The Buffalo Bills will face off with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football, in a matchup between two 5-4 AFC East rivals. Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy), a Dolphins blogger for BleacherReport was kind enough to answer some questions regarding the matchup.
The Miami Dolphins have really played well since they last saw the Bills. Miami is currently holding a 5-4 record like Buffalo. What has been the biggest factor in the team’s recent success?
Miami’s offense and defense have each really settled since their previous matchup. In week 2, the offense was still figuring out the nuances of a new scheme, and now everyone seems to be on the same page. On defense, getting back Koa Misi and Reshad Jones have been huge. They’ve been better at forcing opponents of the field.
With Branden Albert out for the year with a torn ACL/MCL, rookie first-round pick JuWuan James will be starting at left tackle, while Dallas Thomas slides down to right tackle. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and how do you expect them to fare against Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams, respectively?
I wrote a feature on James at left tackle over at Bleacher Report on Tuesday, and would encourage interested folks to check that out. He’s not quite as good as Albert, but he should still be an above average player. He’s long, quick and technically sound. Power rushers will give him issues because he hasn’t been through a complete offseason in the NFL yet.
Thomas is a major concern for Miami after he was beat up against the Lions. He’s a more natural guard than tackle, lacking the lower body strength and technique to be reliable. Miami will have to give help on passing plays on his side.
Williams and Hughes are right up with the leagues’ top pass rushing combinations, so it’s hard to say Miami will “win” that matchup. At best, Miami should hope to just limit their impact as much as possible.
Ryan Tannehill appears to really be growing into his own as an NFL quarterback. What are the biggest improvements in his game thus far, and what does he continue to struggle with?
A lot of Tannehill’s success has come from his playmakers actually finishing plays. He’s been the victim of numerous bad drops this year, and the team is second in the league with 20 total drops. That rate has drastically slowed in recent weeks, and the offense has taken off.
Tannehill is making decisions quickly and has done a much better job of extending plays with his legs and delivering accurate passes on the run.
Where he struggles is still the deep ball and overall red zone execution. He tends to force the ball in the red zone, which is somewhat the limitations of a spread offense and also a byproduct of Miami not having a legitimate red zone threat.
If you were the Bills’ offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Dolphins’ defense?
I’d copy and paste the gameplan from week 2. Miami struggles on horizontal plays like deep crossing routes and jet sweeps to the receiver. They’re very difficult to beat going vertically, but they are aggressive and can be beaten over the middle.
If you were the Bills’ defensive coordinator, how would you gameplan for Miami’s offense?
Buffalo’s defense is so good at creating a pass rush with just the front alone, but I probably bring the heat often. The running game for Miami won’t do much with their offensive line situation and the interior line has really struggled against quality pass rushers. I’d keep that pressure on Tannehill to make the defense pay.
Give me a sleeper on offense and defense that you think will have success on Thursday.
For Miami I think Jarvis Landry will need to be huge. His role in the offense is only growing and he’s the only consistent receiver on the roster. Also, Koa Misi will make a big difference on defense. His absence last time these two teams played was a major reason the defense couldn’t get off the field.