The Miami Dolphins are back in action at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday to face an unfamiliar foe, the Los Angeles Rams. As the Rams look to surge ahead of the rest of the playoff hopefuls in the NFC, the Dolphins will look to make a strong collective statement with the arrival of Tua Tagovailoa: that this team isn’t the same pushover that everyone has seemed to think they were from the early portions of 2019.
But while that quarterback change is indeed a big piece of the puzzle, it isn’t the only piece that we’ll be monitoring closely on Sunday. How do the Dolphins manage to stave off the Rams’ offensive attack in this contest? Led by Sean McVay, Jared Goff and a persistent rushing attack, there aren’t a lot of easy outs for the Dolphins in this game.
How can they hope to stuff up the Rams? Here are a few points of emphasis to watch.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) celebrates sack of New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (5) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]
Stay disciplined in gaps
The Dolphins must prevent the Rams from stringing out their defensive front and creating soft spaces along the front, which means everyone is going to have to stay disciplined to not push too far up the field or get too eager to jump into the face of the running back. Against zone heavy teams, uneven levels between the tackles is a first class ticket to getting gouged and giving up big runs — Miami can’t afford that as they look to continue to rehab their image as a run defense. Things have been better since the team’s frustrating performance against the Patriots in Week 1, but more continued discipline up front is essential to putting the Rams behind the sticks.
Dec 29, 2019; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Eric Rowe (21) returns an interception for a touchdown past New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Mix in hard flat zones on third downs
The Dolphins will need to keep their eyes disciplined in this game — and if they pin the Rams down on 3rd and long they’ll need to be aware of the screen game. How do you counter that? You sprinkle in some hard flat zones to ensure there’s a presence in the flat to disrupt the screens and, in zone, you can keep your eyes on the quarterback and feel if offensive linemen are releasing onto the second level or into the flats. From there, Miami’s boundary players will need to play fast to beat them to the ball or play big to fight off contact.
Miami Dolphins defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (91) sacks New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco (5) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]
Blitz Jared Goff often
The book on Jared Goff has been established for a while now. If you let him get into a rhythm and comfortable in the pocket, he’s going to give you fits. Which is what makes Miami’s early down gap discipline so important; as it will allow Miami to put Goff on a tee on 3rd and long. When they get there, Miami needs to continue to momentum they’ve built over their last two games and craft some new-look stunts and pressure packages to surprise the Rams and, hopefully, force them into some mental errors and create some turnovers.