CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Wide Receiver Josh Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown pass over cornerback Sean Smith #24 of the Miami Dolphins during the second quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
In the last two weeks, the Buffalo Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick have struggled to throw the football effectively against defenses that employ talented secondaries that excel in man coverage. This week, against the Miami Dolphins, they're playing a secondary that has struggled in 2011, according to Kevin Nogle of ThePhinsider.com.
"The secondary is a mess," says Nogle. "Vontae Davis has been struggling all season with a hamstring injury, finally appearing healthy last week. The safety positions have been plagued by injuries as well. Yeremiah Bell is a stalwart in the back, but is starting to show his age. The free safety position started off as Reshad Jones' spot, with last year's starter Chris Clemons out with injury. Clemons came back healthy last week, but only served on the special teams. Meanwhile, Jones was injured, and second string strong safety Tyrone Culver moved over to free safety, and has actually played pretty well."
Nogle also points out, however, that Miami's secondary is far better playing man than zone.
"If the Dolphins go to a zone defense, Fitzpatrick will pick them apart," writes Nogle. "I don't know what the deal is with a zone coverage, but the Dolphins cannot seem to stop a pass in a zone. Man-to-man, they cover well. Zone, the secondary may as well not even be out there. Hopefully defensive coordinator Mike Nolan realizes this early, and doesn't let Fitzpatrick see much zone."
Considering what the Bills have put on film versus man coverage in the last two weeks, it's highly likely that Nolan will scrap most zone defenses in favor of playing the Bills straight up this week. That could be problematic, especially when considering their Cameron Wake-fueled pass rush, which ranks in the Top 10 in the league in total sacks.
Buffalo could have an easier time moving the football and scoring points this week given the banged-up nature of Miami's secondary. For a third straight week, however, they're facing a defenses whose strengths have proven can slow down a once-potent Bills offense.