On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills return to the field after their bye week to host the Miami Dolphins who are still searching for their first win. To preview this AFC East match up we talked to our good friend Kevin Nogle from SBNation’s The Phinsider to get the inside scoop on what’s happening down there in Miami.
1) What’s been the deal with Brian Flores? Are fans buying into what he’s trying to accomplish?
Flores has been a solid coach trying to learn how to be a head coach. He is still learning, and the team is showing some of the issues - especially a lack of ability to make adjustments at halftime thus far - but overall it has been a solid start to his tenure. He is a huge believer in conditioning and in discipline, and we are seeing the results as the Dolphins, who were penalized heavily during games under Adam Gase, are third in the league right now with just 5.8 flags per game. Just for comparison, the Bills are 28th at 8.4 flags a game. Something has worked to clean up that part of the game for Miami.
I think fans are giving Flores the benefit of the doubt right now. They see that the front office dismantled this team, so it is hard to say his coaching is an issue. There are some out there that speculate he could be fired after one year, but it does not seem that is an actual possibility. Reports out of the owners meeting in Florida said Flores is locked in for 2020, and I do not see any reason to think he would not be here as this tear down starts to turn into a rebuild.
2) Can Josh Rosen be the guy if players are put around him or do you think the team is already looking at a top QB in the draft next year?
I think Rosen would have to show a lot over the rest of the year for Miami to not think quarterback in the Draft, and I think that was true even when they traded for him. He was a flyer the team took at a relatively cheap cost to see if they could get a spark out of him. The Dolphins could consider keeping him next year as the backup behind a rookie, though it feels more like Ryan Fitzpatrick fits that role better. I think they always planned to draft a quarterback, unless Rosen turned into 1984 Dan Marino.
3) Can the struggles of this team be pinpointed to one thing or is it just all-around bad?
The Dolphins blew up the team this year, and there is no denying that. After years of throwing Band-Aids at the roster, with players like Ndamukong Suh brought in to solve everything, they finally have hit the reset button. It was needed, and it will help the team in the future, though it definitely makes this a rough season. The Dolphins are purposely trying to get younger - they are the youngest team in the league this season after being the 26th-youngest last year - and they want to build a team that can grow into their prime together. There were some surprises like the trades of Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but overall, they seem to be trying to use this year to evaluate who will be the core of the team moving forward, with 12 draft picks and $115 million in cap space next year to quickly move back to respectability.
4) Will Fitzpatrick put up a fight against Buffalo on Sunday? The team seems to somehow rally around him.
The first two weeks of the season, the Dolphins’ offense could not find a rhythm, which is why the Dolphins moved from Fitzpatrick to Rosen. Against Washington this past weekend, that was clearly not the case and the team sparked when Fitzpatrick came in during the fourth quarter. Miami had not scored a point in the second half of a game this season before the 13 points with Fitzpatrick. I think he provides a solid leadership in the huddle, and he wants to win. This whole team wants to win. The “tanking” talk is clearly a media and fan discussion, but in the locker room, the players and coaches are frustrated because they want to win. So, I would expect them to fight, even if it is an unfair fight at this point when you compare the Bills to the Dolphins.
5) What is your prediction for the game?
Miami has to find a way to stop Frank Gore and Josh Allen’s legs. I know he is not running as much this year, but Allen torched Miami last year with that ability. Meanwhile, Miami’s offensive line, which could be on to lineup six in game six, has to find a way to protect Fitzpatrick and open up running lanes for Kenyan Drake, Mark Walton, and Kalen Ballage, which, to understate it, will be tough against the Bills. I think Miami could find a way to keep this close, but I think it is probably something around 34-17 Buffalo.