Dissecting Best Individual Matchups to Watch in Miami Dolphins' Week 3 Action
The Falcons are coming in at 1-1 and looking to stay close to the New Orleans Saints, who already defeated them in Week 1. Miami is 2-0 for the first time since 2010 and looks to remain atop the AFC East.
This matchup also features some key individual battles that will shape the complexion of the game. Whichever team comes out on top of the majority of these battles will likely leave Sun Life Stadium with a victory.
Here's a look at the most intriguing battles of Sunday's Falcons vs. Dolphins tilt.
Dolphins WR Mike Wallace vs. Falcons CB Asante Samuel
Wallace was bottled up in Week 1 when paired up against Browns corner Joe Haden, but the following week against Indianapolis, he was paired up against Vontae Davis and exploded for a nine-catch, 115-yard, one-touchdown afternoon.
Can he do the same thing against Asante Samuel? Well that depends on if Wallace will even face off against Samuel. Samuel aggravated a thigh injury against the Rams in Week 2 and missed the majority of the game. Falcons coach Mike Smith said that he hopes that Samuel will be available against the Dolphins, but thus far he has missed the last two days of practice to treat said injury, per The Washington Post.
If Wallace doesn't face Samuel, he will be paired up with one of two rookie corners selected by the Falcons in the draft: Desmond Trufant or Robert Alford.
Either one of those players would be the best-case scenario for Wallace, but Trufant would be the ideal matchup for him. In his first two games, Trufant has struggled against the Saints and Rams, while Alford has had his struggles too, but he has thus far been the more effective player per Pro Football Focus (who has Alford as the front-runner for its rookie of the year award).
The Falcons' overall inexperience, however, will help the Dolphins receivers, not just Wallace. Nevertheless, his matchup will set the overall tone of the game for each of Miami's receivers.
Dolphins RT Tyson Clabo vs. Falcons DE Jonathan Massaquoi
Tyson Clabo has been atrocious this season on the right side of the offensive line.
Yes, it's easy to pick on the Dolphins offensive line, but don't pick on the left side as Jonathan Martin has shown great improvement, while Richie Incognito and Mike Pouncey have slowly come back to being their normal selves.
But Clabo is doing everything he can to show us why the Atlanta Falcons released him during the offseason.
Originally, he was slated to go against Kroy Biermann in this contest, but Biermann tore his Achilles tendon in Week 2 vs. St. Louis, thus necessitating the next man up to show up for the Falcons.
That next man up will be Jonathan Massaquoi, a second-year player who can play the same role that Biermann played in Atlanta's 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense (which you will recall was the same role Cameron Wake played when Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan held the same position with Miami).
Massaquoi is in his second year in the NFL but is already fairly green and not as athletic as Biermann. For Clabo, it should be his his least challenging assignment of the first three weeks of the season, but then again, I didn't expect Robert Mathis to dominate him the way he did on Sunday.
Dolphins DE Cameron Wake vs. Falcons RT Lamar Holmes
Replacing Clabo at right tackle for the Falcons is second-year player Lamar Holmes.
Holmes won the starting job at right tackle due partly to an injury suffered to Mike Johnson during training camp and has actually been a downgrade in comparison with Tyson Clabo.
That's exactly whom you want facing off with Cameron Wake, right?
Now here's where Holmes might be somewhat lucky: Wake will get double-teams from the Falcons front line, which is to be expected.
But with Miami's pass rush looking great in the first two games, it might not be enough, especially since it did pressure Andrew Luck, but he was able to escape.
Matt Ryan, as athletic as he is, isn't quite the escape artist that Luck is.
Getting pressure on Ryan will be the Dolphins' main key to victory on Sunday's game. If Wake is able to blow up the Falcons backfield, Miami will have a great shot at shutting down Atlanta's high octane offense.
If the Dolphins can do that, they will come out victorious.
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