Tennessee Tussle: Key Matchups, Statistics, and Predictions for Dolphins VS. Titans

The Narrative:

Hope. The Miami Dolphins’ fan base is famous for generating too much hope in many scenarios, but in this case it is warranted. Nobody knows what Dan Campbell will show us in his first game as the Dolphins’ HC. There are an infinite number of potential outcomes, but all that matters it that fans will not be forced to endure another game with Joe Philbin coaching their team.
The Dolphins come into this game with an element of surprise. The only people who know what the team is planning are the coaches and players in Miami. The Titans cannot prepare properly for a team that has undergone this much change in just a week. Do not expect sweeping changes in terms of scheme or play design, just expect different execution. Miami will call different plays, and execute those plays in an entirely different manner. It remains to be seen if the team’s new coach will be able to help figure out how to pressure Marcus Mariota, or generate a ground attack against a fairly stout Titans defense.

Key Matchups:

Ndamukong Suh VS Titans’ Interior OL:

temp060915-OTA-JP6797-nfl_mezz_1280_1024-850x560 Dan Campbell said this past week that he wants to awaken the sleeping beast. Well, everybody is ready for Suh to wake up from his nap and start earning his paycheck.

The best way to disrupt a rookie quarterback is with pressure coming up the middle of the field. When a young quarterback panics and cannot escape the pocket, he will often make bad decisions. The defense will benefit as a whole if Suh can generate pressure and lead to turnovers from the Titans’ offense. Ndamukong Suh is facing an interior line with lackluster players, but that unfortunately has not mattered in weeks past. Mike Tannenbaum criticized Suh this week, which could be a motivating factor, allowing him to flash the anger he has become known for on the field. Between Dan Campbell’s attitude and that potential motivation, Suh could make an impact in this game. Facing a rookie quarterback could also amplify that impact, and allow the Dolphins to generate turnovers and slow down Mariota and the Tennessee offense.

Reshad Jones VS Marcus Mariota:
marcus-mariota-082315-getty-ftr_fasdgc6o018p1joeb6l5hcz0u In Miami, the inside linebacker is not the general of our defense. Our leader is Reshad Jones. It will be very important for Jones to go head to head with Mariota mentally to confuse the rookie quarterback.

Miami has a favorable matchup here in the passing game. The lack of an overly dynamic system could allow Reshad Jones to take advantage of Marcus Mariota. If he can predict the plays and work to confuse Mariota, he could be a big help in masking Walt Aikens’ deficiencies, generating turnovers, and even stopping the run. We all know that Miami desperately needs to allow their best players to simply do their jobs, and Reshad Jones has been one of the best players in Miami this season. He will have to be a huge factor if the Dolphins want to notch a win versus Tennessee.

Jarvis Landry VS Jason McCourty:

APTOPIX Titans Chiefs Football

The Tennessee Titans have one of the NFL’s most underrated players in Jason McCourty. Players in small markets often fail to receive broad attention, but he deserves to be recognized for his talent at the position. But McCourty deserves more focus than he receives with the Titans.

The Dolphins’ passing game relies largely (if not exclusively at times) upon Jarvis Landry’s ability to get open and fight for contested passes. This is not a matchup that Miami will be able to exploit consistently, but it will be fun to watch. Landry will be going head to head with another elite corner, after Darelle Revis in last week’s game. In the NFL, many feel that iron sharpens iron, meaning that we could see a very special performance from Jarvis Landry as he attempts to show that he can hold his own against highly competitive defensive backs.

By The Numbers:

Tennessee’s Defense:

061015-NFL-Tennessee-Titans-4-pi-ssm.vadapt.620.high.87

The Tennessee Titans have the NFL’s best pass defense in terms of yards allowed through the first five weeks of the season. However, the team is allowing the sixth most yards per attempt (7.9) to opposing quarterbacks. While initially I thought this could indicate that Tennessee struggles with tackling, they allow the fewest yards per catch per game in the NFL.

If they allow big completions, but are not struggling with yards after the catch, that might mean that they are allowing big throws on first down and holding strong on shorter scenarios after in which teams look to allow their receivers to run for the yards needed to pick up a first down. This means that Miami will have to rely on the ground game to pick up short yardage situations. Ryan Tannehill should be able to get chunk yardage against this defense, but facing a unit that is this strong against the pass, Miami will need to provide a consistent dose of rushing. If the team cannot convert in short situations, the game will have an outcome that is very familiar to Dolphins fans this year: short drives, and huge deficits that appear in no time at all.

Tennessee’s Offense:

bishop-sankey-nfl-preseason-minnesota-vikings-tennessee-titans

On offense, the Titans have the sixth fewest passing yards in the NFL. They also have the 20th ranked run offense in the league, which is tied for the seventh fewest attempts. This is good for Miami, as the team has struggled to stop the run when teams get into a rhythm. Tennessee’s lack of attempts means that they are not establishing rhythm on the ground.

The Dolphins’ defense will have a good opportunity to show a higher level of play against the Titans given these circumstances. It is not often that a team gets to face a rookie quarterback without a substantial ground attack. The Miami defense will have to make sure that they restrict Tennessee’s play calling capabilities in order to stop the passing attack. The Dolphins have gotten burned on play action passes all season, and need to eliminate this against the Titans. They will have a good chance to do that against a team that doesn’t excel on the ground, and hopefully Miami’s defense can improve when the trick-play capabilities are taken away from the opposition.

The Skinny:

 (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

On offense, the Dolphins need to generate a run game. It’s that simple. Running the ball allows you to control the clock, convert in short yardage, and generate time for your quarterback with play action. It all comes down to running the ball for Miami, and hopefully Dan Campbell is the man to help instill the toughness necessary to attack a defense on the ground.
On defense, the team will have to force Marcus Mariota to look like the rookie that he is. Mariota will dink and dunk his way down the field, but has shown a willingness to bomb the ball if need be. The Titans do not have an elite backfield, with Bishop Sankey leading the way. Miami’s defensive line will have to play well enough to take away the run so that the defense can focus on stopping Mariota, and overwhelming the rookie quarterback.

This game will be Dan Campbell’s first chance to show Dolphins fans what he’s made of. Will the team come out flat and unmotivated as they have in recent weeks, or will they be able to excel and play inspired football under a new leader? Nobody knows, and nobody will know until kickoff this Sunday in Nashville. The bye-week is over, and the team is about to begin the later portion of their schedule. I believe that this is a favorable matchup for Miami, and Dan Campbell will have a chance to set the tone for a more competitive second half of the season. Or so we hope.

Prediction: 27-23 Dolphins*

*Last night, there was a fairly epic turn of events that I feel could change the Dolphins’ entire season. I believed that someone had stolen my Cameron Wake Pro Bowl jersey when I sent my car out from Florida to Los Angeles for this school year. However, I checked in storage and the jersey was found there. I believe finding this jersey is EXACTLY what we needed to turn the season around. So this act of divine intervention has led me to declare a Dolphins’ victory.

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