Omar Kelly: Here’s what Dolphins have to do to beat Buccaneers
Five things the Miami Dolphins need to do to pull off an upset against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in Week 5:
— Harass Bucs QB Tom Brady with pressure up the middle
There isn’t a single scheme, front, blitz, or exotic look that a defense can throw at Brady to catch him off guard. He’s seen everything every defensive coordinator could possibly come up with, and has answers for it he’s accumulated over two decades as an NFL starter. But the one thing history shows that Brady can’t beat is pressure in his face. That’s why teams with forceful defensive tackles — pressure creating interior players — usually do well against him. That means defensive linemen Christian Wilkins, Adam Butler and Emmanuel Ogbah need to consistently collapse the pocket for the Dolphins to have success against the 44-year-old quarterback, who doesn’t like to move off his spot when standing in the pocket.
— Rush for 100 or more yards
The Dolphins can’t afford to get into a shootout with Tampa Bay because they don’t have the firepower to keep pace. The best way to shorten a game is to run the football consistently. Miami has only done that successfully once this season, during its 31-28 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Then the next week Miami followed up that performance with a 35-yard rushing effort. Finding ways to get Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed on the field more consistently would benefit the Dolphins because those young tailbacks are two of the team’s better playmakers. Gaskin’s 4.9 yards per carry average leads the team, but he’s only averaging 7.25 carries per game. Tampa’s Lavonte David and Devin White will be difficult linebackers to avoid, but its not an impossible task.
— Protect Jacoby Brissett
Miami’s struggles in the trenches have kept the quarterbacks under constant pressure all season, and it’s negatively impacting the personnel usage (Gaskin, Ahmed and Mike Gesicki have been sparingly used), and the Dolphins play-calling (anything longer than a five-step drop has been risky). Brissett has been sacked nine times in three games, and the time he has to look downfield has been negated to two seconds per passing play. If the Dolphins could find a way to buy him more time in the pocket it’s possible that the passing game might open up a bit. Last week the Dolphins broke in a new starting center in Greg Mancz, who replaced Michael Dieter after he suffered a serious foot injury and was placed on injured reserve, and it would be ideal for Mancz to take his game up a notch if he wants to continue being viewed as a viable starter.
— Eliminate the big play from Buccaneers offense
The New England Patriots had success last Sunday dropping six and seven defenders into coverage and forcing Brady to work underneath, dinking and dunking his way down the field. That approach isn’t perfect, but it could help a struggling defense survive against one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. The problem is, there’s only one Xavien Howard, and Byron Jones could be sidelined due to his leg injury. That means the Dolphins will have to rely on Nik Needham, Justin Coleman and maybe Noah Igbinoghene to cover Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown while Howard takes Mike Evans, who leads the Buccaneers with 37 targets, which he’s turned into 23 receptions for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
— Make Buccaneers one dimensional
Because of how pass-heavy Tampa Bay’s offense is under Brady’s tutelage, the Buccaneers sparingly run the football and as a result average just 72 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry. Sunday can’t be the game tailback Leonard Fournette gets into a groove because the Dolphins can’t afford to key in on both the run and the passing game. Miami will need linebackers Jerome Baker and Elandon Roberts and safety Brandon Jones at their best, getting runners down near or close to the line of scrimmage. The Dolphins enter Sunday’s game allowing 136.8 rushing yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry, but have argued that it’s the one or two big runs per game that leak out that’s making Miami’s run defense seem suspect.