Miami Dolphins Week 8 Preview
By: Thomas McCloughan
It has been over a week since ESPN’s Adam Schefter broke the news to the Twitter masses that 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa will take over the reigns as the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback going forward. The news so many fans have eagerly been waiting for since the opening night of the 2020 draft came out on the Tuesday of the bye week, leaving far too much time for analysts and fans alike to talk about and critique the decision. At last, game day is right around the corner.
Tua’s first opponent as a starter in the NFL is formidable one: The 5-2 Los Angeles Rams. Sean McVay and company are known for their well-oiled offense, but it is their defense that stands out this year- currently ranking 6th in the NFL in yards allowed per game. The defense is headed by 5x All-Pro, 2x defensive player of the year award winner Aaron Donald. Donald has racked up 6 tackles for loss and ranks second in the NFL in sacks with 8, just one behind leader Myles Garrett. The back half of the defense is led by 3x pro bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey, who has two interceptions thus far on the season season, also has two games with zero receptions allowed in coverage per PFF; one game behind Miami’s Xavien Howard.
Despite boasting a 5-2 record with a statistically sound defense, it is important to consider who the Rams have played. Not to discredit Los Angeles-wins are hard to come by in the NFL-but four of their five wins have come against NFC East opponents with a combined record of 7-20. Their two losses came to the Buffalo Bills, where they could not bounce back from an 18-point halftime deficit, and a 24-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers, as you will recall, were fresh off an absolute drubbing by our Miami Dolphins the week before.
Speaking of the Dolphins, the last time we saw them on the field was a 24-0 shutout of the rival Jets. That game had multiple milestones: Tua Tagovailoa saw his first live game action of his young career, and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer called his first shutout game of his young career as a coordinator. The defense played big all game while never allowing Joe Flacco the time he needed to find an open receiver. Emmanuel Ogbah had two sacks on the day, one of which was a 28-yard loss. Christian Wilkins was also credited with a sack. All together the defensive line racked up 10 QB hits in the game. Cornerback Xavien Howard had his fourth consecutive game with an interception, bringing his total to four on the year-a figure which ties him for the league lead.
Myles Gaskin continues to be the work horse out of this Miami backfield, toting the rock 18 times for 91 yards while adding four catches as well. Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 18/27 passes with three touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions on the day. The offense sputtered on third down; 0-8 was the final tally for Fitz before Tua finished out the game and converted the lone crucial down. Adam Shaheen, Preston Williams, and Durham Smythe were the recipients of Fitzpatrick’s three touchdown passes.
The Rams offense ranks fifth in total yards and possess many threats to this Dolphins defense with their high usage of pre-snap motion. The Dolphins like to scheme up pressure using man coverage on the back end. If they can hold up their end of the bargain, the front seven should be able to make Ram’s QB Jared Goff uncomfortable. Expect both Byron Jones and Xavien Howard to make big stops throughout the course of the game. Miami’s defense gets Andrew Van Ginkel back from concussion protocol, and Kyle Van Noy should be able to play through his foot injury, as he has practiced all week.
All eyes will be on the offense, however, when Tua steps onto the field for the first time as a starter. Expect the offense to come out and play with an edge early and make a concerted effort to establish the run to make things easier on the rookie. Tua was known for his accuracy and quick decision-making in college, so expect slants and quick outs to find his rhythm early. In the end, I think the Dolphins will prevail in Tua’s first start with a final score of 31-24. The team is already heading in the right direction with Coach Flo running a tight ship, and I do not expect any hangover or rust from the bye week.