With the game only a few hours away, I turned to the best in the game when it comes to Miami Dolphins football: The Phinsider. Managing Editor Kevin Nogle gave us the low down on what’s going on with the Dolphins.
1. The only offense ranked worse than the Ravens' is the Dolphins'. What is going on? With multiple recognizable names, it's strange seeing the Dolphins being ranked dead last.
I wish I could give you an easy answer. It really has been a combination of things, from Jay Cutler's mechanics, to blocking issues with the offensive line, to wide receivers not getting open or dropping the ball, to a tight end who has basically disappeared, to a running back who appeared to be pressing too much to try to make a big play. It really feels like, whenever one part of the offense starts to figure it out, another part drops off. Last week,l things seem to be coming together some under Cutler, then it really sparked when Matt Moore entered the game. This week's contest will be an interesting one to watch because Moore brings with him a different attitude than Cutler.
And, at the end of the day, I think a big issue with the Miami offense this year is the simple fact that Ryan Tannehill is not leading it. This should have been his year, and now we will have to wait until 2018 to see how it will all work with him.
2. Matt Moore is the starting quarterback for the Dolphins. The Ravens have faced back-ups twice this season, and come up 1-1. What's the confidence coming into this game with a new starting quarterback?
I like Moore and think he can do a good job. He has a relationship with the receivers - which Cutler seems to still be working to develop. He is not afraid of just reaching back and ripping it, which could play perfectly into the Miami offense if DeVante Parker is available to play. Moore has a tendency to come in and look great in the first couple of games in which he plays, then things settle back down. Given this is still early in his playing time this year, I think he should be really good tonight. Cutler is thought to be available to return as early as next Sunday night, so this might be Moore's only shot to prove he should be the starter. I think that means he is going to try to play out of his mind, which could also be a great thing.
Nothing about the Dolphins offense - other than Jay Ajayi when he gets going, and Jarvis Landry's emotions - has been consistent this year, so nothing would really surprise me during this game, but I think Moore should be fine.
3. Two big names on defense, Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. Can the Ravens patchwork offensive line contain them?
They seem to be getting hot right about now, so I know it should be a tough match up for the Ravens - and any team at this point. Wake is sixth in the NFL in sacks right now, recording 2.5 last week. He looks like he is ready to get after the quarterback on nearly every passing down. Suh has been dominant like you would expect, eating double teams and manhandling guards or centers who try to block him one-on-one. The issue has been the Dolphins linebackers, while playing well, have not always taken advantage of the space Suh is creating. They are not struggling against the run this year like they did last year, but they are not always in position to compliment Suh.
Jordan Phillips, who is playing defensive tackle next to Suh, has actually played really well lately. He, and rookie Davon Godchaux, make young-player mistakes, but they are doing well, just not getting the name-recognition because they are next to Suh. Andre Branch, Charles Harris, and William Hayes have all been playing well at defensive end as well. Miami's defensive strength - aside from Reshad Jones - is clearly the defensive line.
4. The Dolphins are riding high on a three-game winning streak. What has changed after only scoring six total points in Week 2 & 3?
Better execution. The offensive line is starting to give Ajayi the small hole he needs, and he is exploiting it. It seemed early in the year, he was being hit as soon as he got a handoff. Now, he at least seems to have a chance to make a read and decide where he is going before contact happens. The same can be said for the pass blocking, where it seems like the line is starting to give the quarterback an extra beat. Finally, the receivers are getting open. They are still dropping too many passes, but they are at least getting open and giving Cutler/Moore an opportunity to throw the ball. The Dolphins play calling also seems to be opening up the playbook a little more - and, with that, they are not sticking to just the three-yard pass to Landry.
5. Fourth in points against isn't a pretty stat, at least not for the Ravens struggling offense. What's the reason for success?
Sure it is. I've enjoyed watching teams not be able to score against the Dolphins. They are allowing 18.7 points per game thus far, with that number going up because the Jets scored 28 points last week. The defense can really clamp down when it needs to, largely because of that defensive line. The Jets were able to take advantage of the Dolphins' attacking style last week with a lot of misdirection runs, play actions, and/or screen passes back against the grain. It worked well as the Dolphins defense flowed away from the play, only to try to have to work their way back. If Baltimore can do something similar, they could find success.