Miami Dolphins: 4 Things the Fins Must Do to Beat the Colts
It was a nice win and a great way to start the season, but now we're mere days away from Miami's Week 2 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The two teams met last season in what turned out to be a duel between each team's respective rookie gunslinger. Andrew Luck and the Colts came out on top, 23-20.
The Dolphins overall did enough to beat a better than expected, yet still inferior Cleveland team, but make no mistake: The Dolphins will not beat the Colts with the same performance they had last Sunday. While Tannehill mostly looked excellent and the defense was terrifyingly relentless, other aspects of Miami's game were pitiful.
Additionally, the Colts present an entirely new slate of challenges for a Dolphins team that could still be finding itself.
However, this is still a very winnable game for Miami. They have the talent to match up against the Colts, but the execution must follow through. With that in mind, here are four things the Dolphins must do to beat the Colts in Week 2.
Run, Run, Run
Much of the talk surrounding Lamar Miller this offseason focused on his ability to become a top-class running back for the Dolphins in 2013. His Week 1 performance didn't exactly go a long way towards living up to that billing.
He rushed 10 times for three yards. That's an average of 0.3 yards per carry. The dangerous speedster's longest run went for five yards. Indeed, the Dolphins as a whole ran the ball poorly, finishing with 20 yards on 23 carries.
Let's be real. This awful game doesn't mean Miller is a failure. It doesn't mean he isn't ready to start. And it doesn't mean he won't have a big year. But if he's going to improve, he must start this Sunday in Indianapolis.
He's got a good chance, too. The Colts broke even at 0.0 last Sunday according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). However, that still put them in the bottom half of the league. They also allowed 171 yards against the Raiders, putting them at 31st in the NFL.
Not all of the blame rests with Miller, of course. Miami's offensive line was horrible in run-blocking, with every single player grading negatively at Pro Football Focus. However, they face a defensive line that isn't quite as beefy as Cleveland's, so they should have greater success.
The Colts' offense is better than the Browns', and while this isn't an indictment of Ryan Tannehill's abilities, the Dolphins could struggle if he has to do it all again. Getting Miller and backup Daniel Thomas going early and often will be a massive boon to the Fins' offense.
Play a Cleaner Game
Against a weaker team, you can afford to be penalized often and still win. The Dolphins proved that by overcoming their mistakes to still hand Cleveland a loss; however, against a better team like Indy, 10 penalties could sink the Fins.
Among the penalized players are Charles Clay (2), Richie Incognito (1), Mike Wallace (1), Dimitri Patterson (1) and Dannell Ellerbe (1). Even first-round pick Dion Jordan was flagged for a facemask, wiping away what would have been his first career sack.
Comparatively, the Colts committed just three penalties in Week 1. The Dolphins aren't overmatched by the Colts, so they don't have to be perfect to win. That said, they must be better than 10 penalties.
Get Mike Wallace in the Game
By now, you've heard all about the NFL's prize free agent's discontent with his usage in Week 1. Mike Wallace refused to talk to reporters following the Dolphins' win, telling Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald to "Ask coach" about the game plan.
While his behavior raised questions about whether or not Wallace cared more about his personal stats than the performance of the overall team, the receiver has since clarified his anger and is ready to move on, according to Dan Hanzus of NFL.com.
That's good news for Miami. Now, the Fins must do a better job of getting the ball in Wallace's hands in Week 2. There are plenty of plausible reasons why Wallace only had five targets and one catch against Cleveland.
You could argue he was used as a decoy. You could argue the Dolphins intentionally went away from corner Joe Haden, a supremely talented defender. You could argue Wallace simply rarely got open.
Whatever the reasoning, Miami needs to find a way to get Wallace the football on Sunday. He's too dangerous of a weapon to ignore, and while defenses know this and will adjust accordingly, Miami has to attack.
Furthermore, Indianapolis doesn't present the most dangerous of secondaries. It's good, to be sure, but they lack a No. 1 corner with the same abilities as Haden. According to Pro Football Focus, former Dolphin Vontae Davis gave up 9.8 yards per catch against the Raiders in Week 1. Just a reminder: Wallace is better than Oakland's No. 1 receiver.
Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson proved in Week 1 that silencing Wallace does not silence Miami's passing game. But Wallace is this team's true big-play threat. The Dolphins will need their fair share of big plays against the Colts.
Exercise Caution When Blitzing
The Dolphins enter 2013 with a truly deadly pass rush. Led by All-Pro Cameron Wake and supplemented by Olivier Vernon, Derrick Shelby, Dion Jordan and linebackers Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, Miami will be an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks in 2013.
They already terrorized Brandon Weeden in Week 1, sacking the second-year quarterback six times and knocking him down plenty more. However, as fellow Dolphins writer Chris Kouffman points out, Indy's Andrew Luck is sublime when pressured.
According to Pro Football Focus, Luck's passer rating against Oakland was an astonishing 135.7 when under pressure. When the Raiders blitzed Luck, his rating was still remarkable at 130.2.
Luck is not untouchable, though. Oakland still wrestled him down four times, prompting Colts owner Jim Irsay to demand better protection of the team's prize quarterback (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com).
The Dolphins will still need a big game out of their pass-rushing specialists, especially Wake. Rookie Dion Jordan is certainly predicting good things against Luck and the Colts, claiming he intends to continue his personal winning streak against the quarterback that began in college (via Marc Sessler of NFL.com).
But Miami could also benefit from taking its foot off the gas pedal occasionally against Indy. Luck is superb at getting the ball out quickly, and Miami's secondary will be tested by superior competition than what it faced in Week 1.
The Dolphins need to get after Luck, but they must also respect his ability to overcome pressure.