By J.T. Olson
Special to Sports Talk Florida
It was just a few years ago that the Dolphins were widely considered the worst team in the NFL. Now here they are fresh off a ten win season and looking to take that next step into the playoffs. It hasn’t been a great start to 2021 for Miami; falling to 1-3 last week. However, this team has surprised at every turn under head coach Brian Flores.
It’s true, the Bucs should be favored in this game by a wide margin. I have little doubt that they will win this game. However, this Dolphins team is tough minded and resilient. They are well coached, particularly on the defensive end. To assume that this game will be a walk in the park would be a mistake. Here’s what you need to know about the Miami Dolphins.
First Things First: Secondary
The strength of this Dolphins team is certainly the secondary. A pair of pro bowl corners in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. A pair of Super Bowl champion safeties in Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe. And then a first and second round picks from the last two drafts coming off the bench in Noah Igbinoghene and rookie Javon Holland.
Clearly there is a lot of talent here. Granted, the Dolphins haven’t put it all together yet in making this a lock down unit. They are currently ranked 17th in passing yards allowed per game, which is up from 22nd in 2020. In short, there is opportunity here even against a very talented group, but proceed with caution.
Miami has poured a lot of resources into their offensive and defensive lines in recent years. Since 2019 they have invested five first or second round picks into the trenches. However, not all of these picks have been what the Dolphins had hoped.
At this point, I would point to both guards, Rober Hunt and Liam Eichenberg, as the strength of the offensive line. Rookie Jalen Phillips is potentially the highlight of an otherwise uninspiring defensive line. Overall, not an overly impressive group up front.
Walk. Run. Waddle.
The Dolphins haven’t had a truly exciting playmaker since perhaps Ricky Williams. And when you have a young quarterback, you want to surround him with as much help as possible. That’s why Miami drafted Alabama’s star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle in the first round of the draft.
Waddle has burner speed and is always a threat to take a play to the house. However, he isn’t just straight line fast. He’s also very quick and can be quite elusive. Plays like screen passes or punt returns can be a threat to score. Containing Waddle will be top priority, for he can change the outlook of a game in a hurry.
After spending a top 10 pick on their franchise quarterback last season, it has been a rocky road for Tua Tagovailoa. Last year was a struggle to beat out the long time veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to win the starting job. This year it was supposed to beTagovailoa’s time to shine, but he has been sidelined with an injury for most of the young season.
This means that it will be Jacoby Brissett leading the offense this weekend. He has bounced around as a part time starter with the Patriots and Colts in recent years and is doing so again now with the Dolphins. It’s never ideal to have a backup quarterback running the show, but Brissett is fairly experienced for a backup.
The Dolphins have an offense that really isn’t much of a threat. In three of their four games this year they have scored 17 or fewer points. They are led by a backup quarterback with an offensive line that has holes and a group of pass catchers that is largely uninspiring or unproven.
This is the type of game that the Bucs defense should dominate. Expect multiple sacks and I would predict at least one turnover. I have concern with the Bucs secondary, particularly with Waddle. However, I just don’t think the Dolphins have the firepower to keep up.
Even if a talented secondary, one that is very familiar with Tom Brady, can slow down the Bucs passing attack, I still expect this offense to put up 24-31 points at least. Particularly with the emergence of a rushing attack in the Bucs most recent game against the Patriots. It’s worth noting that the Dolphins rank 27th in rushing yards allowed per game. In short, the Bucs should be able to move the ball however they want to on Sunday.