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Eye On: Scouting the Miami Dolphins

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The Giants travel to Miami to play the Dolphins on Sunday. After losing seven straight games, the Dolphins have won four straight to give them a 5-7 record.

When the Dolphins have the ball…

Miami's overall offensive numbers are poor, ranking in the bottom quarter of the league in most categories. But they have scored a combined 79 points over their last three games (26.3 ppg, 351 ypg).

Left-handed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's presence has also made a difference – the Dolphins are 1-3 in games he has not started. When he starts, the Dolphins improve by nearly 55 yards per game. Tagovailoa has had a quarterback rating over 100 in three straight games, and completed over 80% of his passes in his past two starts (70% for the season).

Tagovailoa gets rid of the ball quickly and doesn't throw the ball down the field much. His 2.51-second average time to throw ranks fourth in the NFL behind veterans Tom Brady, Ben Roethlesberger, and Colt McCoy. Amongst quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks, Tagovailoa has the third-shortest average depth of target (6.9 yards) with only McCoy and Jared Goff averaging fewer. Only 9.3% of the Dolphins pass attempts go 20 or more yards down the field, which is the fifth-lowest rate in the league.

The Dolphins run RPO's (run/pass options) 17.8 of the time (ranks fourth) and play-action on 33 percent (fifth) of their snaps.

The Dolphins have allowed the highest pressure rate in football (46.6%), according to Pro Football Focus. The quick-release approach in the passing game has limited their sack rate to 6.3% (18th in NFL; and their 22 sacks allowed (fourth).

They have a young offensive line group that has been shuffled this year due to performance issues. Rookie left tackle Liam Eichenberg moved from right tackle in Week 5; second-year left guard Austin Jackson moved from left tackle; center Austin Reiter was added to roster in Week 7 (Michael Deiter may return from a foot injury this week); right guard Robert Hunt is in his second year; and Jesse Davis playes right tackle. Hunt is the team's most consistent pass protector but Pro Football Focus has logged a combined 49 pressures from Jackson, Davis and Eichenberg. Eichenberg has allowed nine sacks and seven quarterback hits, while Davis has allowed six sacks and 10 quarterback hits.

The Dolphins have also struggled to run the ball consistently this season. Only one team is averaging less than the Dolphins 3.36 yards per carry and 80.2 rushing yards per game. Myles Gaskin (482 yards) is the team's primary ball carrierand primarily runs between the tackles. He is also the Dolphins' third leading receiver with 43 catches for 212 yards and is often used as a check-down target.

Miami has only 19 rushes or 10 or more yards this season, which is the second-fewest in the league and only has two runs of 20+ yards.

Jaylen Waddle leads the team in targets (101), receptions (77) and receiving yards (759 yards). At 5'10 and 182 pounds with an estimated 4.37 in the 40, he lines up in the slot 62 percent of the time. He's asked to gain yards after the catch with an average depth of target at only 7.0 yards and PFF has tracked him for 11 grabs on 15 contested catches. He has four receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. TE Mike Gesicki (52-596 yards-2 TDs) goes 6-6 and 245 pounds but has only lined up 54 times in-line this season. He has 320 snaps lining up in the slot and 185 outside. ing up outside. Devante Parker (shoulder, hamstring) has only played one game since Oct. 3 and Will Fuller (finger) has been out since Week 4.

Keys for the Giants' defense

  1. Prevent big plays from Jaylen Waddle
  2. Win on the defensive line to pressure the quarterback (don't be afraid to blitz) and stop the run without extra help.
  3. Be disciplined defending the RPO and play-action passes to prevent easy catches underneath

View rare photos of the all-time series between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins

When the Giants have the ball…

The Dolphins' 42% blitz rate leads the NFL, and yields a 34.3% pressure rate (12th), according to Pro Football Focus' but their 5.93% sack rate ranks 23rd. The Dolphins have forced 293 yards worth of negative plays (sixth). The Dolphins' average time to pressure (2.3 secs) ranks second and they have created more unblocked pressures (79) than anyone – with the Ravens 21 behind – because of MIami's willingness to use "Cover 0" the most often (13 percent) in the league. Miami also blitzes an NFL-high 52 percent on third down, according to PFF. Interestingly, they've only held third-down conversions to 44 percent (29th) and have allowed 50 completions of 20+ yards (second-most).

Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, a former second-round pick, leads the team in pressures with 52, according to PFF. He also has six sacks, nine passes defended and a team-leading 19 quarterback hits. Rookie Jaelan Phillips has been more productive recently, with five sacks in his last four games, including three last week against Carolina. He is third on the team with 14 tackles for loss and tied for the second most pressures with Andrew Van Ginkel (33). Ginkel has two sacks but has the second-most quarterback hits on the team with 17. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (52 stops) is the team's best interior pass rusher, with three sacks, seven quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss and 22 pressures, according to PFF. Miami's defense stunts 27.4 percent (sixth-most).

The Dolphins have two top man-to-man cornerbacks in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, which allows them to add plenty of "Cover 1" snaps (32.6 percent, third-most). Howard has 12 passes defended and three interceptions, while Byron Jones has eight passes defended. Yet, according to PFF, Howard has allowed 40 catches on 71 targets for 582 yards and seven touchdowns, while Jones has allowed 48 catches on 74 targets for 549 yards and three touchdowns. Howard has been called for six penalties this season, while Jones has been called for one.

2019 undrafted free agent Nik Needham is the team's primary slot cornerback. He has an interception along with four passes defended while not allowing a touchdown. Versatile defensive back Eric Rowe will split time between cornerback and safety, while safety Brandon Jones will spend most of his time near the line of scrimmage. Second-round rookie Jevon Holland is the team's primary deep safety and has two interceptions and seven passes defended.

Jerome Baker is the Dolphins' only true three-down linebacker and he leads the team in tackles with 63 to go along with one sack, eight quarterback hits, three passes defended, and two tackles for loss. He is undersized at only 225 pounds but has speed to pursue in space. Elandon Roberts is their other primary linebacker. The Dolphins only have one linebacker on the field more frequently than any other NFL team, utilizing dime personnel (six defensive backs) on a league-high 32% of their snaps.

Keys for the Giants' offense…

  1. Run the ball successfully against a team that plays a lot of defensive backs
  2. Giants wide receivers must win outside and create explosive plays in man coverage
  3. Handle Miami blitzes and stunts well by communicating up-front and getting the ball out quickly
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