The Dolphins are one of seven teams in the NFL that are unbeaten at 2-0. So far, they easily dispatched the hapless Cleveland Browns and defeated analyst favorite Indianapolis on the road last week.
Now, armed with former Falcons RT Tyson Clabo and CB Brent Grimes, the Dolphins will welcome our banged up Atlanta Falcons to Sun Life Stadium for an out of conference showdown on Sunday.
As mentioned, Grimes and Clabo will be going up against their old team. Clabo in particular has a right to be upset with the Falcons front office after he was released to clear more room for the salary cap, even though he was a huge (no pun intended) part of the Falcons offensive line last season. He'll have something to prove against the Falcons punch-less pass rush that has two sacks in two games. Clabo has the last laugh right now as the Falcons have really struggled in protecting Matt Ryan, and the offensive line is without two of its projected starters (Mike Johnson and Sam Baker). Clabo was always a dependable RT, and he's done good work with the Dolphins. He'll have an extra head of steam this week as he'll try and prove to his old team that releasing him was a big mistake.
Grimes doesn't have nearly the same chip on his shoulder that Clabo does (Grimes blew his knee out in the first game of the year last year and his contract ran out), but Grimes was Atlanta's best corner during his time with the team. He'll also be out to prove that the Falcons should have offered him a new contract.
OFFENSIVE LINE MUST IMPROVE
Yesterday, LT Sam Baker was ruled out of Sunday's game this week, meaning Jeremy Trueblood is likely to play in his stead. Matt Ryan had virtually no time in the pocket last week, as the offensive line was beaten more and more as the game went on. Ryan had to snap the ball and release it almost as soon as he got his hands on the ball.
Losing Baker will hurt, and while the Falcons seem to be sticking with Lamar Holmes, the second year player continues to be outperformed so far in the regular season, showing signs of tiring particularly late in the game.
The line as a whole has been extremely underwhelming. Matt Ryan has taken severe punishment in the first two games of the year, and had he not started his lightning quick passing last game, who knows how many sacks St. Louis would have gotten.
The Dolphins have nine sacks through two games this year, with seven of those sacks coming from the defensive line.
The Dolphins could wreak havoc on the Falcons tomorrow if they're not able to protect Ryan. Ryan is young and can shake off these big hits now, but the lingering effects of them could have an impact on Ryan later in the season. The O-line needs to limit damage control on Ryan, because at this rate, he won't last the entire season.
Roddy White, Asante Samuel, Peter Konz and Akeem Dent are all banged up. Point is, this team has been decimated by injuries to the point where at least five very important starters aren't going to be out there tomorrow.
While there are players that can step in and fill these rolls, this is such an abundantly high amount of starters that are out that is going to take a very gutsy effort by these replacements and the remaining starters to pull out a victory on the road this week.
Depth was always an issue for the Falcons heading into the year, but losing this many starters this quickly into the season is almost unheard of.
So far, the Dolphins are allowing around 90 yards on the ground per game through the first two weeks of the season, good for 12th in the NFL. Snelling really stepped up last week, particularly in the short screen game. We'll see how the Falcons attack the Dolphins this week with their two back ups.
RYAN MUST COMMAND THE AIR
Matt Ryan had one of the best performances of his career last week. This is something that can't be measured by statistics either. His ability to find the open receiver in the blink of an eye after the pocket instantly collapsed around him on every play last week was incredible to behold.
While the Dolphins pass rush is formidable, their secondary is suspect at best. So far, they've given up 279.5 pass yards per game. While the secondary has four take always, it definitely appears to be vulnerable to giving up some big yardage. No disrespect to Brandon Weeden or Andrew Luck, but Ryan is a better quarterback than both of these players. If they can put up big yardage against the Dolphins secondary, than Ryan can too.
Still, four interceptions through two games is nothing to sneeze at, and Ryan must be cognizant of the Dolphins' ability to create turnovers.
FALCONS ARE STOPPING THE RUN
While the Falcons are getting torched through the air this year (ranking 30th by giving up 346.5 yards passing per game), the run defense has been very good this year, ranking eighth in the NFL, only giving up 73.5 yards per game on the ground. The Falcons have forced teams to beat them through the air and are taking away the run from their opponents.
The Dolphins run game has been dismal without Reggie Bush this year, so this advantage is clearly going to the Falcons even though they'll be missing Weatherspoon and Biermann tomorrow.
While the Falcons will be reeling from these key injuries, they still have Matt Ryan. As long as he continues to utilize his quick strike ability and limit turnovers, the Falcons will have more than a shot to win this game on the road tomorrow.
TV: FOX (WAGA)
Radio: Star 94.1 FM/790 The Zone AM
Check back tomorrow for our recap of the action.
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