The Miami Dolphins are coming off a hard fought loss against the Seattle Seahawks and are heading into another very tough matchup in week five, against the San Francisco 49ers who have been anything but healthy this season.
Miami is just 1-3 so far in the season, and the 49ers are sitting at 2-2 after suffering multiple injuries to key players on both sides of the football.
A matchup on paper prior to the start of the season that had a big red “L” etched in it, may need some white out and a better examination.
49ers Injuries Changing Balance of Their Team
ESPN has Miami at just a 21.2 percent chance to win the game. But, with so many key players out for San Francisco, the Dolphins have a real opportunity to steal a much needed win from the banged up pre-season Super Bowl contender and 2019 runner-up.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s status is still unknown going into the game as he continues to work his way back from a high-ankle sprain. Defensive ends Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, running back Tevin Coleman and wide receiver Tavon Austin are just some of the players that have been placed on injured reserve for San Francisco and will not play this week.
Deebo Samuel, Receiving Corps Not Showing Much Life
However, Samuel had a limited role, and even with it expected to increase, the 49ers receiving corps isn’t very experienced. No. 2 Kendrick Bourne and No. 3 rookie Brandon Aiyuk have combined for just 22 receptions and 306 yards this season with zero touchdowns. It’s a disastrous duo in terms of points that sound familiar with Miami (ug).
TE George Kittle Focal Point, Despite QB Carosuel
In Garoppolo’s absence QB Nick Mullens has taken over as the starter, leading the 49ers to a 2-1 record so far. However, Mullens also hasn’t been declared the week five starter, due in-part to his benching in favor of QB C.J. Beathard in the second half of Monday night’s game. It is safe to think however, that Kittle will be a prime target for anyone under center. Last week against the Eagles, Kittle had 15 receptions (15 targets) for 183 yards and a TD.
“He’ll (Kittle) be a focal point in the passing game. He’s a guy that we’ll obviously need to know and most everybody will need to know where he is and what our plan is on how to handle it, and I don’t think it’s just one way that you do it,” Miami Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer said. “Obviously he’s a really good player and I know he’s had the injury, but he didn’t miss a beat last week.”
San Fran Has Only Beat Lowly New York Teams
The 49ers have also looked shaky in the first four games. Their only two wins are against the two lowly New York teams, the Jets and Giants. The two losses came from potential playoff contenders in division-foe Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles. In both of those losses the 49ers failed to break 20 points.
Dolphins Run Defense Will Be Huge
Miami has been better on defense but not by much, still giving up multiple runs up the middle that have gotten large chunks of yardage. The Dolphins have really lacked consistency on the defensive end with multiple new players being added during the offseason and giving up at least 20 points in every game this season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Must Get More Consistent
On the flip side for the Dolphins, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has played up and down so far this season, also struggling with consistency. He has four TDs and five interceptions through the first four weeks. Fitzpatrick’s best game so far was on Thursday Night Football against the Jacksonville Jaguars where he went 18-for-20 for 160 yards and two scores to get the Dolphins their only win so far this season.
Dolphins: One of Healthier Teams in NFL
Miami has been fairly healthy to start the season, except for two key players. Linebacker Vince Biegel went on IR after suffering a torn Achilles on August 18th, and CB Byron Jones is dealing with a groin injury that has cost him two starts so far. However, he has practiced in limited fashion this week and has not yet been ruled out for the cross-country game.
“I think we’re looking for improvement. We’ve had some good plays. We’ve had some plays that you’d like to play better. I think our thing is a play-in, play-out consistency, and I think when you can build that over time, that allows you to be a pretty good defense,” Boyer said on the defense so far. “I would say we’re striving for improvement in all areas, and it really comes down to consistency in our play.”
Miami Must Keep Parker Active, Include Gesicki More
The Dolphins and FItzpatrick will need a lot of help from WR DeVante Parker who has been very active over the last couple of games as well as TE Mike Gesicki who has seen very little action since his breakout game in week two (130 yards).
After week two Gesicki has seen just six targets, but Parker has seen 17 targets with 12 of them coming last week against Seattle. He has totaled 179 yards but no touchdowns in the span.
Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon Could Cause Problems
If the Dolphins want to leave with a win, they’re going to have to play a really good game on defense. They must be able to slow down San Francisco enough to win the game, and they should also have their eyes on RB Raheem Mostert who has upgraded to questionable for Sunday. Even though RB Jerick McKinnon has done well stepping in with the injury bug, the duo could likely end Miami’s chances.
Miami will need to limit the chunk plays, especially those of Kittle, in order to keep the game close and give Fitzpatrick time to move the offense down the field. The Dolphins struggled to score TDs against Seattle and will need to figure out how to finish drives in the end zone to be able to have a fighting chance on Sunday.