Buffalo’s Pass Rush Has Got Dolphins Attention

Posted Dec 18, 2013

Dolphins have to pay close attention to Mario Williams and company on Sunday.

Even though the Miami Dolphins held the Buffalo Bills without a sack for the first three quarters of the last game between the two teams, it’s the fourth quarter that remains fresh in the minds of the offensive line.

The Dolphins were clinging to a one-point lead at Sun Life Stadium back on October 20th and trying to close out their fourth win of the young season when Buffalo finally got to quarterback Ryan Tannehill. First it was Mario Williams dropping Tannehill for a 5-yard loss on second down with 7:02 remaining, and then Williams got to him again with under three minutes left at midfield, stripping him of the ball and forcing the turnover that set up the Bills’ game-winning field goal.

“They’re a good front and they’re very talented. They rush the passer really well,” said veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo, who will be tasked with blocking Williams again. “It’s going to be a challenge to try to keep that catastrophic play from happening because they’re all a threat and we have to all play well.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin was quick to point out that it’s not just Williams and his 12 sacks his team needs to worry about, but there are three other Bills defenders with at least eight sacks. Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams each have eight and Jerry Hughes has nine, but Dareus and Williams were both listed on today’s injury report.

Miami has a different looking offensive line than the one that took the field in October. Undrafted rookie Sam Brenner is starting at left guard in place of the suspended Richie Incognito and veteran Bryant McKinnie is now at left tackle in place of Jonathan Martin, who was placed on the non-football injury list. This group has been solid of late and done a nice job of keeping Tannehill clean, which they will have to do again on Sunday in Buffalo.

“Mario’s having a great year and Jerry Hughes is really an excellent player as well. He’s their other defensive end and he’s contributed an awful lot to that team,” Philbin said. “Their two inside guys, Dareus and Williams, are excellent. So it’s not just a one-man show when you’re playing against these guys.”

Tannehill also has improved his pocket awareness and taken advantage of his mobility during Miami’s current three-game winning streak. He had a 48-yard run in the snow at Pittsburgh two weeks ago that led to an early field goal in a 34-28 victory and made some nice throws on the run last week in the 24-20 win over the New England Patriots.

The Bills have noticed that Tannehill is not the same quarterback they faced two months ago, particularly Mario Williams, and he realizes that he and his teammates will have to pay close attention on Sunday.

“He’s one of those guys who’s more athletic than your typical quarterback,” Williams said in his conference call with the South Florida media. “So even if he doesn’t work the pocket well, you see the happy feet and he can take off. That’s one thing we’ve noticed that’s different from the first time we played them. He’ll look for his throw, and if it’s not there he’ll move around more than what he did prior.”

As much as the offensive linemen pride themselves and maintaining a perfect pocket for their quarterback and giving him time to set his feet and throw the ball, they also don’t mind when that quarterback can extend the play with his legs. Clabo has taken notice of that added dimension to Tannehill’s game. “He’s made some big plays for us getting out of the pocket and running here the past few weeks,” Clabo said. “That’s tough on a defense when you think you’ve got him and then he escapes and you don’t have a loss. All of a sudden they’ve gained 15 yards, so we enjoy that. As long as he gets out of bounds and doesn’t get hit he can do that all he wants.”

If Clabo and company have their way, Tannehill shouldn’t have to do too much running.
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