The Miami Dolphins have been at the center of a lot of NFL drama this season. From trading for Tyreek Hill to illegally tampering in pursuit of Tom Brady to botched concussion protocols, the Dolphins have had a lot to deal with both off and on the field.
They’re still a highly competitive team, though. The Miami has a 3-2 record, with a 12th-ranked scoring offense and the fifth-most passing yards in the league.
Here are three of the team’s strengths the Minnesota Vikings have to look out for in Week 6.
All told, the Dolphins have one of the fastest offenses in the league. It is headlined by Hill, nicknamed Cheetah for his ability to take the top off of coverage and run circles around defenders.
However, the rest of the team is also pretty fast. Skill-position players include wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who ran an unofficial 4.37 40, and running back Raheem Mostert, who has taken control of the backfield and ran a 4.32 himself. Mike Gesicki was the fastest tight end in his draft class, and even this week’s starting quarterback, Skylar Thompson, ran a respectable 4.91 at the combine.
Miami’s speed poses a huge problem for any defense but may be particularly difficult for the Vikings to contain. Many of Minnesota’s defenders are older and relatively much less athletic, and players such as Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith might end up being outrun by Dolphins all game. Additionally, linebacker Jordan Hicks has struggled to cover the flat at times, with the checkdown receiver often beating him to the spot, resulting in an easy first down.
Still, Minnesota’s defensive scheme does have assets that should help reduce the speed gap. For one, the Vikings infamously play two deep safeties on almost every snap. That means the Dolphins should struggle to take deep shots, regardless of how fast their players are.
With two defenders waiting 20 yards downfield on every play, Thompson should be incentivized to take shorter routes more often. While speed can still be useful on shallower passes, it’s always preferable for a player to catch the ball in front of the defense instead of behind it. If the Vikings want to hide Hicks more in coverage, they can line him up farther outside the formation, as they did in Week 1 against the Packers. Or they can give third-round rookie Brian Asamoah a chance, as his strengths are his burst and athleticism in the open field.
The Dolphins’ run defense has been one of their bright spots this year. While they are only 13th in yards allowed and have given up seven touchdowns on the ground, the counting stats do not tell the whole story. Many yards and scores the team has allowed have been given up to running quarterbacks.
In Week 2, Lamar Jackson ran for 119 and a touchdown against the ‘Fins, and Josh Allen tacked on another 47 yards the following week. Kirk Cousins is a pure pocket passer, and approaching 50 yards rushing is completely out of the question for him.
If you replace the average rushing yards that QBs get against the Dolphins with Cousins’ average rushing yards per game, Miami would leap up to the third-ranked rushing defense. That’s a long way to say that the Dolphins are elite against running backs and traditional run plays. Cook had a bounce-back game against the Bears but could struggle to get something going this week.
Another deceptive part of the Dolphins’ defense is their pass rush. Though they have a below-average nine sacks on the season, the pressure has been getting to opposing quarterbacks very effectively.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Dolphins are second in the NFL in pressures and pressure percentage as a team, all while blitzing the third least in the NFL. Opposing QBs have an average of 2.4 seconds in the pocket before they are under pressure.
The Vikings O-line has improved a lot this season, but one of the knocks on Cousins is his performance under pressure. It could spell trouble for Minnesota’s offense if the Dolphins can get home with only four rushers. The Vikings might consider moving Cousins out of the pocket on designed rollouts or design pass concepts to quickly get the ball out of his hands to keep him out of pressure.