Dolphins vs. Ravens: Five things to watch

The Miami Dolphins narrowly escaped their 6th game of the season with a 31-28 win over the New York Jets on Sunday to improve their record to 4-2. Miami has a tough task on its hands, as they’ll be asked to endure a quick turnaround when they kickoff against the Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at M&T Bank Stadium tonight at 8:25 p.m.

Thursday night games have become a mere formality for players in the NFL, but that didn’t stop nine-year veteran defensive end Cameron Wake from sounding off about the difficulties of preparing for another game in a matter of 72 hours.

“That’s a very quick turnaround,” Wake said. “To be very honest, nobody is going to be ready the way they like to be. They’ll be as ready as you can be on Thursday night. I guess it’s a great moneymaker maybe for the league? I don’t know. You guys [in the media] probably know more about that than I do.

“I think it’s a little much for the body. But again, the people who know that [are a small amount], and the people who enjoy it and benefit from it are 50 million times that.”

While Wake is clearly not a fan of Thursday night games, he’s definitely going to give all he’s got and his teammates will follow his lead.

Here are five things to watch when the Dolphins play the Ravens tonight:

Max protection

The Dolphins’ offensive line has been porous this season. Starting left guard Anthony Steen has been ruled out with a foot injury and Laremy Tunsil is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler has already been lost for two-three weeks (broken ribs) and the team can ill afford to lose Matt Moore, who will be asked to win games in Cutler’s absence. In an effort to keep him upright, the Dolphins will need to keep running backs and tight ends in to block. The Ravens are giving up 189.3 yards through the air this season and their ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks has certainly helped their 7th ranked pass defense. Get ready to see two-man routes off of bootleg action tonight.

Run early and often

Whether the run game is effective or not is of little to no importance to the Dolphins. What matters is Miami’s willingness to stick to the run game, irrespective of the results. Ajayi has rushed for just 3.5 yards per carry this season but coach Adam Gase continues to feed him the football on early downs. Gase’s offense has been termed “predictable” even within the Dolphins camp, but if running the football with Ajayi keeps the offense on, or ahead of schedule, there’s no reason for him to change his approach.

Early release

Matt Moore is better than any quarterback on the Dolphins’ roster with trusting his wide receivers anticipating throws. His ability to throw early and accurately will benefit the Dolphins as the Ravens are perennially adept at getting to the quarterback. Moore gets the “gunslinger” label for his willingness to challenge defenses vertically down the field. It must be noted, Moore doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world. His ability to generate explosive plays is a byproduct of his ability to throw his wide receivers open while releasing the ball early, and trusting them to make a play on the football.


Cameron Wake keeps streak alive

Wake has six sacks on the season and he’s had at least a half sack in each game this season. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a tendency to hold on to the football in an effort to let routes develop and he there will be instances where he’ll have to do exactly that in order to make a big play down the field. Ravens receivers Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Periman are questionable to play tonight and if they are unable to play, that will only increase the likelihood that coverage will be tighter giving Wake more time to reach the quarterback.

Ravens’ rushing attack

The Ravens’ two-headed rushing attack begins with Alex Collins, who is averaging 5.2 yards per carry while Javorius Allen has just 64 yards fewer than Dixon. The Ravens keep their running backs fresh and the Dolphins’ defensive front will be tasked with setting the edge and keeping them bottled up. If defensive ends Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes and Charles Harris can turn runs back inside, Ndamukong Suh and Rey Maualuga will help keep the Ravens to modest gains on the ground.

Brandon Howard joined the Sports Talk Florida team to cover the Miami Dolphins in April 2017 and will work diligently to provide daily Dolphins content and give accurate analysis of the roster, coaching and front office. Last season, Howard was the curator of content for Miami Dolphins Wire/ USA Today while aggregating high school sports results in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the Sun Sentinel. Prior to moving to South Florida Howard developed NFL content for Pro Player Insiders while covering the Cleveland Browns from 2014-2015. Howard, a Columbus, Ohio native graduated from West Virginia in 2004 in Athletic Coaching and Education. He also was a scholarship track and field athlete and walk-on football player. Howard was the 2003 Big East Long and IC4A long jump Champion and was a provisional national qualifier in the event. He also maintained his status as a member of the Athletic Director Academic Honor Roll during his time as a Mountaineer.