One of my good friends is a Phins fan, and I have watched them a bunch this year so I will know what I am talking about with him. I feel like I have a pretty good feel for what the Dolphins do. I don't do breakdowns like this all the time, I usually don't watch the teams we are going to play as much as I have watched the Dolphins. And in division, the rest of you probbly watch our rivals just as much as I do. I am not an X and O guru, or a scheme nerd, so take all this for what it is worth. Which ain't much.
I will start by saying that the Dolphins remind me a lot of the 2010 Hawks in both philosophy and struggles. Yeah, there are obvious differences, like 4-3 and 3-4 scheme, but the philosophy is the same.
The Dolphins have a better run defense than we do, statistically. 3.6 yards per attempt against them, vs the 4.3 ours is giving up. Those numbers are no joke, the teams Miami have faced have been committed to the run mostly because Miami's passing game doesn't put pressure on opposing coordinators to abandon the run. Paul Soliai clogs the middle effectively, and their linebackers do a good job of cleaning up. They run a 3-4 technically, but line up in 4 man front looks quite a bit. They have struggled just a bit more with really quick running backs, just like we have. Maybe there is a big play there for Washington?
Like most 3-4 D's, they try to disguise where the pressure is coming from, and do it effectively. Their pressure schemes are mostly around using speed to beat the tackles, they struggle to collapse the pocket up the middle consistently without blitzing. Look for our tackles to get beat with the speed rush a time or two. Which leads to...
They struggle with mobile quarterbacks running on them. The hell bent for leather attack of their defensive ends leaves them vulnerable to guys like Wilson leaking out of the pocket and running for good gains. Locker gashed them early with some scrambles.
Miami's corner's are big. More than any other team, they are built like ours. They have the only other 6-4 corner in the league, Sean Smith, and he is turning into a reputable press corner. The other corner went on IR two weeks ago, and his backup is 6-1, 205, and likes to play physical press as well. Miami's press is effective, they are the 6th best team in the league at opposing quarterbacks completion percentage. But...
They are a very gashable team. 6th best at causing incompletions, and 6th worst in passing yards given up. Their safeties and linebackers have proven to be weak up the middle, and with their proclivity to provide a comfortable pocket to quarterbacks, and their desire to stop the run above all else, they have given up a lot of big plays. Russell Wilson, play action, and the deep ball should feature big in the game.
Another way Miami reminds me of the Hawks of the last couple of years, they switched to the Zone Blocking system on offense this year and they are struggling with it. Yet, they will not give up on the run unless forced by the score to do so. They are only getting 3.6 yards per run, tied for last in the league, but still stick with it. They have to, their play action game depends on it. They do not have a great receiver corps, but it isn't bad either. Brian Hartline is a precise route runner who plays faster than he looks, and is the favorite target of Tannehill. Davone Bess could give our nickel corner fits. They don't target the tight end that much, Fasano only has 26 catches, but they do look his way in the red zone. And they like to target their running backs. They are much more likely to try and run the ball in the red zone, though.
Their pass blocking is very suspect. The top pick, Long, from a few years back, has quick enough feet to stop any DE, but his a chronic shoulder injury that has left him vulnerable to power rushers. Their guards and center are the real weakness, though. I look for Mebane to have a good day getting into the pocket. If Seattle's pass rush decides to get on the plane to Miami, Tannehill is going to have a very bad day. I don't see Seattle sending many blitzers unless the four man front struggles to provide pressure.
Tannehill is not a good scrambler. He looks like TJ when things break down, and is more likely to run into pressure than to make a team pay. It's kinda weird, his athleticism is very good. But his ability to make that second and third read is simply not there yet, so look for our press coverage to be more than usual in usage. Our ability to take away the dump off pass is going to be more important than our ability to maintain man coverage for 5 seconds in this game.
Special teams is a wash statistically. Miami is a mirror of us on both punt and kick coverage. Our field goal kicker is better, slightly.
The pressure to win this game will be squarely on Seattle's offense. First goal, no turnovers. Second goal, take advantage of that secondary down the middle. It isn't likely that we will run the ball easily on them, and their linebackers are pretty good in short area coverage. It doesn't look like Lynch will have a great day, but as long as we can keep Wilson off the ground, the Phins defense looks custom built for a quarterback like ours to have a big day. Miami's offense simply does not present enough match up problems to think our defense is going to have a bad day. Crowd noise should not be an issue, orange seats will dominate your TV, so if there was ever a road game the Hawks should win, this is it.