Washington will look differently on Sunday, with head coach Ron Rivera serving as the defensive coordinator. Rivera fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and secondary coach Brent Vieselmeyer after last week’s 45-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Rivera said we can expect a few changes, but nothing he or anyone else can do this late into the season will make a dramatic difference. While Rivera may simplify some things, you shouldn’t expect the results to change too much.
So what does Washington need to do to pull off the upset?
We identify four keys to victory for the Commanders against the Dolphins.
Come after Tua
The Washington Commanders struggle to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks using just four pass rushers. So, to create some pressure, Rivera needs to be creative when sending additional rushers. Tagovailoa will beat you at times, but he can also turn the ball over. If you make him uncomfortable, perhaps you can force a turnover or two to create short fields for your offense. Washington is a huge underdog, so it needs to take risks.
Limit the big plays
Tyreek Hill is the NFL’s top deep threat and, arguably, the league’s top wide receiver. Jaylen Waddle is phenomenal, too. Limiting Miami’s big-play wideouts is difficult, and Washington’s recent history doesn’t bode well for its chances. But there are things you can do on the back end to cut down on some of those big plays. Of course, the Commanders must do other things well that they haven’t done, such as tackle and not blow assignments.
It’s a challenging task for certain, but the Commanders can’t get into a shootout with the Dolphins. It wouldn’t end well.
Focus on McLaurin early
Some of Washington’s best offensive success has come when it forces the ball to wide receiver Terry McLaurin early in games. There are things offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy can do to ensure McLaurin gets his touches. The Dolphins have an excellent pair of corners in Xavien Howard and Jalen Ramsey, but getting the ball in McLaurin’s hands is imperative for the Commanders’ chances of winning this game.
Try to run
We know Bieniemy wants to throw the ball — a lot — and that’s fine. However, for Washington to have a chance against Miami, it must keep the Dolphins offense off the field. The Commanders ran the ball well against the Cowboys last week, but once they got behind big early in the fourth quarter, it didn’t matter. Bieniemy should employ a similar plan vs. the Dolphins, giving Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson and Chris Rodriguez Jr. opportunities. If the Commanders run the ball well, they have a shot to keep the score down. Of course, so much depends on not turning the ball over.