For the second straight year, the Bills have a week 2 date in Miami to face the Dolphins. There is sufficient weight, evidence, and emphasis to suggest that this week 2 matchup is not like most. There are truly massive implications hanging in the balance. The Dolphins currently sit atop the division. Also, more importantly, they do so with a division and conference win in their arsenal. Meanwhile, the Bills have reeled in the wake of a shocking, frustrating, and fear inducing week 1 implosion against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
To lose this game would force expectations previously thought “realistic” for this Bills team, to be downgraded significantly. It would also make the prospect of repeating as division winners and making the playoffs rather unlikely. (Teams who start 0-2 have only made the postseason at a 12% clip in previous years.) This year, the stakes couldn’t be higher and neither could the pressure for that matter. Look for this to be a heavyweight bout between an aggressive Dolphin pod and an anxious Buffalo herd. What does this Dolphin pod have in store for Buffalo?
To open the discussion, we shall flashback to the off-season, when Buffalo Fanatics’ own Dolphin Expert Kevin Guerard enlightened us on this 2021 squad.
“The Dolphins looked at their team, especially in light of the week 17 slaughter at the hands of the Bills, and seem to have concluded that they needed to improve in the following areas:
1. Speed on offense: Miami wants to run the RPO concepts that Tua was so successful running at Alabama. To this end, Miami signed Will Fuller and drafted Jaylen Waddle. Coach Brian Flores has recently spoken about how having those two guys will force teams into “two-high” looks. This should create space for Parker/Gesicki underneath as well as create room in the run game.
2. Nickel CB: After watching Beasley and McKenzie torch Nik Needham for the last two years prompted Miami to sign Justin Coleman and Jason McCourty. Coleman was one of the best slot CBs a couple of years ago and Miami hopes he can regain that elite form.
3. Pass rushers who can beat their man 1v1: Miami gets most of its pressure through exotic blitz packages. They blitz a lot. Part of the reason Allen has had so much success against Miami is that he is able to buy enough time to beat the blitz. To have better results vs Allen and the Bills, Miami needs more players who can generate a pass rush with just 4 rushers. To this end, Miami signed Adam Butler and drafted Jaelan Phillips. Miami is hoping that adding those two players alongside Christian Wilkins and Emanuel Ogbah will provide a more organic pass rush that is more effective, more consistently.” – Kevin Guerard, The Buffalo Fanatics
SPY 1: Division Collision
Usually, division races are not won and lost based on week 2. But alas, this is no usual week 2 matchup, as alluded to earlier in the introduction. Miami will be hungry to add insult to injury to a Bills team that has come out of the gate sluggish. Meanwhile, the Dolphins dispatched the New England Patriots in week 1. In recognition of history, the Bills and Josh Allen (in particular) have dominated Miami. However, as sure as the sun comes up, on any given Sunday… anything can happen. Both teams will be aiming to exploit the others’ weaknesses. The Dolphins have a gargantuan opportunity to use their defense to be harriers of the Bills shaky offensive line.
SPY 2: Dynamic Defense & The Bane of Baker
The Dolphins defense is a completely different animal than the Steelers. It’s far more exotic, hyper-active in its pre-snap movement and movement immediately following the snap. Additionally, this defense is smoky. This is to say that deception is among its most notable characteristics. When combined with speed, agility, and linebackers capable of applying massive pressure, the Miami defense is very threatening in its own special manner. In week 1 versus the Patriots, Miami ILB Elandon Roberts showed the ability to pressure the QB consistently, regularly defeating or bypassing blockers.
Alongside him in the linebacking corps is Jerome Baker, an up-and-coming superstar in my humble opinion. Baker has an acute and demonstrative football IQ. Failure to account for him often has disastrous results. Baker is what I like to call an “all-aspect” Linebacker. This means that Baker is skilled and effective enough to execute all the responsibilities of a Linebacker while yielding consistent results.
In pursuit, Baker is agile, fast, bendy, and uses violence of action to shed or pass blocks. Baker can drop into coverage well and has quick enough footwork to respond to ebbs and flows of plays. Baker’s intelligence and studious attitude allow him to spy and read quarterbacks effectively. He can be a robber in both the run and pass games, shutting down plays before they even occur. Even the best QBs are not immune to the bane of Baker, as evidenced by his (NFL record) 30-yard pursuit and sack of Patrick Mahomes in the 2020 season. Do not underestimate Bane.
The Dolphins Defensive line is not as lethal a weapon as Pittsburgh’s was, but it is reliable and stout. The Bills will face a tough, experienced, and complete secondary featuring Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Eric Rowe, and former Patriot standout Jason McCourty. It would be ideal if Bills WR Gabriel Davis is able to play on Sunday. (He’s currently limited due to ankle injury). One interesting aspect of the Dolphins defense to watch on Sunday will be their frequency of playing man coverage. Bills QB Josh Allen has shown a propensity for dealing massive damage to this type of coverage scheme.
SPY 3: Dolphin Delta
Just as a delta has three sides, the Dolphins have a trio of receivers who will threaten the Bills secondary in every area of the field. They can work in numerous and varied ways, both in unison or individually, to defeat coverage. This trio consists of Devante Parker (the contested catch guru), Will Fuller (the burner), and Jaylen Waddle (the promising rookie). It is worthy of note that Mike Gesicki has all the trappings (and trimmings) of a solid passing-centric TE1. He has gashed the Bills before. Though, oddly enough, Gesicki was barely utilized in week 1 and played far less snaps (percentage) than other TEs on the roster.
UPDATE: Will Fuller will not play on Sunday as he is dealing with a personal issue, per Marcel Louis-Jacques (ESPN).
SPY 4: Tua Tactics
It is crucial that ALL OF YOU view the following clip (CLICK HERE). While its reasonable to surmise that Tua Tagovailoa has improved with the passage of time, honing of skill, and inclusion of enhanced weaponry, week 1 suggests otherwise. Despite the win over the Patriots, Tua shows panic, erraticism, poor reactionary response, and recklessness. Though he is under extreme pressure, it is not an excuse for throwing an errant ball to nobody. This pass was intercepted, not surprisingly. This play, as painful as it is to watch, begs the question: What was the better decision and why was it not made? Simply throwing the ball away could have prevented this problem.
- 0:01: Tua makes and completes his drop post-snap and fails to make a read.
- 0:02: Tua shifts and begins to escape backside pressure to the left while rolling his body orientation crooked from center. Tua also turns his head AWAY from the defense, a crucial error.
- 0:03: Tua loses footing while running backwards, being chased by two free rushers in close proximity.
- 0:04: Tua sheds one rusher successfully with OL assistance and turns back up-field, now facing a free rusher at his 2 o’clock position with a fast rate of closure.
- 0:05: Tua leaves his feet and twists his body while tucking his head. Here, he is trying to brace for an imminent hit while also simultaneously releasing an errant throw not targeting a receiver (but an area) (this is a problem) and furthermore, there is no proper body mechanics shown in the execution of this pass.
- 0:05.5: When Tua releases the pass, he is throwing blind as his eye direction is pointing 45 degrees away from the throw towards the NE sideline.
Tua is unpredictable, but motivated; reckless, but determined; inconsistent, but intelligent. Patriots CB J.C. Jackson had this to say (of Tua) following their week 1 matchup:
“We [were] in his face the whole game,” Jackson explained. “The front seven was crushing him the whole game. That’s what Tua do. If he doesn’t have his first read, he’s just going to throw the ball up. And that’s when we capitalize on defense when he makes mistakes like that.”J.C. Jackson on Tua, Per Hayden Bird (Boston.com)
DARKHORSE BONUS POINT:
THREAT RATING: Each opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale. On this scale, the higher the number = The greater the threat.
*Special Note: Each team’s play in the preceding games of the 2021 season will come into account in the threat matrix. However, factors from previous seasons are excluded for the sake of relevance to the present.
MIAMI DOLPHINS (WEEK 2) THREAT RATING = 8
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process, and go Bills.
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