1) Create early energy
The Dolphins have been sluggish over the last two games sustaining or creating explosive plays. It’s led to consistently playing from behind and puts more pressure on a young defense, especially one that lacks experience in its secondary. Against both Buffalo and Cleveland, Miami’s offense had a combined total of 19 offensive plays, including three 3-and-outs and generated zero points out of the gate. Contrast those results to three weeks ago on the road against Indianapolis, where they ran 21 offensive plays and took a lead into the second quarter. It gave the defense a lead to play with and created momentum during the first half, where they took a 10-0 lead into halftime. If the Dolphins offense can stack positive plays together early, it just might lead to sustaining success throughout the entire first half.
2) Young secondary opportunities
The exact same challenge that presented itself last week against Cleveland will be there again this Sunday versus Philadelphia. A talented, experienced Eagles offense going up against an inexperienced Miami secondary. Quarterback Carson Wentz is expected to have wide outs Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery back in the starting line-up, as well as rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Add those names to Eagles leading pass catcher tight end Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and it’s created match up issues for the Dolphins defense. The challenges are numerous but not impossible for the Miami defense to overcome. It’s imperative for players like Nik Needham, Ken Crawley, Jomal Wiltz and Steven Parker to play with much more discipline and keep the explosive plays to a minimum. Tackling Ertz in space will be a challenge and these defenders can allow receivers to run uncontested in the Dolphins secondary like we witnessed against Cleveland.
3) Pressure Wentz
Applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks this season has been an issue that hasn’t seen much improvement as the schedule moved from September to November! Here’s hoping the month of December brings some change for the Dolphins front seven. That’s what it will take to help shorten the time in coverage for the Miami secondary facing Wentz and the Eagles offense. A healthier Taco Charlton should provide some edge pressure, but I’m hoping to see players like Vince Biegel and linebacker Jerome Baker also get more chances to disrupt the timing in the Philly passing attack. On the opposite side, Miami’s offensive line needs to step up and allow quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick more time and a cleaner pocket. Eleven sacks over the last two week cannot be the norm for the Dolphins and some semblance of a running game is needed to make the defense honor the ground game.