With all the flux in the lineup on the offensive side of the ball necessitated by injuries, COVID-19 etc, the one stalwart, reliable guy all season long has been #11, DeVante Parker. A look at Parker’s catch percentage of 65.8% might not be that impressive unless you watch the games. If you’ve been watching, Parker isn’t getting those easy throws, in fact it seems as if nearly every throw his way is a contested catch. I listen to WQAM as much as I can and NFL radio as well, and of course try to read everything Dolphins that I can. There’s a lot of talk about Tua Tagovailoa needing to learn how to throw to targets that aren’t wide open, as they usually were at Alabama. I believe it, because in some ways it’s counterintuitive. I think there’s a level of trust that a QB has to have in order to make those kind of throws and I believe that’s something that Tua will learn, and one that I also believe may take some time to develop. It’s a skill he hasn’t honed yet, so be patient, but it sure is nice to have to DeVante Parker here as a Miami Dolphin, because he makes those plays seem routine.
This week, the Joe Burrow-less Cincinnati Bengals come to town, in tow with a couple of former Miami Dolphins assistant coaches. Zac Taylor is the Head Coach, along with DC Lou Anarumo. As you know, the Bengals lost their promising rookie starting QB Joe Burrow to a knee injury and now have either last week’s starter Brandon Allen or Ryan Finley to choose from. Allen had an uneven start and apparently was lucky to escape with only one INT as he was consistently throwing into crowds. Either way, whomever starts at QB for Cincy has a tough task against our Miami Dolphins defense. Man, it just feels great to be able to say that and mean it!
As far as our Miami Dolphins offense, it’s still unclear as to who will be in the backfield. Myles Gaskin is designated to return from IR but it’s not a guarantee that he’s able to go Sunday. His former Huskie teammate Salvon Ahmed is also not a lock to play with a sore shoulder and last week’s primary ballcarrier DeAndre Washington has a sore hamstring. This could potentially lead to a Matt Breida and Patrick Laird backfield, but I have a feeling Gaskin or Ahmed will be playing and likely getting most of the action, it depends on how each one of them responds during practice, and maybe we even see both. The other big question looming is whether Tua Tagovailoa’s thumb injury is significant enough to keep him out another game which would have our wily veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick getting another cherished start. Fitz may really like Tua but don’t think for a second that he’s not relishing every opportunity he gets to start.
Depending on who starts for the Bengals, either Allen or Finley, they will likely have Giovanni Bernard as their starting RB along with a nice trio of WR’s including former pro bowler A.J. Green, very impressive rookie Tee Higgins and team leading WR Tyler Boyd, with 72 receptions and 723 yards. Higgins is the TD leader with 5 TD receptions. This is a different offense without QB Joe Burrows and RB Joe Mixon. Bernard will share carries with former Dolphins RB Samaje Perine. On defense, Jesse Bates III is having a nice season at safety with 3 INT’s and 13 passes defensed. Pretty impressive, as he also is 2nd on the team in tackles with 75. SS Vonn Bell leads the team with 85 tackles and if we know one thing, it’s never a good sign when your safeties lead the team in tackles. DE Carlos Dunlap was traded to the Seahawks at the trade deadline and basically leaves a toothless defense behind in Cincy. DE Carl Lawson (not to be confused with M’s fave Manny Lawson) leads the Bengals with 4.5 sacks.
Well, this is the easiest game on our schedule for the rest of the season with the Chiefs, Patriots, Raiders and Bills remaining after this week. That doesn’t mean we look past our opponent this week, I know Brian Flores won’t be doing that. This is a must win for us to stay competitive for both the division crown and/or the Wild Card. Neither avenue will be easy but wins mean everything and we better get one this week. At the moment, Cleveland is the top WC team at 8-3, followed by us and Indy but the Ravens lurk just one game behind us at 6-5 along with the LV Raiders and the South division may change hands so both Indy and Tennessee are in competition for a WC spot. Right now we stand as the 6 seed above Indy but this is very fluid and can change weekly. I say we take care of our own business and win at least 10 games and we should be in the playoffs.