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Miami Dolphins | Know your foe

On November 7th, 2021, the Texans traveled to take on the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Both teams were 1-7 heading into the game and 90 minutes before the kickoff, the Dolphins announced that backup QB Jacoby Brissett would start the game, instead of 2020 1st round selection Tua Tagovailoa. The game had a weird vibe throughout with nine turnovers, a ton of missed completions and a Texans loss.

Since that game, the Dolphins hired a new coach who put his trust in Tua Tagovailoa, traded for the most dynamic player in the NFL, bar none, and have won 15 out of their last 19 games. As such, the Dolphins, under new coach Mike McDaniel, have crafted one of the most dangerous offenses in the league and continued to grow an athletic, disruptive defense as well. The Dolphins' last performance before the bye week might have been the most decisive, and impressive, of the entire season. They trailed 7-0 early in the game and then outscored the Browns 39-10 for the remainder of the game for a 39-17 win in week ten. It was such a dominating offensive performance that they ran for nearly 200 yards (195 yards) and threw for over 300, not turning the ball over once. 39 points and 491 yards of total offense? Wow.

The Dolphins defense is more than eight man blitz/cover zero this year too. The addition of OLB Bradley Chubb gives the Dolphins three legit edge game wreckers. The interior is as athletic as any the Texans have seen, led by Raekwon Davis, Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. The secondary has gotten better and better, led by one of the best CBs in the league - Xavien Howard.

This could be the most difficult matchup for the Texans all season, so it's time to gear up and buckle up for a Thanksgiving weekend trip to South Beach. As such, let's get to Know the Texans' Week 12 Foe - the Miami Dolphins

2022 Schedule (7-3)
Week 1 - W New England Patriots 20-7
Week 2 - W @ Baltimore Ravens 42-38
Week 3 - W Buffalo Bills 21-19
Week 4 - L @ Cincinnati Bengals 27-15
Week 5 - L @ New York Jets 40-17
Week 6 - L Minnesota Vikings 24-16
Week 7 - W Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10
Week 8 - W @ Detroit Lions 31-27
Week 9 - W @ Chicago Bears 35-32
Week 10 - W Cleveland Browns 39-17
Week 11 - BYE
Week 12 - Houston Texans
Week 13 - @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 14 - @ Los Angeles Chargers
Week 15 - @ Buffalo Bills
Week 16 - Green Bay Packers
Week 17 - @ New England Patriots
Week 18 - New York Jets

Dolphins OFFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 97.7 ypg (27th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 293.8 ypg (2nd)
Total offense per game - 391.5 ypg (3rd)
Turnovers lost - 10 (7 INT, 3 Fumbles lost)

Expected Dolphins starting offense for Week 12
QB - Tua Tagovailoa
WR - Jaylen Waddle
TE - Mike Gesicki/Durham Smythe
LG - Robert Jones
RG - Robert Hunt

Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Salvon Ahmed

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Keys to winning v. the Dolphins Offense

  1. This ain't three yards and a cloud of dust - This Miami running game is unique and it's more of a factor than many realize. Yes, the numbers don't truly tell the whole story. They've run for 20 yards per game over their average over the last six games, averaging over 116 yards per game on the ground. That includes a 195 yard rushing performance in the last game against the Browns before the bye week. Since Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert got back together in Miami, the Dolphins offensive staff has been using them brilliantly. They use their fair share of 21 personnel with FB Alec Ingold on the field as well. But, it's the unique concepts, too, that create issues. There are some gap scheme wrinkles that create problems - wham plays and the sort - for the Texans. It's not going to be easy to stop this offense on the ground or through the air. Speaking of through the air…
  2. Pick Poison - …the addition of Tyreek Hill to Houstonian Jaylen Waddle has gone about as well anyone could have imagined and then some. Hill has been targeted 106 times, 10.6 times per game, more than any in the league. We've seen his big play ability scream through at all times, but his presence is also making Waddle more than just a glorified slot WR, which he was last year. In 2021, Waddle averaged under ten yards per catch on 104 catches. He already has 878 yards in half a season and is averaging 17.2 yards per catch. That's more in line to what he did at Alabama and, in combination with Tyreek, it creates an even bigger conundrum for the Texans defense - which one is the focus? Is it Hill or Waddle? Yes. (it's both).
  3. He's a Lefty - When Desmond King II came into our radio studio this week, he really made me think about Miami signal caller Tua Tagovailoa as a lefty QB. I thought about how often I'd seen a lefty QB in the NFL and how often the Texans have faced a lefty QB. Short answer, it wasn't much, if at all. Michael Vick was one, but there haven't been many others over the years. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but so much is geared to facing right handed QBs. The blind side OT is on the opposite side. Tua may like to boot or scramble the other way than the Texans defense is accustomed. This is all on top of the fact that Tua can hum that pigskin. He throws with plenty of RPMs on his fastball, so it's going to be an interesting afternoon for the Texans defense - having to stop a diverse running game, with two of the most dynamic WR in the league, catching passes from a lefty gunslinger. Whoa, gear up, guys.

Dolphins DEFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 116.9 ypg (16th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 239.8 ypg (22nd)
Total offense Allowed per game - 356.7 ypg (21st)
Turnovers generated - 8 (4 INT, 4 Fumble recoveries - Dolphins are -2 in TO margin)

Expected Dolphins starting defense for Week 12
DE - Zach Sieler
NT - Raekwon Davis
DE - Christian Wilkins
OLB - Jaelen Phillips
LB - Elandon Roberts
LB - Jerome Baker
CB - Xavien Howard
S - Eric Rowe
S - Jevon Holland

Other Key Defensive pieces
CB - Keion Crossen
LB - Andrew Van Ginkel

Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022

Keys to winning v. the Dolphins Defense

  1. Outside or Inside- The Dolphins have three absolute studs on the outside - second year player Jaelen Phillips - long and athletic, recently acquired Bradley Chubb - powerful and twitchy and the "old man" Melvin Ingram - crafty with wonderful technique. Those three present a myriad of issues for tackles and tight ends. But, the Texans tackles can handle that business, especially because they've already seen Chubb this year in Denver. But, the interior for Miami is solid too, just not as dominant as the previous four interior combinations have been (TEN, PHI, NYG & WAS). That said, Zach Sieler, Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins are more athletic than they are powerful houses of terror and the Texans blocked this group well at times last year. The whole key to this game is whether the Texans interior can have success against this trio or not. If not, it's going to go much the same way last week did.
  2. Hawai'i 5-1 - Like much in football, all nickel defenses aren't exactly the same. Many people see or hear nickel and think "oh, I know that. It's five defensive backs and it's great to use against the pass." Well, the Texans have seen a bunch of nickel but it's been a two pronged approach - to help against the pass, but also designed to make it tough against the run. Teams are playing a 3-3 or 5-1 type nickel look where the front five OL are all covered, but the "LB" next to the MLB is a nickel CB or a safety. Washington often went to this look on first down, having anticipated a run, but the Commanders put nickel Bobby McCain at the other linebacker spot just in case the Texans wanted to throw. It's a difficult look to run against because each OL is covered, for the most part and makes it tough to block linebackers effectively. It's a look Miami has used and will certainly use this week against the Texans; as such, the Texans must have an answer for it early and often.
  3. One Rookie - CB Kader Kohou is the only rookie starter for the Dolphins, on either side of the ball, but he's been solid opposite Xavien Howard. However, the Browns went right after him to start the game in week 10. Kohou bit on an out-and-up from Browns WR Donovan Peoples-Jones for a big gain to set up an early Browns touchdown. That's the type of approach I'd live to see the Texans take against the one rookie on the Dolphins defense - highlight him, use double moves and be aggressive with the ball down the field.

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