The Miami Dolphins hit the road as a 1-0 team, as they head north to face the Baltimore Ravens, who are also 1-0. Miami has an opportunity to start the 2022 season 2-0 with a win on Sunday, however, this is a tall order at M&T Bank Stadium where they’re 0-4 since the place was built in 1998.
The last time Miami won in Baltimore was back in October 1997, but a victory would mean Mike McDaniel could list his name next to Jimmy Johnson, as the only Dolphins coaches to start their tenure with the team 2-0.
The Dolphins undoubtedly have last season’s 22-10 Ravens win in mind, and Lamar Jackson likely hasn’t forgotten either. Jackson had never been pressured that much when dropping back to pass in his career, and Miami’s defensive coordinator, Josh Boyer, and staff drew up a gem of a script.
It’s that potential repeat of Boyer’s blueprint, or a similar variation of it, on Sunday, that’s one of the five reasons Miami will beat Baltimore.
Zero blitz early and often
Jackson was pressured all night during 2021’s Thursday primetime pounding in Miami Gardens, as the Dolphins sacked him four times, forcing a fumble and an interception. That fumble went for a 49-yard touchdown return by Xavien Howard.
Boyer sent a defensive back 50% of the times that his defense blitzed, which flummoxed Jackson to a quarterback rating of 73.6. He was also held at bay on the ground, rushing nine times for just 39 yards.
The number of blitzes by the peripheral players in Jackson’s sightline, like Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones, was staggering. Holland was sent on a blitz 19 times and Jones 15. Linebacker Jerome Baker blitzed a career-high 20 times as well, and helping to set the edge was Andrew Van Ginkel who was sent 21 times.
Van Ginkel was credited with a half-sack against Jackson in that game and should return to defensive action Sunday after being used sparingly last week on special teams while coming back from having his appendix removed towards the end of the preseason.
If this isn’t enough to worry Ravens fans and Jackson, sack specialists haven’t even been mentioned yet. Enter Emmanuel Ogbah, Melvin Ingram and Jaelan Phillips. It’s these skilled pass-rushers that could be helped by the pressure from all angles, especially those defensive backs that Boyer will likely be sending consistently.
Dolphins' wide receivers face banged up Baltimore defensive backfield
As the latest Friday injury report indicates, the Ravens’ top-end cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are questionable for Sunday with a groin and knee, respectively. Humphrey didn’t practice Friday, and Peters was limited.
If they are playing, they’ll face a dynamic duo of pass-catchers for Miami in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Last week, in Miami’s win against the New England Patriots, the pair combined for 12 receptions, 163 yards and a touchdown.
If quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can hit Hill and Waddle, and limit poor decisions, the Dolphins’ offense could put up the necessary points just in case Jackson and the Ravens can crack Boyer’s code.
Raheem Mostert remembers the Ravens
Before catching on with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, Raheem Mostert spent time with the Dolphins, Browns, Bears and, right before that, the Ravens. Not to bring up the dreaded cliche of a revenge game, but sometimes the proof is in the padding.
Mostert, who among running backs with at minimum 250 carries, is the NFL’s all-time leader in yards per carry at 5.6, and he’s had only one 100-plus yard game to his credit.
That game was in 2019 in Baltimore where he put up 146 yards on 19 attempts and a score to boot. While the 49ers lost, Mostert had a career day and averaged 7.7 yards per carry.
Last week, the Ravens only faced 10 carries from a New York Jets running back, and Michael Carter gained 60 yards. The Dolphins could use a solid rushing performance as a team, and perhaps this is a slight indication of a manageable defensive front to face.
While it appears that Miami’s Chase Edmonds is the leader of the backfield, look for Mostert to maximize his production per touch, as there could be a little added spark of motivation for him in this one.
Can "Darth" Kader Kohou continue his rise?
When thinking of the terms quality over quantity, the player that comes to mind from Week 1 in Miami is undrafted rookie defensive back Kader Kohou.
In just 18 defensive snaps against the Patriots, the rookie from Texas A&M-Commerce recorded three tackles (one for a loss), a pass defended and a pulverizing forced fumble which led to a Miami turnover when Jaelan Phillips recovered, icing the game.
The importance of Kohou is key thanks to the Dolphins’ depth at cornerback with Byron Jones on PUP, which has Nik Needham sliding into the outside role opposite Xavien Howard.
Expect a spike in snaps on Sunday for the 23-year-old from the Ivory Coast, as he’s earned national praise with his play. He even has a nickname that gives Miami fans a “New Hope” that their secondary is a franchise in and of itself, for years to come.
“Darth” Kader returns this Sunday.
Sanders and special teams
It’s obvious at this point – Jason Sanders was affected negatively by poor holding last season.
With new holder and punter Thomas Morstead working in concert with Sanders to correct the kicking conundrum, Sanders has been sensational since the summer.
In the preseason, he hit a number of 50-plus yarders, and his only miss had the distance, as they usually do, but it hit the upright. Last week against New England, Sanders was perfect with a pair of field goals and a pair of extra points.
Morstead is also one of the league’s top punters, as he’s fifth in NFL history with a career net punting average of 41.6 yards per attempt. Additionally, he’s in the top seven of nearly every major punting statistic among active punters. His 46.6 gross average is seventh, his 272 punts inside the 20 rank fourth and his 34,496 career punt yards are third.
Unlike last season, the battery of long-snapper to the holder to the kicker seems to be at max power. Sanders’ counterpart, Justin Tucker, is widely considered the NFL’s best place-kicker, so special teams and the kicking game are things to watch for Sunday afternoon.