Dolphins' defense trying to limit explosive plays

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is concerned his team is giving up too many "explosive" plays in the passing game. It has been a concern all season but Philbin has really harped on it in the past few weeks, and especially Monday.
The Dolphins' defense has given up seven passing plays of 40 yards or longer. That's tied for third-most in the NFL. Baltimore leads the league with 10. Miami's defense has also allowed 21 passing plays of 20 or more yards, which is ninth-most in the league. Denver leads the league with 35.
"We've given up too many explosive plays," Philbin said. "That's something we have to address."
The big plays could be a concern as Miami (3-2) prepares to play host to the Buffalo Bills (2-4) at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
The Bills used little-known quarterback Thad Lewis last week to record three passes of 20 or more yards and two of 40-plus in their 27-24 overtime loss to Cincinnati.
The Dolphins' defense has six interceptions, which is tied for 14th in the NFL, and 13 sacks, which is tied for 23rd. Miami has done well at forcing turnovers, but it has not managed to keep the big plays from popping up on a regular basis.
"We've got to limit random plays like somebody slipping and it turns into a big play, like what happened in the game (against Baltimore)," cornerback Brent Grimes said. "It's just stuff like that. If we limit that we're playing real good football.
"But you can't take those plays out of the game. It happened. It might be a minor, quick mistake but that's all it takes in this league."
Buffalo features wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, and both are capable of generating big yards. Johnson, who missed the Bills' loss on Sunday, has three receptions of 20 or more yards and Woods has four.
If the Dolphins can't limit the big plays they'll give Buffalo a viable path to victory this week.
--Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said the reason the Dolphins don't use many seven-step drop-back passes is twofold -- because of pass protection issues and it's simply not in their plans.
The seven-step drop back, of course, allows for the deepest passes, which for Miami often means a pass to speedster Mike Wallace. But that's not always the gameplan.
Sherman said the Dolphins use the three-step drop back as a way to help keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright, but he said defenses will eventually sit on the three-step pass so they have to be judicious. Sherman said the Dolphins are mostly a five-step drop back team.
"We do a fair amount of three-step right now, maybe seven or eight times a game," Sherman said. "We also have some max protect, we chip guys. I just think it's a collective effort by everybody. The timing and rhythm of the plays has to possibly speed up."
--CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) practiced Monday, but it's unknown whether he'll be good enough to play this week. Patterson has missed our games.
--DE Cam Wake (knee) practiced Monday, but his status for the Buffalo game is unknown. Wake only played three plays against Baltimore before leaving due to the knee injury that made his miss the previous game against New Orleans.
--LB Dannell Ellerbe (ribs) didn't practice Monday. He has been beaten up all season. It'll be interesting to see how the Dolphins approach his situation.
--TE Michael Egnew (illness) wasn't at practice but the injury is not considered serious.
--DT Paul Soliai (illness) wasn't at practice but the injury is not considered serious.