3TFO: Dolphins @ Colts, Week 2
This should be an exciting AFC matchup between 1-0 teams and second-year quarterbacks as the Colts host the Dolphins. A week ago the Colts barely escaped the Raiders with a victory in what was an unexpectedly close game. After taking a 14-0 lead early, Indianapolis appeared to be running away with it, but the Raiders clawed back and eventually took the lead before surrendering the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
On the other side, Miami, on the back of three interceptions, defeated the Browns in Cleveland in a slightly more competitive contest than the final score of 23-10 suggests. Here’s what we’ll be watching for when they go on the road again as they try to improve to 2-0, and keep the Colts from doing so.
Containing Luck in the Pocket
One really underrated aspect of Andrew Luck’s game is his mobility; he’s one of the league’s best run threats at the position, despite not often getting mentioned among players such as Vick, Griffin, and Kaepernick. The Raiders found out just how dangerous Luck can be when he leaves the pocket: up three points late in the fourth quarter, the Oakland defense had the Colts in a third down situation. Facing a five-wide receiver set, Oakland elected to send just four rushers and drop seven into coverage – all but the deep safety in man coverage. However, they failed to account for Luck’s rushing ability and with the entire secondary’s back turned to him, he burst up the middle for the back-breaking, go-ahead touchdown.
Luck doesn’t leave the pocket much – he had just 37 designed runs or scrambles last season – but Miami will still have to account for him. It will be up to Cameron Wake and crew to get pressure while containing Luck in the pocket and not over pursuing. And when the Dolphins do get to him, they’ll have to wrap up – something the Raiders didn’t do at 13:12 of the third quarter, when Luck broke free of what would have been a drive-ending sack and scrambled for a first down.
Dolphins Pass Protection
In his rookie season, Ryan Tannehill was one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks under pressure – his 72.9% Accuracy percentage ranked second in the league and he graded at +4.6 on those plays. However, he had a noticeable drop off against pressure in preseason, a trend that continued into Week 1 – his 33% Accuracy Percentage on 15 drop-backs under pressure ranked last in the league. And with an offensive line that’s struggled after the departure of Jake Long, Tannehill will be likely be seeing a lot more pressure going forward. The Miami offensive line gave up 16 total pressures in 43 Week 1 passing plays, giving them a 23rd-ranked 69.8 Pass Blocking Efficiency rating, though their quarterback took, on average, 2.6 seconds to throw, which was middle of the pack.
A lot of discussion has centered around Jonathan Martin this offseason, and he wasn’t spectacular against Cleveland with six allowed QB disruptions. However, Tyson Clabo was arguably the bigger problem at right tackle – he allowed three pressures and a sack, showing weakness against the bull rush. RB Lamar Miller also allowed a hit and hurry on seven snaps in pass protection, so watch out for Colt blitzes when he’s in the game.
As far as the Colts go, they don’t have an especially talented front on paper, though they did pressure Terrell Pryor on more than 40% of his drop-backs. With Dwight Freeney gone, their most productive player is Robert Mathis, who last season lined up most often on the defensive left side, both in two- and three-point stances. Against the Raiders he lined up on the right side on over 80% of his snaps. If that trend holds, he should see more of Martin. On the other side, neither Erik Walden nor rookie Bjoern Werner did much against Oakland, with just two pressures in 27 combined pass rushes, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against Miami’s struggling tackles. One player to watch out for is Fili Moala who picked up two hurries in just seven pass rushes on the interior.
On the surface, Miami’s big offseason acquisition at receiver had a tough day against the Browns. The Dolphins targeted Mike Wallace five times – none of them in the first half – with only one pass finding its mark for a 15-yard gain. Wallace didn’t get much help from his quarterback as three of the incompletions resulted from poorly thrown balls by Tannehill, though the receiver also had a miscue of his own with a tough drop on a fourth-quarter out. As underwhelming as his stats look, though, it doesn’t mean that Wallace didn’t have a tremendous impact on the game. The Browns were forced to honor his deep speed, covering him with top CB Joe Haden and often shading a safety to his side of the field, which consequently opened up passing lanes underneath – something the Dolphins took full advantage of. The main beneficiary was the trio of Bryan Hartline, Brandon Gibson, and Charles Clay, who combined for 21 catches and 245 yards on 30 targets – more than enough to vanquish the Browns.
They’ll probably need to do more to keep up with a formidable Colts offense this week. And with Wallace reportedly disgruntled after his single catch performance, Tannehill might be looking his way more often. As 52 of his 61 Week 1 snaps came at the right wide receiver spot, he’ll likely spend most of the game be against at Greg Toler in coverage. Toler (+1.2) played well a week ago, surrendering just four catches for 34 yards while coming away with an interception and pass defense. It’s the deep ball that he’ll have to worry about with Wallace, whose Week 1 average depth of target was 32 yards downfield. Toler only defended passes on average 18 yards from the LOS, though he did shut out Oakland on the two deep routes he saw.
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