By Carl Mahler and Kayla Morton
The Miami Dolphins are heading to Phoenix, Arizona to take on the Cardinals to begin the second half of the NFL’s 2020 season on Sunday with both teams looking to narrow the gap of claiming first in their respective divisions.
Arizona (5-2) is coming off its bye week and Miami could still have a smirk on its face after making life miserable for quarterback Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams offense last week in an upset victory. Heading out west, the Dolphins (4-3) are over .500 for the first time since 2018, looking for more, but will have their hands full with the Cardinals’ No. 1 overall ranked offense.
How Will Kyler Murray Factor in?
A large part of why the Cardinals sit at the top is because of their rushing attack. They sit second in the NFL with an average of 160.7 yards a game with 5.21 yards a carry, thanks mostly to mobile QB Kyler Murray. Murray has accounted for 58-percent of Arizona’s rushing scores (seven) this season and has 437 yards on the ground from 65 carries.
“Defense is about anticipation. If you watch enough film, you start anticipating certain things and stuff like that. As a defense, we’re just growing in that category and as for the Cardinals, they’ve got an elite offense,” Miami linebacker Elandon Roberts said. “The quarterback – man, he does a great job with that offense and stuff like that. It’s going to be a big challenge this week.”
Chase Edmonds in-line to Start
Aiding him is former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake who leads the Cardinals with 512 rushing yards on 119 carries while also contributing four rushing TDs. However, Drake will miss the rematch with his former team who traded him midway through the 2019 season due to an ankle injury. Backup, and pass-catching back, Chase Edmonds will start in his place who has made the most of his carries and targets so far this season. Edmonds has 266 scrimmage yards in the last three games and one TD. The Cardinals running game could potentially become too much for the Dolphins’ 21st ranked rushing defense, who on average, give up 125 rushing yards per game. Miam’s 4.92 yards per and nine rushing scores so far this season are also alarming.
DeAndre Hopkins: Current NFL War Path Sits Him in Fourth
If Arizona doesn’t beat Miami on the ground, the Dolphins will have to watch out for one of the NFL’s best through the air: DeAndre Hopkins.
After coming over from the Houston Texans in free agency, Hopkins is currently the fourth best receiver in the league (statistics wise) and has built a strong bond with Murray quickly. He has 704 total yards on 57 catches (73 targets) and three touchdowns, good for 12.3 yards per catch. He will likely go head-to-head with one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, Xavien Howard, on Sunday making for a premiere matchup during the late slate of games on the east coast. Howard leads the league in interceptions through the first half of the season (four), setting up for an exciting day of one-on-one battles.
Can the Dolphins Defense/Special Teams Repeat Against Arizona?
Last Sunday, the Dolphins showed a glimpse of something they’ve been hiding in the vault for a while. They forced the Rams offense to pile up four turnovers in the first half leading Miami to take a commanding 28-10 lead. LA was the first team this season to commit four turnovers in the first half in the NFL this season.
Tua Tagovailoa Must Improve Sunday
The strong defensive/special teams play couldn’t have come at a better time, as rookie Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa struggled in his first start after taking over for veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had less than 100 yards and just 12 completions in the victory, making Sunday’s game possibly his first true test as a starter. Because let’s face it, three defensive/special teams scores can happen again, but are unlikely.
“He’s just getting started. He’s played in two games. I’ve been around a lot of young players. Every game is an experience. Good plays, bad plays, you learn from them and hopefully you get better,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said.
Dolphins Backfield in Shambles
He’ll also have to do more passing as starting running back Myles Gaskin will be unavailable. He landed on injured reserve earlier this week and will miss at least three games. RB Matt Breida was expected to start, but a hamstring injury picked up in practice has ruled him out as well. RB Jordan Howard, who has been a healthy inactive multiple times this season, thanks to severely underperforming and costing the team in key moments, will head the committee start with fellow backs Patrick Laird and Salvon Ahmed. Ahmed will be making his first start in a Miami uniform.
“We know it’s going to be – the Cardinals put up numbers and we know that we’ve got to go out there and execute to the tee,” WR Jakeem Grant said. “We stayed after practice, got our timing right. All of us as receivers, we stayed after practice with Tua (Tagovailoa) just to get our timing right, so we know that we’ve got to go out there and dominate. We can’t have a game like we had last week.”