Normally our resident member Strange handles the FanPost on opposing team forums, but it's Thursday and I want to give you guys some ample time to get questions about the Dolphins answered that you may care to ask.
The Dolphins are currently 3-1 and as analysts and fans have said since July, the thought was that Miami would be in good shape if they entered the bye week with a 2-3 record due to the rough portion of their schedule in September and October. Well, the Dolphins are 3-1 and are coming off their first lost when they were soundly beaten in New Orleans. The problem is that while New England is underperforming, they're still 4-0 and it's a little early in the season to fall two games back. It's only October, but this game could be big for both teams as their conference record and even head-to-head matchup may have postseason implications in a few months.
Miami has a lot of good going for them, but they have a lot to work on as well. Their offensive line must continue to get better. Their run blocking has improved a little bit over the past two weeks, but they must continue to improve in pass protection. While the Dolphins allowing 18 sacks is constantly mentioned, the blame deserves to be spread around. Ryan Tannehill sometimes holds the ball too long and his pocket awareness must improve. Miami was doing better in the first half against New Orleans with pass protection, but once the Saints took a big lead and eliminated Miami's running game they were able to pin their ears back and really get more pressure on Tannehill.
The Dolphins defense was uncharacteristically bad last week against New Orleans. For the first time, it seems that Kevin Coyle didn't make the correct halftime adjustments and Miami couldn't stop both Darren Sproles or Jimmy Graham. The Dolphins were without their best defensive player Cameron Wake and he has a very good chance of returning for the Ravens game. The Dolphins, Miami's third down defense was allowing a solid 32% third down conversion rate, but the Saints went 6-13 on third down conversions, including a few surprising third-and-long conversions that the Dolphins simply can't allow.
The Ravens will be able to pick their WR-CB matchup as the Dolphins play a lot of zone coverage and don't swap sides of the field for their CBs. The Dolphins #1 CB, Brent Grimes, has been very good so far this year and is PFF's #5 ranked CB. He has yet to give up a touchdown this season and already has 5 passes defensed to go along with an interception. Nolan Carroll will probably start opposite of him again and he has performed pretty well thus far. Carroll is the CB opponents like to try and matchup against as the Falcons chose to lineup Julio Jones against him a lot in their matchup. Carroll hasn't been a lockdown CB, but he has done a good job of keeping the plays in front of him and hasn't been giving up the big plays. Aside from the Saints game, Miami's defense has done a great job of not giving up those chunk yards and forced teams to drive down the field to score. Unfortunately, New Orleans and even Atlanta had success doing that with their dynamic offenses.
Here are the areas to attack if Baltimore wants to win:
1) Attack the middle of the field. The Dolphins have done well in not getting killed on the outside by WRs. The Ravens may get some pass yards against Nolan Carroll with Torrey Smith, but like I said earlier, he has done a solid job of not giving up the big plays, even against a WR like Julio Jones. Maybe the Ravens can break that trend and get a big play or two on his side, but the key to sustained success will be attacking the middle of the field with either Dallas Clark or Ray Rice. Quite simply, if the Ravens can't do that, they're going to struggle to continuously move the ball against the Dolphins.
2) Pressure Ryan Tannehill with a four-man rush. You'd think Tannehill would struggle against the blitz if he holds the ball too long, but it is actually the opposite. While Tannehill's pocket awareness needs to improve, he has done a solid job of making the quick reads against the blitz and he does quite well in getting the ball out quickly and defeating the blitz. The Ravens need to get pressure with a four-man rush and force Tannehill to take longer reads against the defense. This is when Tannehill shows a poor pocket presence and doesn't feel the pressure. Tannehill struggled with turnovers against the Saints, but if you give him time without pressure he absolutely can beat the defense.
3) Jumpstart the Ravens running game with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Ravens have struggled to run the ball this year and Miami's run defense is stout, especially with Paul Soliai back in the mix. The Ravens must find a way to prevent Miami's fast pass rushers from pinning their ears back. If the Ravens simply can't get the running game started, they may need to resort to screens and draws to slow down Miami's front seven.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have for the Dolphins. While they were unimpressive against the Saints, I would encourage you to look also at their performances against the Colts and Falcons. This team needs to improve, but they are a much better team from a year ago. Again, this game is big for both teams as they don't want to fall behind in the division race and this may even be a Wild Card tie-breaker in a few months. Here is to a good game with no injuries.