Miami Dolphins (4-4) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-8)
We all know that the Miami Dolphins offensive line has been suspect from the beginning of the season. It has allowed a league high of 35 sacks on second year QB Ryan Tannehill. With the loss of Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin the line leaves even more question marks as it heads off to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. The one bright spot for the Dolphins in this up coming Monday Night match is that the Dolphins defense is still a force that has gotten better with each game. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 9 it managed 3 interceptions on Andy Dalton and a game winning safety in overtime by DE Cameron Wake.
The offensive line, although weakened, still managed to give Ryan Tannehill good enough protection to get him to a 92.6% Rating against a stout Cincinnati defensive front. This same defense held some of the elite QB’s in the league to 64.5% (Aaron Rodgers), 52.2% (Tom Brady) but the Dolphins offense held strong and it should do so once again this Monday night.
Coach Greg Schiano’s of the Buccaneers runs a base 4-3 “over” system defense and focus on being as aggressive as possible. Having the 4-3 “over” as the base scheme with a one-gap system up front means they will try to force the Dolphins to adapt to the Buccaneers “bull rush”. While it sounds simple enough, there is more to it than just the front four charging through a hole. The 4-3 “over” will focus on the linemen being aggressive instead of reacting making the linebackers the second line of defense while the front four focus on pressure. What this means for the Miami Dolphins is yards after catch. The Dolphins will come out with the running game as they have done in the last two games and gain yardage. The “Sweep” will be the go to play for the Dolphins from the get-go as the Tampa Defense will be coming up through the middle of the tackle box and the offense will pull to open up the lane. Schiano will undoubtedly switch up his defensive alignments to try to confuse the Dolphins offense by having his DE drop into coverage to prevent sweeps on the outside. But with that comes some risk especially with Tannehills favorite target, Brian Hartline, running horizontal break routes 6-10 yards up field. The play action here will be key and we have seen the Dolphins starting to rely on it more and more.
Another facet of Schiano’s 4-3 “over” scheme is that with the use of the short safety and defensive ends meaning the burden ultimately falls on the corner backs and their ability to at times play cover zero. Cover 0 is an aggressive scheme that allows for numerous blitz packages, as it’s easier for players to drop off their coverage and rush the quarterback. The big disadvantage to this scheme is that it requires perfection from both corners when playing man-to-man (Reason for Tampa going after Revis) and that there is no “help over the top”—if a wide receiver beats his defender, there is no one left in the secondary who can make up the coverage on the receiver, which could result in an easy pass completion and possible touchdown. Mike Wallace will be covered by Revis and if there is one thing Revis likes its man-to-man, but thanks to Schiano’s love for attack, Revis will be playing a lot of zone in this one meaning Wallace will get some break aways. Now i don’t expect Wallace to have a big game as the offensive line will most likely not give Tannehill all the time he would need to let the long play develop but it will still be a headache for Tampa’s defense to contend with. Rookie Jonathan Banks will be on the other side covering Hartline and that will prove to be a troublesome match-up for Tampa even in man-to-man coverage. Hartline averages 12.6 yards a catch with 3.2 yards after catch and against this Tampa defense that will equate to first downs so look for the Dolphins 3rd down conversion rate to go up in this game.
The two Dolphins players that will get the most benefit of this 4-3 “over” scheme of Tampa will be Rishard Matthews and Charles Clay. When facing a 4-3 scheme, Matthews has managed 10 receptions on 16 targets for 117 yards while Clay has amassed 20 receptions on 26 targets for 202 yards. You can bet that Tampa’s main concern will be on stopping the run and keeping Wallace and Hartline to minimal catches and with Schiano’s brute force attack Clay and Matthews will be in prime position for taking the ball on cross over horizontal routes and quick dump offs.
The Buccaneers defense is ranked as 17th in the NFL allowing the second most passing yards and total yards handing over and average of 5.5 yards per play. This couldn’t fit better with the Miami Dolphins offensive style as they like to spread the ball around. Darrelle Revis is no longer an island onto himself, a rookie corner against a seasoned veteran and the ability of Tannehill to throw on the run will almost certainly guarantee a win for the Dolphins this Monday Night.
Dolphins – 31
Buccaneers – 10