Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Chris Perkins answer readers’ questions.
Q: Having won and lost to Buffalo this season, how are the Dolphins going to use those experiences to plan for the game this week? Do they still see them as a division rival or is this matchup on a whole different level in terms of play and perception since the playoffs? –On twitter
A: It’s a classic scenario of two division rivals splitting regular season matchups and then pairing up again in the postseason.
First, this week’s injury updates will determine how much can be made of the successes and failures thus far in two previous meetings with the Bills; this third is now an elimination game in the playoffs.
If Tua Tagovailoa can’t be cleared via concussion protocol and play, then everything changes in the game plan. He’ll have to adjust to Teddy Bridgewater, playing with a sprained little finger on his shooting hand, or Skylar Thompson, who handled the game against the Jets well enough to avoid mistakes and win, but that effort won’t be good enough in Buffalo. .
The Dolphins played two close games against the Bills, winning 21-19 at Hard Rock Stadium and falling on a last-second field goal, 32-29, at Orchard Park’s Highmark Stadium. The latest matchup proved that Miami can compete with the Bills, even on the road and in the cold, when it’s mostly healthy.
To stay close to the Bills again, the Dolphins’ best chance is to shorten the game with long, sustained drives (something this offense struggles with) and stop Josh Allen and his high-powered offense with a turnover or two. ball that change the game. (something this defense struggles with).
The odds are really high against Miami, but beyond Tagovailoa, the Dolphins need Terron Armstead at left tackle. They’d like to have Raheem Mostert at running back after he was very successful last time out against the Bills, but his status is very much in question with a broken thumb.
Miami was effective on the ground in the last game, which helps the offense hold up drives. They were without Jeff Wilson last time out, so they would have to fill Mostert’s void and Salvon Ahmed will have to produce in spelling him.
Defensively, the Dolphins need a good recovery week for Xavien Howard after he returned from a game-ending knee injury for New England. They can’t have the version that Garrett Wilson consistently beat last Sunday against Stefon Diggs this week.
Miami can’t stop struggling against quarterbacks either, and Allen had 77 rushing yards in the last meeting. The Dolphins’ linebackers and running backs struggle to contain him. Do you use safety Jevon Holland as a spy? Maybe a few, but you also need Holland roaming the back-end. Different looks will have to be used to keep Allen honest at least.
Q: I like Ahmed but we need more depth as Mostert could be out and Gaskin is on IR so will we add someone during the week? –On twitter
A: It would probably be as simple as elevating La’Mical Perine from the practice squad. Maybe another running back will be added to that practice squad on top of that, but it would be a lot, with the details of Mike McDaniel’s offense and the running game, to ask a running back who isn’t familiar with the offense to come off the street and contribute. a playoff game. Perine has been with the team at least since mid-October.
Q: Is the team excited to be in this position? Or is the malaise that ensued after the West Coast trip still in full effect? —On twitter
A: I would describe the team seen in the locker room Sunday after clinching a postseason berth as dissatisfied, one that feels this is the bottom line of its goals and now wants to make some noise in the postseason.
The players are fired up, but not overly celebratory, perhaps with a touch of relief, too, after a postseason berth that once seemed so guaranteed turned into a must-win scenario in Week 18 after five straight losses. .
They probably know that they face a difficult task, especially with the number of injuries they face, but they are competitors and they will do exactly that: compete.
Q: What will take this team to the top next season? —On twitter
A: Cheers, for one. You have a franchise quarterback who constantly has to waste time. The same goes for left tackle Terron Armstead, who is as solid as he is when he’s healthy, but you always know he won’t make it through a full season. Raheem Mostert, same thing. This defense has not had a 100 percent Xavien Howard. The team traded a first-round pick for Bradley Chubb, who has a history of injuries. The defense was without Byron Jones all year and lost fellow cornerback Nik Needham and safety Brandon Jones during the year, along with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah.
McDaniel would probably prefer to keep his offensive staff intact to give his system more time to flourish with extended continuity. The defensive end, led by coordinator Josh Boyer, has underperformed for the most part, along with the special teams. But after those two units spearheaded the effort to win an 11-6 game to reach the playoffs, if those areas are revamped for a competitive playoff run, it could change the offseason momentum that currently points to imminent changes. .
The Dolphins have to shore up the secondary. Byron Jones is likely to be dropped. Could Kader Kohou be counted on for continued development to be that starting cornerback? Is it as simple as getting Howard back into shape and getting Brandon Jones and Needham back? Inside linebacker will be a position to look for an upgrade. Offensively, the tight end room could be revamped; McDaniel can find a running back he likes in the draft, and the offensive line is still a work in progress after adding Armstead and center Connor Williams.
Q: When will the ping pong table burn down? I will personally pay for the kerosene that is needed. —On twitter
A: Let the record show, the Dolphins are now riding a six-game win streak without a ping-pong table in the locker room of the team’s practice facility and have lost seven in a row with a gift.
They started 3-2 with the former, and he was eliminated after two straight losses. Once it was over, they lost one more game, but started their five-win streak. A new chart surfaced Friday before the West Coast trip began. That’s when the five game losing streak came (ie 2+5 in the last seven with a ping pong table). That one went away this week, and Miami won again.
I have a question?