The Miami Dolphins (7-3) host the Houston Texans (1-8-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium; here are five things to watch out for in the game:
Attack of Tua and the Dolphins
Let’s see if the Dolphins offense can continue to find different ways to win, a skill that will be needed down the stretch. Over the last three weeks, quarterback Tua Tagavailoa has been one of the best in the NFL with a passer rating of at least 135.0 in every game while totaling nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. rushed for 119 yards in a 39-17 win over Cleveland on Nov. 13, the pass protection unit has not allowed a pass in the past two games and eight players caught a pass against the Browns.
In other words, the offense is surprisingly diverse, especially when you consider wide receivers Tyreke Hill and Jalen Waddle combined for nine receptions, 110 yards and one touchdown against Cleveland. Lately, the running game has been effective, the passing game has been effective, and the same is true for pass protection, run blocking, execution and play calling. Sure, the Dolphins played the so-called “soft” portion of the schedule, but consider this an in-season workout for the rough portion of the schedule that follows the Houston game.
Dolphins pass defense against Texans DL Jerry Hughes
Dolphins fans are familiar with Texas defensive lineman Jerry Hughes from his time with Buffalo (2013-21). Hughes is 10th in the league with 8.0 sacks. He moves from side to side so the Dolphins take Teron Armstead on the left and Brandon Schell on the right. The Dolphins should also be aware of the Texans’ tricks up front.
Armstead has done a great job this season against elite pass rushers, but we’ll see if the well-rounded Shell can keep things going in a pass defense unit that has allowed just two sacks (both against Detroit) and none in the past three games. last two games. Recent history has shown that if the Dolphins can keep Tagovailoa upright and out of danger, good things will happen in the passing game.
Dolphins trio: Chubb, Phillips and Ingram
Houston, who is starting quarterback Kyle Allen in place of Davis Mills, has allowed 28 sacks, 10th in the league. The Dolphins’ 20 sacks are tied for 26th in the NFL, but they are still experimenting with ways to effectively use their pass rushing trio of Bradley Chubb, Jaylan Phillips and Melvin Ingram. We’ve seen this trio used in different ways over the past two games since the Dolphins acquired Chubb in a trade with Denver.
But most often, look for Chubb on the right side, where he played 75% of his snaps with the Dolphins. Look for Phillips on the left side, where he has lost 66% of his snaps since acquiring Chubb. Since acquiring Chubb, Ingram has played 57% of his snaps on the right side. If he’s comfortable on the inside, that could be where the bulk of his snaps come when he’s on the field with Chubb and Phillips. But the Dolphins need to find ways to generate passes as they head into the final seven games of the regular season.
Dolphins defense against Texans RB Damen Pierce
The Dolphins are 16th in rushing defense at 116.9 yards per game. Texas rookie Damion Pierce is seventh in the NFL with 780 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a 4.5 yards per carry average. But he had a season-worst 10 yards on eight carries in a 23-10 loss to Washington. Pierce is fourth in the league in rushing yards (175), so he’ll get his chance.
But Pierce has just 354 receiving yards, which ranks 19th in the league. Among others in the top seven in rushing yards, only Las Vegas’ Josh Jacobs, who is No. 3 in rushing yards, is close to Pierce in total yards before contact with 293, which ranks 12th. On the other hand, Pierce’s 426 yards after contact ranks fifth in the league. Oh, and Pierce is tied for second in the league in RBIs at 22, just behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry (23) and ahead of Cleveland’s Nick Chubb (21). Houston’s best chance for offensive success hinges on Pierce.
Focusing on the Texans without looking ahead
Maybe the Texans aren’t good enough to consider it a trap game. Houston is riding a five-game losing streak, which is the longest in the league, while the Dolphins are riding a four-game winning streak, which is tied with Kansas City and Baltimore for the longest streak in the NFL.
Houston fans would probably like their team to lose so they can get closer to the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, but the Texans will try to win so the Dolphins can’t take this team lightly. Yes, Houston is a bad team, and yes, Houston hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a game this season. But perhaps it should be noted that his only win was on the road, a 13-6 decision in Jacksonville. Is it not worth the attention? Okay, I’m sorry. I tried to add a little intrigue.