Following an eventful week of salary cap crunching, contract restructuring and multiple acquisitions, the Miami Dolphins touched down in Chicago and are ready for their Sunday, Week 9 contest against the Bears.
Added to the 5-3 Dolphins are pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. General manager Chris Grier restructured the contract of veteran linebacker Jerome Baker. He then sent a 2023 San Franciso first-round draft pick to Denver, running back Chase Edmonds and a 2024 fourth-round draft pick to acquire Chubb and a 2025 fifth-round throw-in pick.
Grier, within minutes, flipped a 2023 fifth-round pick to land Wilson, who now reunites with Mike McDaniel, and former 49ers running back mate Raheem Mostert.
Both Chubb and Wilson are expected to play against the Bears and each are part of the reasons why Miami can leave the Windy City with a victory and a 6-3 record.
Chubb pairs with Jaelan Phillips to form potent bookend pass-rush
The last time the Dolphins had such a prolific pass-rush tandem was the dawn of the century. Sure, Jason Taylor had a few seasons alongside Cameron Wake, but as the great No. 99’s career was coming to a Hall of Fame finale, Wake’s was just getting started.
The duo that was most potent as a pair for the Dolphins was back in 2000 when Trace Armstrong and Taylor combined for 31 sacks. That was also the last time Miami won a playoff game.
Now, will Chubb and sophomore Jaelan Phillips challenge the history books as a potentially powerful duo to rival these Dolphin greats? That remains to be seen, but Phillips has three sacks and is heating up, as he did last season around this time, and Chubb tallied 5.5 this season in Denver already. The potential in South Florida is Mile High for these two.
Chubb has been remarkably consistent in his snap counts season-to-season, he plays in a bit over 70% of defensive plays and is undoubtedly a three-down player. Phillips has played 71% of the defensive snaps so far this season and hit the 80% mark in the last two weeks.
Whether the new linebacker is working in slowly or not, players like Emmanuel Ogbah, Melvin Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel will be pressuring Justin Fields as well. The Dolphins’ newest toy should make life easier and even more fun for the rest of the defense.
Wilson and Mostert together again
As referenced earlier, Wilson and Mostert are a pair once again, and they complement each other perfectly. Mostert, who has earned the starter designation with his recent string of five games, is a chunk-yard specialist, who can turn a four-yard gain into 10 in the blink of an eye.
Wilson, more of a power back, could be that short-yardage and goal-line threat that this regime has been searching for, and missing on, for the last few seasons. He brings his 5.1 yards per carry average this season to a McDaniel offense that’s slowly, but surely, getting the rushing attack going.
The Bears are the 31st-ranked team in the NFL in rushing defense, so this could be a perfect coming-out party for Wilson and Mostert. Chicago is giving up an average of 156 yards on the ground per game this season.
Also, considering the potential wind, Miami could lean more on the ground game.
Lastly, the Bears shipped out star linebacker Roquan Smith to the Baltimore Ravens, so Miami has a softer Chicago defense to deal with.
Contain Justin Fields on the ground, especially on third down
The Dolphins’ rushing defense is the antithesis of the Bears. Miami is averaging 106 yards against on the ground per game this season, good for the sixth-stingiest mark in the league.
They’ve yet to give up 100 yards rushing to a running back, however, they saw Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson rush for over 100 back in Week 2, and, in Week 3, Josh Allen hurt the Dolphins with his legs, despite escaping both games with victories.
Fields has had limited weapons, and a trade was made to add Chase Claypool to his target list, but the second-year signal-caller has been calling his own number often.
In 12 games as a rookie, Fields rushed 72 times for 420 yards and a pair of scores. In eight games this season, he’s run 76 times for 424 yards and three scores. Fields adds to a Bears rushing attack that’s actually No. 1 in the entire league – gaining 188.4 yards per game on average.
Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery are a very formidable one-two punch, similar to Wilson and Mostert. Herbert leads Chicago in yards per carry with 6.2 and Montgomery rushes for 3.9.
Miami’s interior of Christian Wilkins, Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis needs to neutralize the Bears’ backs, but the second unit of linebackers will need to account for Fields on plays of third-and-medium or more.
The last thing Miami can afford to do on defense Sunday is allow Fields to pick up first downs on third-and-long plays with his feet, thus extending their drives, and keeping the Dolphins’ defense on the field on the road.
Tasked to either spy or account for Fields all afternoon will be guys like Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts. Rookie Channing Tindall has questionably played just four defensive snaps so far this year, yet he has tremendous sideline-to-sideline speed. So, it would be interesting to see if he is used a bit more against the rush-heavy Chicago attack, Fields included, of course.
Dolphins' defensive backfield needs to continue Week 8 second-half momentum
Week 8 started out ugly and scary for the Dolphins in Detroit, as they went down 14-0 in the blink of an eye. Coach McDaniel was noticeably seen telling his coaching staff to “fix it,” and they did in the second half.
Pitching a shutout and only 67 yards giving up in the third and fourth quarters combined, the Dolphins’ defensive backfield needs to play to their potential regardless of missing key people.
Byron Jones is still out, and with Nik Needham and Brandon Jones lost for the season, undrafted rookie Kader Kohou and improving third-year cornerback Noah Igbinoghene have been picking up the slack. Throw in another rookie in practice squad member Verone McKinley III playing safety paired with Jevon Holland, this group should be able to get the better of Fields.
Fields and the Bears average just 126.9 passing yards per game – dead last in the NFL. Fields is also tied for sixth in the league with six interceptions. This is certainly a game where elite cover-corner Xavien Howard and his defensive backfield mates could get the better of the opposing passer.
Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle need quality over quantity
Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passer rating (122.7), and Tyreek Hill leads the league in receptions (69) and yardage (961). Waddle isn’t far behind and is averaging 17.3 yards per catch this season.
With a Chicago defensive backfield being vastly better than their rushing defense, Tagovailoa and his targets need to have quality and timely plays, as the rushing attack could very well be the ticket to success on Sunday.
Factoring in the potential wind in Chicago, the Dolphins would be wise to rely on the running backs while picking their spots downfield. The RPO should be in full effect, and if the Dolphins can jump out to a quick lead with their passing attack, this matchup screams late rushing often by Miami to get out of town with a victory.