3TFO: Ravens @ Dolphins, Week 5
In a game between two teams that could be fighting for AFC Wild Card spots, Cole Schultz identifies three crucial matchups in this Ravens-Dolphins game.
3TFO: Ravens @ Dolphins, Week 5
Each fresh off a loss, the Ravens and the Dolphins will try to get back to their winning ways this Sunday. After a 21-point beatdown of the Texans just two weeks ago, Baltimore came out flat offensively against the Bills in a close road loss. Whether it was because they were behind early or due to a lack of success, the Ravens swiftly abandoned the run game in the second half, and it played out terribly, with Joe Flacco throwing five interceptions. All that could change with Eugene Monroe arriving from Jacksonville this week in arguably the biggest trade of the year. Luckily, much of the rest of the AFC North has been wallowing in mediocrity, and the Ravens still sit atop the division in a three-way tie.
Miami was given a dose of reality on primetime with a defeat at the hands of the much improved Saints. The defense was torched to the tune of 38 points, and Ryan Tannehill showed some cause for concern, grading negatively for the first time in eight games. Despite a 3-0 start, the Dolphins couldn’t keep the hot streak alive and have now fallen a game behind New England in the AFC East. After hosting the Ravens, the Dolphins will have a week to rest up before a couple of games against division rivals to really set the tone for the year. Here are a few matchups to look out for on Sunday.
Eugene Monroe vs. Dolphins Pass Rushers
With their injury concerns surrounding their best defensive player, the Dolphins may have to look for pressure from someone other than Cameron Wake this week. It would be a great time for third overall pick Dion Jordan to step up, and with Wake questionable to play, Jordan should get plenty of opportunity. When rushing from the defensive right this year, Jordan has a Pass Rushing Productivity of 14.2, just a shade below Wake’s 14.3 PRP. Jordan has been more of a pass rushing specialist for Miami though (81.3% of his snaps came on passing plays) with Olivier Vernon taking most of the snaps at defensive end opposite Wake. Vernon has been much less successful getting to the quarterback as he has a PRP of 7.7 when facing off against the opposing team’s left tackle.
When acquiring a player of Monroe’s talent level mid-week, it’s important to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. Monroe was our 15th-highest ranked tackle a season ago (out of 80), and had the sixth-highest grade in 2011. Baltimore will insert him in the place of Bryant McKinnie, who in spite of some decent enough pass blocking has been a major liability in the run game. Monroe is about as balanced a tackle you will find, grading positively as a run blocker every year while more than holding his own in pass protection. The only concern with Monroe is a rough start to 2013, as he’s allowed three or more pressures every game so far.
Torrey Smith vs. Brent Grimes and Co.
The lone bright spot on an underperforming unit, Torrey Smith has quietly had himself a good start to 2013. Tallying no less than 85 yards in every game this year, Smith has retained his reputation as a big-play threat with over 20 yards per catch. He’s proven once again to be one of Joe Flacco’s favorites, targeted on 25% of his aimed passes. On top of this, Smith has yet to drop one of the 20 passes that have come his way.
Miami has been far from shy about going after free agents recently, and one that has paid dividends already is former Falcon Brent Grimes. Lining up almost exclusively on the defensive left, Grimes wasted no time in showing that last year’s Achilles injury is a thing of the past. He’s our fifth-highest graded corner (both in coverage and otherwise) and has broken up nearly 30% of the 21 passes thrown his direction this year. Opposing quarterbacks have a dismal 62.2 QB rating when targeting the former undrafted free agent, and he’s yet to commit a penalty. With this in mind, Smith may see more time on the left side, where facing off against Nolan Carroll looks to be a far better matchup from the Ravens’ point of view.
Can Miami Hold Off the Edge Rushers?
Since letting Jake Long go this past offseason, Miami decided to stick to their guns in letting sophomore Jonathan Martin retain the position he obtained last year after Long found his way to injured reserve. Grading out at -22.0 a season ago, Dolphins fans were right to be worried about Tannehill’s protection going into the season. Although he’s allowed four sacks already this year, Martin has been adequate as a pass protector, surrendering just one additional hit and a respectable eight hurries. But where a free agent gamble on Grimes has been met with success, the outlook on fellow Atlanta transfer Tyson Clabo is less so. Clabo ties for 10th-worst for his Pass Blocking Efficiency and though he’s given up the same amount of sacks as Martin, he’s allowed more total pressure.
They’ll have their work cut out for them as Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil come to town. With identical Pass Rushing Productivity figures of 13.5, the duo comes in at fifth and sixth among 3-4 rush linebackers. They’ve already combined for six sacks and eight more hits to establish themselves as one of the best pass rushing pairs in the NFL. Should they find their way into the backfield on passing downs, Miami’s offense could struggle mightily. Tannehill has a QB rating of 34.7 when he sees pressure and has yet to throw a touchdown on the 55 snaps with rushers in his face.