The halfway point of the season, the Miami Dolphins 3-3 host the 5-2 LA Rams. It’s going to be very different for the 3-3 Dolphins because their veteran fun loving QB is no longer at the helm as he is replaced by rookie Tua Tagovailoa. There aren’t many parallels to find in the history of the NFL but I do recall Eli Manning replacing Kurt Warner in NY for the Giants in 2004. The NY Giants were 5-4 and after replacing Kurt Warner who had thrown for 2054 yards with 6 TD’s and 4 INT’s ended up finishing the season 1-6 with Eli Manning at QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick after 6 games has 1535 yards with 10 TD’s and 7 INT’s. There are similarities, but to me the biggest disparity is that the Dolphins at 3-3 are only a game and half behind the Bills (5-2) while in 2004, the Giants at 5-4 were pretty far behind the division leading Philadelphia Eagles who were 8-1 and comfortably in first place as they cruised to a 13-3 record. After watching the play of the Bills against the NY Jets last week, those Bills are fortunate to have won that game.
So even though it’s technically game #8 for us and not the start of the second half of the season, this season will be forever divided from this point on. Did the Dolphins make the right move inserting their rookie QB with a chance to win the division? We’ll find out, and this Sunday’s matchup against the LA Rams will give us an idea. The Rams boast a +52 point differential after 7 games, the Dolphins +47. The Dolphins are 12th in the league in scoring (26.7PPG) while the Rams are 18th (25.1PPG). Defensively, the Rams are 2rd in the NFL allowing 17.7PPG and the Dolphins are right behind them at 3rd allowing 18.8PPG. The teams are pretty even but definitely take a different approach getting there. On offense the Rams truly have had a RB by committee approach with Darrell Henderson leading the team with 87 carries for 411 yards followed closely by Malcolm Brown with 65 carries for 274 yards. Cam Akers was drafted early (RD 2 pick #52) by the Rams but minor injuries have stifled his season. In contrast, the Dolphins have relied almost singularly on RB Myles Gaskin with 82 carries and 340 yards and then Matt Brieda has had a few carries sprinkled in some games for 33 carries and 115 yards. The disparity is even wider in the passing game where Gaskin has 27 receptions to Breida’s 7. For the Rams, they seldom throw to the backs, Goff loves the WR combo of Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp who have 30 and 37 receptions respectively. The Rams offense relies much more heavily on its run game than do the Dolphins, the Dolphins have about half the rushing yards.
On defense I think we match up well against the Rams passing game. The pass rush which has come alive can make things difficult for Goff. The Dolphins secondary, now at full strength with Byron Jones healthy opposite Xavien Howard. Nik Needham has been handling the slot and safeties Bobby McCain and Eric Rowe, along with Brandon Jones, Kavon Frazier and Noah Igbinoghene will probably once again leave the Rams to focus on the run game. At the time of this writing, I don’t believe the Dolphins have made a roster move to replace Davon Godchaux at DT. Raekwon Davis will start there but until they bring someone for the PS or acquire a DT DE’s Zach Sieler and Jason Strowbridge will likely fill in. This is important, because I think the Rams are going to try and control the game with their run game so our depth and strength on the front 7 will be imperative to success at stopping the run. The Dolphins are midpack allowing 745 yards rushing (124 YPG)) while the Rams are #12 with 702 yards allowed (100 YPG).
On offense, all I can do is guess as to how we attack the Rams. LOgic would dictate that we’re not going to be doing a lot of prototypical NFL dropbacks with Tua, that we will have him moving around to keep him away from Aaron Donald who as 8 sacks in 7 games, along with 15 QB hits. The good news is that no one else on this Rams defense is close to that, so the task will be neutralize Donald and take your chances with everyone else. My hope is that we get TE Mike Gesicki more involved in the offense. Only twice has Gesicki been targeted more than 5 times and in 2 games he’s had only 1 reception. I want that to change. He’s a big time weapon and should be better utilized. The Rams won’t be easy to run against but they have very little to go on with Tua except 3 plays in the Jets and his college film, so Tua is the “X” factor. In some ways I’d be surprised if they lean heavily on Tua in this game but sometimes great players make it so, and if that happens, I’m willing to let Tua be Tua.