The Miami Dolphins host the Buffalo Bills this week in a game where one of the two teams is in first place, and the other is in search of its first win. If you’d ask most Bills fans, you’d have assumed that the roles would be reversed as to which team is which, though that’s certainly no knock to a strong Dolphins squad that outlasted the New England Patriots last week in a 17-16 victory.
Miami could move its lead over Buffalo to two games plus a tie-breaker with a win on Sunday, which would be a nice early season boost for the young squad. Buffalo will need to continue its strong play on defense while improving their offensive output to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Which Dolphins are we watching this week? Here’s our list.
QB Tua Tagovailoa
The second-year man looked a little more confident on Sunday, as he showed a greater willingness to push the ball downfield than he did for much of his rookie season. Tagovailoa averaged 7.5 yards per attempt in Week 1, and he also averaged 9.3 intended air yards per target. Obviously, the old “small sample size” disclaimer applies here, but both of those totals far exceed his averages from last year, as Tagovailoa averaged 6.3 yards per attempt and 7.5 intended air yards per attempt in 2020. The Bills won’t be able to play in cloud coverages and just wait for Tua to check it down this time around. They’ll need to go after him to force him into mistakes.
WR Will Fuller V Making Tagovailoa’s newfound willingness to hurl it deep particularly concerning is the addition of Fuller, a fantastic deep threat who did not play last week against New England. Adding the speedy Fuller to a wide receiver group that already has tremendous depth in DeVante Parker and rookie Jaylen Waddle, not to mention tight end Mike Gesicki, means that the Bills’ pass defense will need to be at least as good as it was last week against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers . Expect to see some shot plays early for Fuller to test Buffalo’s secondary. It was announced on Friday that Fuller will miss the game due to personal reasons.
TE Mike Gesicki
Now I’ll mention the burly tight end, who absolutely slaughtered Buffalo last season. Gesicki had 53 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2020. Against Buffalo, he caught 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown. In Week 2 last season, Gesicki had the best game of his career, catching eight passes for 130 yards and a touchdown in the 31-28 Bills victory. Sure, he was targeted thrice last week without catching a pass. He’s too good a receiver to have that little involvement in the offense, however. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano will need to be on top of their game.
DT Christian Wilkins
After Cam Heyward rag-dolled Buffalo’s interior offensive linemen, especially guard Jon Feliciano, the onus will be on Buffalo’s offensive line to play much better. A strong inside pass rush is a quarterback’s worst nightmare, and given Buffalo’s struggles on the inside, this seems like a prime matchup for Wilkins to blow up Buffalo’s offensive plans. The Bills will need to make sure that they communicate better up front to avoid forcing quarterback Josh Allen to run for his life like he did for much of last week.
CB Xavien Howard
The NFL’s leader in interceptions (10) and pass breakups (20) from last season signed a new contract this offseason. He is a dangerous player every time you throw into his zone, and while he didn’t break up a pass or intercept one last week, he was able to force a fumble to help his team win. Whether Howard ends up on Stefon Diggs or Emmanuel Sanders, or even Gabriel Davis depending on the situation, the Bills will have to take care in throwing his way.