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 that quarterback change is indeed a big piece of the puzzle here. How do the Dolphins navigate the changes to their offense and take advantage of some of the unknown for this week against the Rams? Here’s some areas that the Dolphins should focus on to optimize their offensive performance against Los Angeles.
Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald (99) answers questions from the media during press interviews at Marriott Atlanta Buckhead. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Double-team Aaron Donald
This one feels obvious. But the Dolphins have to give extra attention to Donald up front if they’re going to avoid some disastrous results in both the run game and the passing game. Donald is lightning quick and his ability to get hip to hip on interior gaps will have a big hand in whether or not the Dolphins have any consistency in protection or up front. So to help their case, Miami should ensure they’ve got extra attention directed Donald’s way so that there are no easy 1 on 1 wins to the taking. Miami’s collective unit can help to minimize Donald’s dominant plays, but its going to take all of them together to get protections right.
Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki (88) waits in the tunnel before taking on the Buffalo Bills during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)
Attack the safeties
Two of the Rams’ defensive backs will miss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins: rookie safeties Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller. And so Miami must be willing and ready to attack their replacements relentlessly if need be to get the passing game cooking. The Dolphins did well in this regard against San Francisco, finding the 49ers backups in coverage and allowing their big receivers to go up high and attack the football to create positive plays and chunk gains through the air. Without two defensive backs, Miami must be willing to attack them where they’re green or, alternatively stay in personnel groupings that will put the Rams in a bind if they choose not to try to play the same way without them.
Oct 13, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) celebrates with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams (18) after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game against the Washington Redskins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Move DeVante Parker around (in more ways than one)
CB Jalen Ramsey is going to get very well acquainted with Parker on Sunday. The Dolphins would be wise to move Parker around to ensure he’s given the best chance to get away from Ramsey, but even that isn’t a guarantee to work in Miami’s favor. So Miami should be ready to have Parker set in motion at the snap. Doing this will allow him to already have some momentum at his release and avoid simply trying to beat Ramsey in press coverage. Moving him at the snap reduced the window Ramsey has to get a clean jam and throw off the timing of the concepts.
Miami can’t simply ignore Parker if Ramsey follows him around, so they’ll need to get creative to ensure he’s open and able to be targeted.