Here are the five things that I’ll be looking for this Saturday when the Dolphins take on the Cowboys:
1. Get Some Push!
The starting interior offensive line has had a rough preseason thus far. The trio of Daryn Colledge, Samson Satele and Dallas Thomas has been unspectacular in the first two games, as they’ve been unable to create adequate running lanes for the young Dolphins’ backs. The zone-blocking scheme isn’t overly difficult to execute, but the personnel must have quick feet and spatial awareness to make second-level blocks. That hasn’t happened, as we went over on my Twitter feed last week. I strongly believe that Billy Turner and Shelley Smith deserve first team snaps because of their ability to establish the run and upside as pass protectors. This week, I want to see two guards show the ability to be an adequate pass and run blocker. Don’t give the coaching staff a reason to continue looking for a starting guard.
2. Movement, Flow & Tempo
The Dolphins’ first team offense slowed down considerably in Week 2, and that tempo needs to pick back up. Against the Falcons, Ryan Tannehill was able to get into a rhythm by working quickly, which pressures the defense. Tampa Bay didn’t see the same pace from the Dolphins, and although the offense was effective, there’s no reason to slow down. Time of possession isn’t what’s important; it’s the amount of plays you can run throughout the game that will wear down the defense.
I also want to continue seeing movement from the offense. Brandon Gibson and Rishard Matthews were both put into motion in Week 2, stressing the defense and making them account for the mere threat of something they weren’t ready for. Keep moving pieces around and force the defense to think.
3. Diagnose, Then Execute
After the Week 1 debacle at linebacker, where all three starters either couldn’t get into proper position to make a play or failed to execute once in position, the calls for a young backup only grew louder. Week 2 saw some improvement, specifically from Koa Misi and to a lesser extent, Philip Wheeler. Now that the team has worked on tackling like a professional, it’s time to step up and do your job. The same message goes to the secondary, which has seen terrible play from Louis Delmas and Jimmy Wilson. I’ll give Wilson a small pass, as he’s a (premiere) slot cornerback that has had to adjust on the fly to a position wat which he hasn’t been developed. Caveats aside, there needs to be an improvement here.
4. Separate From the Pack
If we’ve learned anything through the preseason, it is that GM Dennis Hickey has built a deeper roster. There is fierce competition at running back, wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. One could easily make an argument for the players on the bubble and that competition is good for the teams’ outlook. Mike Gilislee, Damien Williams or Daniel Thomas needs to lock down the final one or two running back spots. Damian Williams and Armon Binns are in a near deadlock for the last receiver opening. Marcus Thigpen must be feeling the heat, as his reps have been reduced. Michael Egnew needs to realize his potential and fast. Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain need to continue making plays if they want to crack the starting line up by season’s end. Make it happen now, or else that opportunity could slip away.
5. Know Your Role
Winning and being effective doesn’t take a group of highly drafted or touted players to happen. Look at the defending champions, the Seattle Seahawks, for example A. What must happen is players working within their role. Going back to the safeties, Delmas and Wilson need to finish tackles and force difficult throwing lanes. They don’t need to go for the game-changing play every snap. An effective defense forces the offense into situations where the defense is at an advantage because they’ve limited what type of play can be ran with success. Fulfilling your individual role will help the defense play on a string and act as one.
Follow Ian on Twitter @NFLFilmStudy.