How the Miami Dolphins Can Overcome St. Louis Rams Pass Rush
After facing the fearsome pass-rushers of the Houston Texans, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals in four of their first five games, the Miami Dolphins once again must face a fearsome pass-rushing team in the St. Louis Rams.
Currently the Rams are tied with Miami for seventh in the league in sacks with 15. On top of that they're responsible for 25 tipped passes, which we all know has been a problem this year for Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
What does St. Louis do on defense to get so much pressure, and how can Miami stop them?
The Rams aren't afraid to rush five linemen at you.
You read that correctly, five.
Here's a look at a play from last Thursday's Rams game against the Cardinals—a play in which St. Louis rushed five linemen, freeing up linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar (who's highlighted).
Once the ball was snapped, each of St. Louis' five rushers were picked up by an Arizona offensive lineman. However, as you can see here, Dunbar exploits a gaping hole in the middle of the line and sacks Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb for a five-yard loss, backing Arizona up to its own eight-yard line.
But putting five men on the line isn't the only way the Rams got to Kolb. Here's a more conventional look.
On this snap, we see a more typical four-man defensive line alignment, similar to what the Dolphins use. However, due to so much attention being paid to St. Louis' edge-rushers (among the best in the league), Chris Long is able to waltz right into the pocket and get Kevin Kolb.
St. Louis finished with a franchise-record nine sacks against Arizona, and here's a highlight reel featuring every single one of them.
Notice the variety of looks of the Rams defense gives from play to play—quite a challenge for any offensive line to face.
However, the Dolphins do have some experience against teams that rush the quarterback and have shown an ability to handle pressure.
Ryan Tannehill did very well against a similar pass-rushing team in Week 4 against the Cardinals. According to ESPN Stats Inc. (via Palm Beach Post):
Ryan Tannehill faced extra pressure on 25 of his 44 dropbacks, and completed 16-of-22 passes for 306 yards, a touchdown and an interception against at least five pass rushers. Tannehill’s 306 passing yards against at least five pass rushers is the highest single-game total by anyone since the start of the 2008 season.
More impressive for Tannehill is who it came against–entering Sunday, the Cardinals’ defense led the league with a 34.1 completion percentage and 3.6 yards per attempt allowed when sending at least five pass rushers.
Here's a good example of where Tannehill not only faced a five-man rush, but all five men were blitzing.
Does that play look familiar? Here's the result of that play.
Throwing off play-action is one of Tannehill's best attributes (along with throwing on the run). Both of these skills also explain why Tannehill has performed so well against the blitz.
It will be something that Miami will have to continue to do in order to go into its bye week 3-3. The Rams offense isn't anywhere near as prolific (especially with its main threat at wide receiver, Danny Amendola, out with a fractured clavicle, per ESPN) as others they've faced, so if Miami can put points on the board and avoid turnovers caused by St. Louis' pass rush, they should come away with the victory.
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