The Miami Dolphins will be looking to rebound against division-foe Buffalo this Sunday following a disappointing performance in their season-opening loss to the New England Patriots 21-11.
The Miami offense failed to get anything going most of the game and the defense couldn’t stop the Patriots’ run game. The Dolphins face yet another tough contest this weekend with another mobile quarterback in the Bills’ Josh Allen.
Flores: Buffalo “A Dangerous Team”
“This is a dangerous team from a running standpoint with their backs, running with the quarterback; but they’ve also got good tight ends, obviously very, very good receivers and a quarterback who can toss it all over the field,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said.
Miami will likely look to continue to run the ball against the opposing team after attempting 27 carries in week one and seeing more success in one game then it did all of 2019. Buffalo will likely look to continue to air the ball out with their refined passing attack following Sunday’s win behind 306 passing yards.
Will Ryan Fitzpatrick Step Up His Game?
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick did not exactly have the best start to the 2020 season. He finished 20-for-30 for 182 passing yards, zero touchdowns and throwing three interceptions. History has not been so kind to Fitzpatrick, most notably looking back in recent history.
After Fitzpatrick has signed a contract extension his play in the second year of that contract has declined. If the trend continues in the early part of the new season, Fitzpatrick could be in danger of watching from the sidelines. However, he is the team’s starter for the Dolphins’ home opener, and he could face an extra test if No. 1 wide receiver DeVante Parker is limited or out with a hamstring injury.
DeVante Parker: Game-Time Decision
“That’s probably going to be a little bit of a game-time decision. Obviously he’s practiced on a limited basis all week. We’ll see on Sunday morning, really,” Flores said. “DeVante, this guy’s competitive. He wants to be out there, so he’s going to do everything possible to be out there.”
Last week showed he didn’t have the greatest rapport with WRs Preston Williams, Isaiah Ford and Jakeem Grant, who he could end up having to rely on. With a new offensive line, Miami will need his veteran leadership to step up and turn around many facets of the Dolphins offense.
Can Miami’s Run Game Continue to Go?
Last season Miami struggled mightily putting anything together on the ground, finishing last in the NFL in rush offense. After bringing in four new faces to the backfield prior to the start of the season, the Dolphins proved last week they will be trying to implement running the football.
Miami attempted 27 rushes against the Patriots to get themselves out of the rut, but could only manage 87 team rushing yards. What took many by surprise was the emergence of RB Myles Gaskin, who led the team in carries. He had nine carries for 40 yards, also a team-high.
Breida, Howard Not Used As Most Thought
The pickup’s of RB Matt Breida and Jordan Howard didn’t provide much to the running game. Breida didn’t see his first carry until 6:40 left the first half and finished the game with five carries for 22 yards. Howard had the least amount of rushing yards with seven yards on eight carries, although he did save his day by providing the only TD for the Dolphins: a short one-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
If the running game plans to have any success in 2020, they need to feed Breida and Howard more often, which could be a few weeks away if the two are still easing into the play book. But, if the duo are more prepared for this week, Miami could use the help against a high-powered Buffalo.
Allen Led Bills to Impressive Division Victory
Bills’ Allen turned in a good performance in their season-opening win against the New York Jets. He went 33-for-46 with 306 yards with three TDs (two passing) and zero interceptions. Allen added 57 yards on 14 carries to his rushing score.
“This is a very, let’s call it high-power offense. They’re very multiple from a personnel standpoint, from a schematic standpoint,” Flores said. “Conceptually they do a lot of things and we’ve got our hands full. Obviously it starts with stopping the run, but they pose a lot of issues.”
He also picked apart a Jets secondary that had no answer for what he was doing in the air and on the ground. Not good new for Miami who had a tough time stopping New England QB Cam Newton who finished with 75 rushing yards. The Dolphins looked completely unprepared for a mobile QB last week and it has a tall task to fix the problem in just one week. If the Miami defense can’t stop the run, Allen will have a big game on the ground and finding the open space in the passing game.
Will LB Jerome Baker Continue His Hot Play, Leadership?
One standout performer from Miami’s opener last week was linebacker Jerome Baker. Baker led the way for the defense with 16 total tackles (13 solo), one sack, one tackle for loss and one QB hit. For a secondary full of new faces, Baker’s leadership may be the glue it needs moving forward. He’ll be a key defensive factor for Miami on Sunday, hopefully alongside a now more-comfortable Kyle Van Noy and Shaq Lawson. However, Elandon Roberts is out and either Calvin Munson or Kamu Grugier-Hill is likely in tune to start.
“Roberts, he’s still in protocol. He practiced (Friday). He’s in the protocol, he’ll go through the steps necessary and we’ll see about next week,” Flores said. “Obviously it’s a short week next week also, so we’ll see where we’re at from that standpoint; but obviously his health and the health of all our players is priority number one.”
Bills in LB Trouble
Miami could still have the linebacker advantage however, as Buffalo has already ruled out three starting LBs. According to Bills head coach Sean McDermott, LBs Tremaine Edmunds (shoulder), Matt Milano (hamstring) and Del’Shawn Phillips (quadricep) were ruled out on Friday.
This is big for a struggling Miami WR corps who may get pay-dirt from last week and improve on their lackluster showing against vulnerable backups.
The Dolphins will welcome the Bills to Hard Rock Stadium at 1 p.m. eastern on Sunday.