game ahead of them, and they’ll need a 5-1 or 4-2 stretch to set themselves up for the playoffs. According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins have the 10th-easiest remaining based on strength of schedule. They’ll need to bank wins here over the next few weeks, as their final four games see Miami play the Chiefs and the Patriots at home, then travel to Las Vegas and Buffalo to finish.

Dolphins Jets

5 Keys to Week 6: Dolphins vs Jets

The Miami Dolphins return home to face their longtime rival, the New York Jets, who are winless and rudderless. Former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase finds himself on the hot seat after another disappointing start to a season and having alienated another star.

Meanwhile, Brian Flores, Miami’s current head coach, continues to foster a positive culture, built around communication and cohesion.

“It’s about having the right people, having the right cohesive group,” said Flores on a conference call on Wednesday. “It’s about communication. I think it’s about having good people who are team-first, selfless and want to do things for the greater good. People who are tough, who are smart, who are competitive, put the team first and people who love to do what they’re doing.”

Flores maintains the Dolphins are still building, but he’s laid a solid foundation. Something Gase never did in Miami.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins Week 6 matchup against the floundering New York Jets.

Dolphins v Jets: Get Points Early

The Dolphins stand at 2-3 and both of their wins can be characterized in the same way: Offense scored early. In those victories, Miami raced out to early 14-0 leads. Against both Jacksonville and San Francisco, the Dolphins controlled the pace early and forced the opposing offenses to become one dimensional in an effort to play catchup.

“We always talk about playing fast, starting fast. It’s something that we harp on, on a weekly basis,” Flores said earlier this week.

The Jets offense struggles to score. New York sits 32nd in points-per-game (15.0) and total points (75). They’re a minus-86 In point differential this season, which is staggeringly bad. That figure is 36 points greater than the next closest differential.

If the Dolphins can get on the board early and demoralize New York, there’s a good chance the Jets will quit on Gase and roll over. Gase may not leave Miami with his job.

Attack the Quarterback

In Miami’s two wins this season, they’ve tallied eight sacks and 19 quarterback hits. While they’ve struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks, Dolphins defenders have teed off against more stationary targets.

With 35-year-old Joe Flacco making the start for the Jets, the fear of a running quarterback is completely absent. Against San Francisco, the Dolphins brought pressure facing a hobbled Jimmy Garoppolo and his replacement, C.J. Beathard. Miami registered five sacks and eight pressures.

The defense should employ multiple fronts to make identifying the pressure difficult for the Jets’ offensive line. The return of Byron Jones last week saw Miami shift to more man-coverage, and certainly helped Xavien Howard, who picked up an interception in a third-straight game.

Miami needs to attack Flacco, especially considering the Jets have surrendered 15 sacks this season (8th-most).

Get Vertical on Offense

The Dolphins offense opened last week with a 47-yard connection from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams. That set the tone for an offensive onslaught that tallied 43 points on the road. And facing a Jets defense that surrenders 265.6 passing-yards-per-game (8th-most), those opportunities should be there as well.

Last week, New York surrendered 380 passing yards to Arizona’s Kyler Murray. For the season, the Jets surrender a 100.2 passer rating and over eight yards-per-attempt. Their secondary allows over 70 percent of passes to be caught.

Last season against New York, Fitzpatrick completed three passes on throws of over 20 yards. Those three completions went for 72 yards and a touchdown. Against the 49ers, Fitzpatrick completed five throws of over 20 yards for 199 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami features big targets on the outside, including Williams, DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. Those three dominated the Jets at home last season, combining for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. Going vertical should open the running lanes for Myles Gaskin, who’s averaging just 3.9 yards-per-carry.

Finally Figure Out Flacco

Flacco remains undefeated in his career against the Dolphins. He sports a career 6-0 record versus Miami. He’s completed 72 percent of his attempts for 1,518 yards and 10 touchdowns. Flacco has thrown only three interceptions versus the Dolphins.

That said, all Flacco’s victories came while he quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens. And this Jets roster is largely devoid of talent at this point.

Against the Cardinals, Flacco made his first start since Week 8 last season. He completed 18-of-33 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown. The Jets offense struggled on third down, where they converted only four of 13 tries. On the season, New York converts 34.7 percent of third down tries, the fifth-worst rate in the league this season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins allow just 38 percent of third down conversions, the seventh-best rate.

Miami’s secondary will need to key on Jamison Crowder, the Jets most dynamic offensive weapon. Crowder is primarily a slot receiver and currently leads the league with 111.7 yards-per-game.

Dolphins Need to Maintain Focus Against the Jets

The Dolphins enter this game as favorites for the first time in the Flores era. Miami hasn’t been favored in a game since December 2018 (21 games). They’re favored by more than a touchdown for the first time since November of 2016. As a team, the Dolphins haven’t won back-to-back games by double digits since 2015. That said, the Jets have lost each game this season by at least nine points.

This contest has all the making of a trap game. The Dolphins need a win to inject themselves into the playoff race. In addition to that, they’ll need to maintain focus against an opponent that wasn’t originally their scheduled one for this week.

The NFL’s changes seriously altered Miami’s schedule, but the players didn’t seem to care.

“It is what it is, it’s no big deal,” Gesicki said.

Howard voiced a similar sentiment. “It doesn’t matter which team is next. We just have to focus on the game plan.”

With the bye week now upcoming, Miami can’t have a letdown against the Jets. They’ll need to maintain their focus and discipline.

The Dolphins remain one of the league’s least penalized teams, having been flagged just 23 times for 195 yards through five games. The Jets, meanwhile, have committed 38 penalties for 365 yards, a characteristic consistent with Adam Gase teams.

Gase’s culture of alienating stars and blaming players has continued in New York. The Jets now turn to former Miami Hurricane and Dolphins, Frank Gore, who is starting to show his age with just 3.2 yards-per-carry in 2020, and rookie La’Mical Perine in the wake of Le’Veon Bell’s departure.

The Dolphins should handle their business here and win this ballgame. This starts a stretch of seven very winnable games for Miami. If they can emerge from this with a 5-2 of 6-1 record, they’ll be poised for a serious playoff push heading into a very difficult final four games in 2020.

Dolphins Win 49ers

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win over 49ers

When the 2020 schedule came out and Dolphins fans saw a Week 5 game against the defending NFC Champs in San Francisco, most chalked that up as a loss. But quite a bit has changed since then, including the NFL’s schedule. And instead of a loss, the Dolphins went into Levi’s Stadium and dominated the 49ers, earning a 43-17 win.

With the win, Miami improved to 2-3 on the season and injected new life into their potential playoff hopes. With the schedule changes, the Dolphins could be favored to win four of their next six games.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the 49ers.

Aggressive Play-calling Leads to Offensive Explosion

The Dolphins entered Sunday’s game averaging 23.3 points-per-game, a respectable figure despite the 1-3 record. However, a week after settling for five field goals in a 31-23 loss, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey seemed focused on getting his club in the endzone.

Miami opened their first offensive series with a 47-yard connection from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams. From there, it seemed like the Dolphins offense marched up and down the field at will, often attacking San Francisco’s secondary.

Miami totaled 43 points on the road in this one, a figure the club hadn’t reached since scoring 45 in 1986. The 436 yards of offense were the most this season and the team’s most on the road since 2016. The Dolphins’ nine scoring drives were Miami’s most since 1991.

The first half offense caught fans off guard for how effective it was. Miami ran 33 offensive plays and gained 281 yards in the half, an average of 8.5 yards-per-play. The Dolphins scored three times from the two-minute warning and finished with 30 points overall. It was just the third 30-point half since 2000 for the Dolphins.

Preston Williams Returning to Form in Dolphins Win over 49ers

Williams went from being an unheralded, undrafted fringe prospect, to one of the league’s most exciting rookie wideouts last season. But in November, Williams suffered a torn ACL which ended his year. Since, he’s been diligently working to regain his form and confidence.

And after an uneven start to 2020, Williams broke out in a big way against the 49ers. Williams caught four passes for a career-high 106 receiving yards and a touchdown. He had pair of plays over 30 yards, including the touchdown, as well as another 19-yard gain.

His ability to create separation and sore over smaller defenders to secure catches was something unseen from Williams since prior to his season-ending injury.

“I’m getting closer to that year mark with my knee,” Williams said. “I’m starting to get more comfortable out there … just trying to get back into that football shape and get me feet back under me. I know a lot earlier in the year I was falling off some routes. Now I’m starting to feel better every week.”

Pass Rush Gets Home, Helps Secondary in Dolphins Win over 49ers

The Dolphins entered Sunday’s contest with nine quarterback sacks, but they had struggled t contain mobile quarterbacks this season. San Francisco’s starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, coming off a high-ankle sprain, looked hobbled all day, and the Dolphins took advantage of that.

Miami teed off on 49er quarterbacks, bringing pressure and getting eight quarterback hits. That’s the second-highest total this season, behind the 10 QB hits against Jacksonville (the Dolphins other win this season).

Miami tallied five sacks on Sunday, the most in a game since 2018. Five different defenders registered a sack in this one: Jerome Baker, Emmauel Ogbah, Elandon Roberts, Zach Sieler and Andrew Van Ginkel. Ogbah and Van Ginkel each had a strip-sack.

The consistent pressure from the Dolphins defense forced San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan to make a change under center. The 49ers went with C.J. Beathard in the second half in an effort to protect Garoppolo.

This pressure helped the Dolphins secondary find its form in this one as well. The return of Byron Jones certainly helped, too. Xavien Howard picked up an interception in a third-straight game and Bobby McCain added one as well. Miami’s pass rush and secondary limited the 49ers to just 128 net passing yards, the fewest allowed by the Dolphins since 2018.

Jason Sanders Could Be Best K in Dolphins History

One of the clear bright spots through the inconsistent play early this season has been Jason Sanders. After a five-field goal performance in Week 4, Sanders followed that with another stellar effort in this one. He netted all five of his field goal tries and each of his four point-after attempts.

Sanders 14-for-14 start to the season broke a Dolphins record for most consecutive field goals made to open a season. Pete Stoyanovich (1990) and Olindo Mare (2001) shared the previous 13-for-13 mark to open a season for Miami.

Sanders has now netted his last 16 field goal attempts, going back to last season. That’s tied for third among most consecutive makes in franchise history. The record is 19 straight makes by Mare (1999). Sunday’s game marked the third time in Sanders’ career that he’s hit five field goals in a game, which set a new franchise record.

It Might Not Be Tua-Time Just Yet

On Wednesday, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said: “Right now, we feel like Fitz gives us the best chance to go out to California, complete and try to win a ballgame.” Those words seemed prophetic, considering Fitzpatrick’s performance and the Dolphins dominance overall.

Fitzpatrick completed 22-of-28 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns. He posted a passer rating of 154.4, which is the second-highest mark in his 16-year career and the third-highest single-game mark in franchise history (Fielder, 156.0, at Dallas 2003; Tannehill, 155.3, v Oakland, 2018). Fitzpatrick has now thrown over 300 yards in five of his past seven games.

“People hate me, people love me, depending on the week,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Tua-time crowd will likely be silenced for a time after Fitzpatrick’s performance. Coming off an ineffective two interception game in a loss last week, the cries for Tua Tagovailoa grew louder. Some saw Week 5 as the chance to switch to Tagovailoa, but an injury to starting left tackle Austin Jackson may have slowed that momentum. And after his performance this week, Fitzpatrick is likely the starter for the foreseeable future.

Tagovailoa remains the backup for now, in part, because Flores believes Fitzpatrick gives the Dolphins the best chance to win. And with the shuffled schedule putting winnable games on tap, Miami will push for the playoffs.

Flores says he’s confident that should Tagovailoa be forced into a game that he could go in there and be effective, but he doesn’t feel the fifth overall pick is ready to take over as starter.

“I think (Tagovailoa) continues to improve every day,” quarterbacks coach Robby Brown said. “He comes in, he works hard from a mental perspective. He works hard from a physical perspective. He’s sitting under a really smart guy right now that helps him out. He asks good questions during the game sitting there listening to the play. Then when we come over and look at the pictures, he asks good questions, so I think his development, I’ve been pleased with it so far. It’s just … keep doing what he’s doing, and going in to prepare every single day. He’s done a good job with that.”

Dolphins schedule

Dolphins Schedule Update

The NFL handed down a massive announcement on Sunday in the wake of positive COVID-19 tests involving the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots. This change resulted in a domino effect which altered the schedule for eight different teams, including the Miami Dolphins.

Sunday’s announcement revealed eight different changes to the 2020 schedule, affecting games in Weeks 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11, as well as the shifting of bye weeks.

Dolphins Schedule Changes

For the Dolphins, the league’s decision to push back the Broncos-Patriots game by a week knocked over the dominos for the Fins. Instead of a road game in Denver next week, the Dolphins will now host the New York Jets. In the original 2020 schedule, Miami faced the Jets in back-to-back games (Week 10, Week 12) with a bye in between.

Considering the Jets’ 0-5 record and struggles overall, Miami could enter their bye with a 3-3 mark. After a week that saw Ryan Fitzpatrick lead Miami to a win over the 49ers, another win could further delay the eventual turn to Tua Tagovailoa as starting quarterback.

After the new bye week in Week 7, Miami will host the Los Angeles Rams (4-1) in Week 8. Then, in Week 9, the Dolphins travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals (3-2). Both of those contests were unchanged from the original schedule. For Week 10, Miami will host the Los Angeles Chargers (1-3), a game originally scheduled for Week 7. From there, the Dolphins Week 11 contest will be in Denver against the Broncos (1-3).

“It’s a different year, and everyone has t adjust and be flexible,” said Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. “We just have to adapt.”

Flores revealed he met with the club before the game against the 49ers to talk them through the schedule changes. He also mentioned the coaches have already begun breaking down film of the Jets in preparation for their next game.

It seems clear the NFL remains dead set on fully completing its regular 16-game schedule slate. This change took place early enough in the season that the league had space to rearrange contests. Should a similar situation arise closer to the end of the season, that might force the NFL to push back playoff games or even alter the playoff format.

Dolphins 49ers

5 Keys to Dolphins vs 49ers

The Miami Dolphins (1-3) travel to the West Coast for a key Week 5 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers (2-2). Miami looks to rebound after a tough but winnable game last week against the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, the 49ers want to win after a disappointing 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The Dolphins enter the game as a nine-point underdog and they’ve recently placed their starting left tackle on the injured reserve. San Francisco should see the return of their starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who hasn’t played since Week 2. Working in Miami’s favor? The 49ers are 0-2 at home this season.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins Week 5 matchup against the 49ers.

Dolphins-49ers Key: Continue to Stop the Run

Although the defense has not played up to expectations thus far in 2020, one of the areas where they’ve improved from last season is against the run. Miami’s run defense allowed 136.4 rushing yards per game last season. In 2020, after surrendering 217 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 versus the Patriots, they’ve responded since. In Weeks 2-4, Miami allowed just 94 rushing yards per game and four rushing touchdowns total.

They’ll need a similar effort in Week 5 against the 49ers. San Francisco averages 128.5 rushing yards per game in 2020, and they’ve scored seven touchdowns on the ground. Jerick McKinnon leads the team with 193 yards, and the team expects Raheem Mostert to return for Week 5.

The Dolphins will need to improve upon their current mark of 4.6 yards-allowed-per-carry, which is almost equal to San Francisco’s 4.7 yards-per-attempt average.

Blitz a Hobbled Jimmy Garoppolo

The 49ers expect to welcome back Garoppolo for this one. While Garoppolo sat with an ankle injury, Nick Mullens took the reins and did very little, eventually being pulled for third stringer C.J. Beathard.

The Dolphins pass defense has been one of the worst in the league, and that’s surprising considering the secondary was viewed as a strength coming into the season. Byron Jones’ injury certainly did not help matters. Xavien Howard is still rounding into form after last year’s knee injury though he does have an interception in each of the last two weeks. His 14 career INTs are tied for for the second most in the NFL since 2017.

A key for Miami will be to make sure Garoppolo is uncomfortable in the pocket. With a potentially gimpy ankle limiting his mobility, the Dolphins should look to attack with the blitz. San Francisco has surrendered 13 sacks this season, sixth-most in the NFL, despite solid play from their tackles. Miami blitzes 32.6 percent of the time and will need to generate the pressure up the middle.

Dolphins-49ers Key: Limit George Kittle

The key weapon in the 49ers’ offensive machine might be tight end George Kittle. After missing Weeks 2 and 3, Kittle returned the lineup with a monster 15-catch, 183-yard one-touchdown performance last week. He even had an additional carry for eight yards. Kittle caught all 15 targets in Week 4, making him just the fourth receiver or tight end since 2009 to be targeted at least 12 times and catch each pass.

Miami could use Eric Rowe or one of the other defensive backs in coverage against Kittle, but they’ll need to prevent the elite tight end from taking over this contest. They’ll need to use an array of coverages and should throw different defenders at him when possible.

”I don’t think you stop him, I think you just try to limit him,” head coach Brian Flores said of Kittle. ”You try to give him different looks — play zone, play some man. I think when you’ve got a player like this, you’ve got to think about doubling a guy like this; but again, he’s as physical as they get.”

Be Sure Tacklers

The Dolphins secondary surrenders 285 passing-yards-per-game thus far in 2020, fifth-most in the NFL. They’ve allowed six passing touchdowns, but have registered five interceptions, including a pivotal one in the endzone last week by Howard.

In Week 5, the secondary lines up against a number of big play threats on the outside in Deebo Samuel and rookie wideout Brandon Aiyuk. If and when those players make a catch, the Dolphins D will need to bring them down. Last season, Samuel was second among all receivers in yards-after-catch per reception, and Aiyuk has already scored on a pair of 30-plus yard runs this season. And Kittle has been one of the best in the game at it with the most yards after the catch among all tight ends and receivers since he entered the league in 2017.

The 49ers also like to run the ball outside as well. Last year, the 49ers ran 60 carries outside for 363 yards, three touchdowns and 17 first downs. On those runs, 255 yards were gained after contact.

Dolphins-49ers Key: Score Touchdowns

Last week, the Dolphins offense moved the ball well against the Seattle defense, but stalled in scoring territory. Jason Sanders kicked five field goals and the Phins didn’t get their first touchdown until late, on a Ryan Fitzpatrick run. He threw for 315 yards but had no TD passes and was intercepted twice.

Fitzpatrick has thrown four touchdown passes this season, but the 49ers enter with only three passing touchdowns allowed, which is tops in the NFL. Fitzpatrick will need to limit mistakes (like the two interceptions last week) and could focus again on DeVante Parker, who caught a career-high 10 passes 110 yards last week. The 49ers will be without Richard Sherman, so that should help.

The key to scoring those touchdowns might be getting the running game going. In Miami’s lone win this season, they picked up 138 rushing yards against Jacksonville. They’ve only eclipsed 100 yards one other time, last week (103 yards), and are averaging just 96.3 yards-per-game on the ground in their three losses. The 49ers defense, meanwhile, allows 110.8 rushing-yards-per-game.

Miami’s offensive line will likely need to buy Fitzpatrick extra time, considering the 49ers blitz at the ninth-highest rate in the NFL (34.2 percent blitz rate) this season. Although they’re without Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead leads the defense with 18 quarterback pressures. San Francisco has the third-highest pressure rate at 30.3 percent, but they rank only 18th in sacks (8).

Five Takeaways from Brian Flores (Including Tua Cleared)

Earlier today, Brian Flores spoke with the media about QB Tua Tagovailoa, Covid-19, and the 2020 NFL season.

As players and coaches return to team facilities, one thing is clear. The beginning of the 2020 NFL season is officially upon us.

That’s right, folks.

Football is back.

And in an offseason without preseason, open practices, and other football activities–it’s going to be challenging to get a real grasp of this team and roster. This means we will have to rely heavily on the media and interviews with the players and coaches to dissect what is truly going on with this team.

So, today when Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores met with South Florida media. Many were listening. What would the leader of the Miami Dolphins have to say about the many issues heading into the 2020 season? Covid-19? His rookie quarterback?

Here are five takeaways from Brian Flores press conference 

 

Takeaway #1

What coach said:

What I heard:

Tua is all systems go. Which is what we’ve heard over the last several months from Tua and his representatives. This, now being confirmed by the Dolphins, is enormous. Not only could he technically play IF he had to, but he’s ready to go out there and compete for the starting job. Which is exactly what he’ll do, according to Brian Flores. All that truly matters, however, is that Tagovailoa is ready to go.

Takeaway #2

What coach said:

What I heard: 

As we’ve become accustomed to, no job is truly safe. Flores wants the best players playing. And if a seasoned veteran gets dethroned by a hungry young rookie, the best player will play. That goes for every position, although all eyes will be on quarterback. Tua Tagovailoa will need to get acclimated to the system at a rapid pace, and Ryan Fitzpatrick will be right next to him every step of the way. Miami won’t rush Tua, but if the better talent is expected, it play. It probably won’t be very long before that’s the Hawaiian Prince.

Takeaway #3

What coach said:

 

What I heard:

Football players are just like the rest of us. This means for the 2020 NFL season to start, sacrifices will have to be made. That goes for every coach, player, staff, and employee of the Miami Dolphins. Everyone should be wearing a mask, social distancing, and taking precautions to keep the players and their families safe.

Takeaway #4

What coach said:

What I heard:

This offseason is going to be different. Like I mentioned before, there is no preseason. Hell, the roster was cut to 80 players before teams could even report. It’s a different time. And a lot of these players are going to make the roster based on their reps in practice, drills, etc… Players have to earn their roster spot. It won’t be easy. Only the best will survive.

Takeaway #5

What coach said:

What I heard:

Xavien Howard will not be rushed back and is currently slated to start the season on the PUP list. X is making progress and has been rehabbing all summer, but may not be ready to play. Could this be the reason Miami drafted Noah Igbinoghene? Is Nik Needham the next guy up to play opposite of Byron Jones? Or could the Dolphins bring in Logan Ryan, a player Brian Flores is very familiar with? If Howard isn’t ready to go by week 1, things are going to look much different in Miami’s secondary.

Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins appear as ready as they can be for the 2020 NFL season to kickoff. And with lots of uncertainty surrounding the team, in the middle of a global pandemic, should make for one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory. Now, all we can do is sit back, relax, and get some popcorn ready. Football is here. And before we know it, the Tua Tagovailoa era will be upon us.