1) Containing Kittle
Among the multitude of issues that a talented 49ers roster present to the opposing teams each week, slowing down tight end George Kittle is usually at the top of anyone's list. This talented athlete is back and healthy, which could prove dangerous for the Dolphins' secondary no matter who's playing quarterback for San Francisco on Sunday. Kittle was targeted 15 times last week against Philadelphia, catching all 15 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown. It was Kittle's first game back in the starting lineup in two weeks, and the ninth time he's eclipsed 100 receiving yards in his career. Safety Eric Rowe will probably draw the toughest assignment of any Miami defender, but Rowe has the size and ability to run and contest catch opportunities defending Kittle. Rowe and company must limit the run-after-catch yards and tighten the distance Kittle is usually accustomed to creating off of the line of scrimmage.
2) Battling Through Injuries On OL
The biggest question heading into this week's game is the health of the offensive line. This unit has improved to the point that many people don't even talk about them, and that's a great problem to have! But this is a concern, especially when it was a game-time decision last week for rookie right guard Solomon Kindley, who was battling a foot injury. He ended up playing and has played very well through the first quarter of the season. This week's issue is on the left side of the line with rookie left tackle Austin Jackson, and his ability to play on Sunday. Hopefully Jackson, who has played terrific as well, can be available. If not, Miami will need Julién Davenport to step up much like he did last week against Seattle. Also, I would expect rookie Robert Hunt to see more playing time as well. Hunt has been getting reps in short yardage and some goal line situations, and his flexibility might be needed not only at guard, but at the tackle position. Miami has a few players with experience moving around and having position flexibility. Starting right tackle Jesse Davis has had experience moving all along the line of scrimmage and can play right or left tackle if needed. Also, backup center Michael Dieter can and has played multiple positions along the offensive line as well. It's never a good week in the NFL to have injuries on your offensive line, and this group collectively must find a way not to have a setback. The Dolphins just must figure out who are our best five that are healthy, and play them at the positions that give this offensive line a chance to have success.
3) Limit Explosive Plays
This is one area that the Miami Dolphins offense could use a little more of and the defense a bit less. Let's start with the defense because it seems like every week, opposing offenses are able to create 10 or more plays that either shorten the field or lead directly to scoring chances. Last week I counted 12 plays against the defense of at least 11 yards, including chunk yardage gains of 57, 37, 35, 23 and 21 yards. This week's opponent on offense live off of the explosive plays, and that's one area that Miami defense must improve on quickly, especially if Jimmy Garoppolo is back in the starting lineup. He likes to push the ball downfield and also get it out on time, allowing his play makers run after catch chances. Kittle, Debo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jerick McKinnon all have runs or receptions of over 17 yards, and make life easy for the quarterback. Offensively this week, the Dolphins need to complete drives and not settle for short field goals if their going to get a win on the road. That means taking a shot or two at the end zone from the fringe of the red zone, say the 40 or 35 yard line. Miami's offense has been in position to score touchdowns, but must execute cleaner, especially when they cross the 50 yard line. I'd like to see this offense take a shot or two into the end zone, maybe change tempo as well to apply more stress to the 49ers defense. This might lead to the Miami offense achieving more from the field position that there already creating.