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Dolphins vs Falcons: Three Key Matchups


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I don't think I've ever been so pumped to write a post than I am now. At long last, after focusing on who is running with what team in practice and debating such hot topics as the Dolphins 53rd man on the roster, we get to turn our attention to an actual game - and meaningful game. Finally!

Kicking off the festivities this week will be a look at my three key matchups for Sunday's battle between between the Dolphins and Falcons. And that's not all for this week. We still have our yearly season predictions post - which is always fun because of the debate it sparks - and an interview with the person who wrote Sports Illustrated's Dolphins preview. So be sure to check back all week long.

Onto the matchups:

Dolphins' Offensive Line vs Falcons' Defense Line

One of Atlanta's glaring weaknesses is their ability to stop the run. Last year the Falcons ranked at the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed per game and their 4.9 yards allowed per carry was the 4th most in the NFL. Yes, the Falcons addressed this by drafting DT Peria Jerry and signing OLB Mike Peterson. But they are far from sure things to improve Atlanta's front seven.

But what I wanted to bring up in particular was the sheer size advantage Miami's offensive line has over Atlanta's defensive line. The average weight of Miami's starting line is 315 pounds while Atlanta's defensive line averages just over 280 pounds. If you take it a step further, the Falcons three starting linebackers are all under 250 pounds, with strong side linebacker Stephen Nicholas tipping the scales at a paltry 232 pounds.

Bill Parcells and company are big believers in being big. Many claim they actually have size limits and will remove players off of their draft board if they don't meet their requirements. On Sunday, the Dolphins and their high-priced offensive line must flex their muscle and take advantage of their size and supposed strength (Jake Grove, Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas - I'm looking at you) and knock Atlanta's front line off the ball at the line of scrimmage. Ball control is a must in this game with Atlanta's talented offense. And running the football effectively is critical. But it won't matter how good our backs are if this line can't knock some defenders on their butts.

Star-divide

Roddy White vs Will Allen/Sean Smith

Very quietly last year, Roddy White quickly pushed himself into the elite category of wide receivers, catching 88 balls for 1,382 yards (4th in NFL). It was his second consecutive 80+ reception and 1,200+ yard season. But people tend to forget his name when discussing who the game's top receivers are. But they shouldn't. White was a guy who had immense talent coming out of UAB but was very raw. Now, though, he has polished his skills and uses his great physical gifts to dominate opposing defenses.

White's also Matt Ryan's go-to receiver. He was targeted 148 times last year - 67 more targets than any other player on the Falcons. In fact, only seven players in the entire league were thrown more balls than White. Roddy also ranked 7th in the league in yards per reception among receivers with at least 50 catches - averaging 15.7 yards per catch. And his 61 first downs ranked him 6th in the league. He's a guy who makes big plays at big moments.

How will the Dolphins defend him? That's a good question. From what we saw in the preseason, the Dolphins will probably stick to keeping Will Allen on the left side (from the defense's perspective) of the defense and Sean Smith on the right side. If that's the case, then the Falcons will be able to dictate who defends the play-making receiver. Regardless of what side he's on and who is covering him, though, I'd expect safety help will be there for most of the game over the top. Most teams roll coverages towards the offense's top receiver - and White is certainly deserving of it.

Dolphins' Receivers vs Falcons' Secondary

Did anyone happen to catch the preseason game last week between the Ravens and Falcons? I only ask because if you did, you got to see the Ravens offense march right down the field for a touchdown on their first possession against Atlanta's starting defense. What's so remarkable about this? It was John Beck leading Baltimore's 2nd and 3rd string offense. He was throwing to Demetrius Williams and Jayson Foster (yes - that Jayson Foster). Jalen Parmele (yes - that Jalen Parmele) was the featured running back for the drive. And the drive began at Baltimore's own 9 yard line.

John Beck led this group of backups and camp fodder on a 14 play, 91 yard touchdown drive against the starting Falcon defense - throwing for 50 yards and a touchdown on 5/5 passing. If that group of guys can do it, then why can't Chad Pennington and his group of receivers?

The fact of the matter is Atlanta's secondary isn't very good. Chris Houston isn't a bad starting corner. But Brent Grimes stinks. And their backups now are Brian Williams (signed last week) and Tye Hill (signed two weeks ago). While Hill is just another first-round bust they acquired from St. Louis, Williams is still a solid corner. But there's a reason he was cut. After all, Jack Del Rio and the Jaguars just don't release talented defensive players. He's not the corner he used to be. He spent much of last season at safety because, at 30 yars old, he isn't the athlete he once was. So to think he's Atlanta's answer to their secondary problems is a reach.

The bottom line here is that there is no reason for Ted Ginn, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo to struggle getting open and making plays. From an offensive standpoint, this is actually a good opening game because it should be a confidence booster - with "should" being the key word. And if the Dolphins do lose this game, it should definitely not be because of the offense. That would be unacceptable to me.

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Strange choice of matchups to highlight. I'd say Miami pass rush vs Matt Ryan. Its their LBs, which is why it'll be up to Ryan to read and react. An OL can only block so many people when the defense loads up on a blitz. Miami's front 7 vs. Michael Turner. If they have to bring extra men in the box, and back off the blitz, then our passing game should be wide open. And our CBs vs their WR. A complete breakdown like we saw in the last 2 preseason games would make it nearly impossible to pull out a win.

If we can overcome their pass rush, and avoid turning the ball over, I like our chances. Both teams can run it. Both QBs are accurate. Turnovers are gonna be key. Bonus matchup- our kick coverage vs Ted Ginn, he's scary fast and could be a pro bowl return man. But, we are excellent in punt coverage and Koenen is money.

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I don't think I've ever been so pumped to write a post than I am now. At long last, after focusing on who is running with what team in practice and debating such hot topics as the Dolphins 53rd man on the roster, we get to turn our attention to an actual game - and meaningful game. Finally!

Kicking off the festivities this week will be a look at my three key matchups for Sunday's battle between between the Dolphins and Falcons. And that's not all for this week. We still have our yearly season predictions post - which is always fun because of the debate it sparks - and an interview with the person who wrote Sports Illustrated's Dolphins preview. So be sure to check back all week long.

Onto the matchups:

Dolphins' Offensive Line vs Falcons' Defense Line

One of Atlanta's glaring weaknesses is their ability to stop the run. Last year the Falcons ranked at the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed per game and their 4.9 yards allowed per carry was the 4th most in the NFL. Yes, the Falcons addressed this by drafting DT Peria Jerry and signing OLB Mike Peterson. But they are far from sure things to improve Atlanta's front seven.

But what I wanted to bring up in particular was the sheer size advantage Miami's offensive line has over Atlanta's defensive line. The average weight of Miami's starting line is 315 pounds while Atlanta's defensive line averages just over 280 pounds. If you take it a step further, the Falcons three starting linebackers are all under 250 pounds, with strong side linebacker Stephen Nicholas tipping the scales at a paltry 232 pounds.

Bill Parcells and company are big believers in being big. Many claim they actually have size limits and will remove players off of their draft board if they don't meet their requirements. On Sunday, the Dolphins and their high-priced offensive line must flex their muscle and take advantage of their size and supposed strength (Jake Grove, Justin Smiley, Donald Thomas - I'm looking at you) and knock Atlanta's front line off the ball at the line of scrimmage. Ball control is a must in this game with Atlanta's talented offense. And running the football effectively is critical. But it won't matter how good our backs are if this line can't knock some defenders on their butts.

Star-divide

Roddy White vs Will Allen/Sean Smith

Very quietly last year, Roddy White quickly pushed himself into the elite category of wide receivers, catching 88 balls for 1,382 yards (4th in NFL). It was his second consecutive 80+ reception and 1,200+ yard season. But people tend to forget his name when discussing who the game's top receivers are. But they shouldn't. White was a guy who had immense talent coming out of UAB but was very raw. Now, though, he has polished his skills and uses his great physical gifts to dominate opposing defenses.

White's also Matt Ryan's go-to receiver. He was targeted 148 times last year - 67 more targets than any other player on the Falcons. In fact, only seven players in the entire league were thrown more balls than White. Roddy also ranked 7th in the league in yards per reception among receivers with at least 50 catches - averaging 15.7 yards per catch. And his 61 first downs ranked him 6th in the league. He's a guy who makes big plays at big moments.

How will the Dolphins defend him? That's a good question. From what we saw in the preseason, the Dolphins will probably stick to keeping Will Allen on the left side (from the defense's perspective) of the defense and Sean Smith on the right side. If that's the case, then the Falcons will be able to dictate who defends the play-making receiver. Regardless of what side he's on and who is covering him, though, I'd expect safety help will be there for most of the game over the top. Most teams roll coverages towards the offense's top receiver - and White is certainly deserving of it.

Dolphins' Receivers vs Falcons' Secondary

Did anyone happen to catch the preseason game last week between the Ravens and Falcons? I only ask because if you did, you got to see the Ravens offense march right down the field for a touchdown on their first possession against Atlanta's starting defense. What's so remarkable about this? It was John Beck leading Baltimore's 2nd and 3rd string offense. He was throwing to Demetrius Williams and Jayson Foster (yes - that Jayson Foster). Jalen Parmele (yes - that Jalen Parmele) was the featured running back for the drive. And the drive began at Baltimore's own 9 yard line.

John Beck led this group of backups and camp fodder on a 14 play, 91 yard touchdown drive against the starting Falcon defense - throwing for 50 yards and a touchdown on 5/5 passing. If that group of guys can do it, then why can't Chad Pennington and his group of receivers?

The fact of the matter is Atlanta's secondary isn't very good. Chris Houston isn't a bad starting corner. But Brent Grimes stinks. And their backups now are Brian Williams (signed last week) and Tye Hill (signed two weeks ago). While Hill is just another first-round bust they acquired from St. Louis, Williams is still a solid corner. But there's a reason he was cut. After all, Jack Del Rio and the Jaguars just don't release talented defensive players. He's not the corner he used to be. He spent much of last season at safety because, at 30 yars old, he isn't the athlete he once was. So to think he's Atlanta's answer to their secondary problems is a reach.

The bottom line here is that there is no reason for Ted Ginn, Davone Bess, and Greg Camarillo to struggle getting open and making plays. From an offensive standpoint, this is actually a good opening game because it should be a confidence booster - with "should" being the key word. And if the Dolphins do lose this game, it should definitely not be because of the offense. That would be unacceptable to me.

Noticed how he avoided talking about their defense?

One other thing this guy obviously has no clue about: Jack Del Rio. Doesn't get rid of talented defensive players?

Mike Peterson

Marcus Stroud

Brian Williams

Almost ran John Henderson out of town

Probably missing a few.

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Good post. Thanks for being constructive.

Couple things I want to point out . . .

I'm pumped too. Good match-up this week.

Dolphins OL -- Bigger = Better? Nah. It's about technique. Phins allowed around 24 sacks last season while Falcs let only around 17 through. I know what you're going to say, but we got our first-rounder back and healthy for the Phins game.

Ball control is a must in all of our games. We have to be able to run, and we have to let our defense have as much time off the field as possible as well as let them play from ahead.

I like what you're saying about Roddy, but you skipped over Gonzo and MJenkins. Booker has been looking good too but let's stick to who's proven. Gonzo -- possibly the best TE ever to play the game, not going to debate on that, but suffice to respect he played in the Pro Bowl. Roddy had ~15 YPC, but so did Jenkins, that's no small feat. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, our #2 WR had a higher YPC than any of the Phins' WRs, which brings me to my next point...

Don't read TOO much into preseason. We wanted to expose our weakness, and by we I mean Mike Smith and BVG -- and thank god we did. It's our CBs. Our run defense looks great, we whooped *** on 1st and 2nd down consistently, then got whooped on 3rd and long. While we picked up two CBs who should help later in the year, they're not going to make a difference in the Miami game. Let's face it though, Pennington, as accurate as he is, isn't a deep-ball guy. Hopefully we can keep everything in front of us and I think we'll be fine. By the way, unless Houston's performance was because of a lingering hamstring injury, I'm thinking Grimes showed up to be the more reliable CB, but I digress (definitely don't want to get into that argument!)

I'm thinking if we let our D play from ahead, show up on at least a few 3rd downs, and can keep the wildcat in check, we'll end up with a win at home, and, like you said, a good confidence boost.

Look for a high-scoring game and possibly for the outcome to be decided by a big play or a field goal. May the best team win!

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Strange choice of matchups to highlight. I'd say Miami pass rush vs Matt Ryan. Its their LBs, which is why it'll be up to Ryan to read and react. An OL can only block so many people when the defense loads up on a blitz. Miami's front 7 vs. Michael Turner. If they have to bring extra men in the box, and back off the blitz, then our passing game should be wide open. And our CBs vs their WR. A complete breakdown like we saw in the last 2 preseason games would make it nearly impossible to pull out a win.

If we can overcome their pass rush, and avoid turning the ball over, I like our chances. Both teams can run it. Both QBs are accurate. Turnovers are gonna be key. Bonus matchup- our kick coverage vs Ted Ginn, he's scary fast and could be a pro bowl return man. But, we are excellent in punt coverage and Koenen is money.

That where Gonzales will be the difference in this game. The blitz packages will allow him to get free on short slants and then make the rest of the yrdage up by overpowering safety's and CB's.

Miami is my favorite AFC team(I was born there and lived there for many years) but, I am a Falcon Fan first! Set, match, game!

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Don't read TOO much into preseason. We wanted to expose our weakness, and by we I mean Mike Smith and BVG -- and thank god we did. It's our CBs. Our run defense looks great, we whooped *** on 1st and 2nd down consistently, then got whooped on 3rd and long. While we picked up two CBs who should help later in the year, they're not going to make a difference in the Miami game. Let's face it though, Pennington, as accurate as he is, isn't a deep-ball guy. Hopefully we can keep everything in front of us and I think we'll be fine. By the way, unless Houston's performance was because of a lingering hamstring injury, I'm thinking Grimes showed up to be the more reliable CB, but I digress (definitely don't want to get into that argument!)

Agree about Grimes looking better than Houston. But according to a radio intv Coleman gave the other day, we were playing our real defensive packages and playcalls vs SD, not trying to expose our secondary as a test. That is a theory fans are desperately clinging to. The intv summary is somewhere on these boards.

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I liked his post. What's wrong with you guys? You want him to bow to us or something? At least he's not coming in here all high-and-mighty...

Sorry, but it's a half a$$ attempt to fill space on his blog. That kind of stuff get's blown up all the time. It's a message board, most of us are one or two shock treatments removed from being safe for society on a good day. Bad articles and usless fluff are just blood in the water.

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