Weekend Look Ahead

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7 things to watch for in Bills at Dolphins | Week 2

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Allen (top left), LB Tyrel Dodson (top middle), LB A.J. Klein (top right), RB Zack Moss (bottom left), Miami's Shaq Lawson (bottom middle), Miami's Mike Gesicki (bottom right).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Allen (top left), LB Tyrel Dodson (top middle), LB A.J. Klein (top right), RB Zack Moss (bottom left), Miami's Shaq Lawson (bottom middle), Miami's Mike Gesicki (bottom right).

1. Run game revival?

Coming off of their Week 1 performance where Buffalo's top two backs found it difficult to gain any traction in the run game, the Bills hope to find greater opportunity with their second division opponent.

Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for just 41 yards on 18 carries last Sunday for a 2.27 yards per carry average. Head coach Sean McDermott pointed to the battle up front that must be more consistent.

"Well I think it's a mindset and that's where it all starts playing well the line of scrimmage is important," said McDermott. "We've talked about that many times over. You've got to play well up front on both sides of the ball and then when the holes are there, the backs have to hit them."

Miami's defensive front operates as a 3-4, but Shaq Lawson, who is listed as an outside linebacker, will sometimes be a stand-up linebacker at the line or serve as one of the down lineman depending on down and distance.  

"I would say they're very, very good holding their gaps," said Bills center Mitch Morse. "They're a very gap sound defense. They're a very multiple defense. Yeah, I think Coach Flores comes from that Patriot scheme and I know he's added his own flavor to certain things."

Buffalo has posted good rushing totals in each of their last six meetings between the clubs, but without the rushing exploits of Josh Allen factored into the total, the production of the backs alone is only slightly above average.

In their last six meetings, Buffalo's backs have rolled up 496 yards on 141 carries for a yards per carry average of 3.51. Last year when the Dolphins had the 27th ranked run defense, the Bills managed 4.28 yards per carry not counting Allen's rushing totals (46-197).

In Miami, over their past three meetings, Buffalo's backs have averaged 3.59 yards per carry.

2. The Josh Allen problem

This is a problem for the Dolphins, not the Bills. As much as Buffalo would like to get their traditional ball carriers on track this week in Miami, the facts are the facts. Josh Allen has been a headache of migraine proportions for the Dolphins the last two seasons.

Taking the above rushing total a step further. In Josh Allen's four career starts against the Dolphins, Bills running backs have had 91 carries for 331 yards (3.63 avg.). Allen has had 29 carries for 318 yards (11 avg.)

The kind of production that Allen provides is not going to be dropped from Buffalo's offensive approach. It works uncommonly well.

"The quarterback zone read game is part of our game," said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. "And when you're calling a zone read, I can't tell you who's going to have the ball. A lot of that is predicated on the defense and how they play it. It could go to the running back, it could go to the quarterback.

"There's only a few called quarterback runs, per se, and then obviously Josh does a great job with his legs and throwing the football scrambling. The zone read is an obvious element to our game. Now whether it is the next week or the week after that I couldn't tell you."

The Dolphins will undoubtedly be working to clean up some of the struggles they had in containing Cam Newton and the read option run plays the Patriots used with a good deal of success against them in Week 1.

The problem for Miami is Buffalo's receiving corps is so deep and talented that committing a spy or extra attention of some kind to Allen leaves them vulnerable on the back end in terms of pass coverage.

"As far as dual-threat from a run-game and running quarterback standpoint, yes we have seen some of it, but (the Bills) offer some other issues," said Miami head coach Brian Flores. "When you've got two outstanding receivers on the perimeter, it's hard to load up on the run game when you've got guys like that on the perimeter. They do a good job really in all areas – the tight ends, the backs, the scheme. I don't think it will be just all run or quarterback runs or all pass. There's a great mix. We've got to do a good job of trying to defend it all."

The guess here is the Bills history of Allen's rushing success against the Dolphins, combined with Miami's inability to stop it last week at New England, will at least prompt Buffalo to test Brian Flores' defense to see if they have capably fixed that deficiency.

3. Light at linebacker

Buffalo will be shorthanded at the linebacker position on Sunday. Both of their three-down linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds (shoulder) and Matt Milano (hamstring) were declared out for the team's Week 2 game at Miami.

Backup OLB Del'Shawn Phillips, a core special teamer is also expected to miss Sunday's game with a quad injury.

Last week, after both Edmunds and Milano were injured they were replaced by Tyrel Dodson and veteran AJ Klein. For Dodson it will be his first career NFL start.

"The guys around him need to pick up their play," said head coach Sean McDermott of Dodson. "Tyrel doesn't have a lot of experience, but he's a guy we're confident in on the defensive side. We just take it one play at a time."

It stands to reason that Klein, even though he might be taking Milano's spot, will be making the calls defensively having done it before, while Dodson just lines up and plays the middle linebacker spot.

With Edmunds, Milano and Phillips all out Sunday, it leaves Buffalo with just three available linebackers in Dodson, Klein and Tyler Matakevich.

Buffalo added LB Deon Lacey to their practice squad, who is familiar with their defensive scheme, having played in Buffalo from 2017 to 2018. They also have LB Andre Smith on their practice squad, who played in a similar scheme in Carolina in 2018.

It's presumed the Bills will have to call both linebackers up from the practice squad for Sunday's game to have the required depth going into the game.

When asked about the prospect of giving retired LB Lorenzo Alexander a phone call to see if he'd be interested in returning to help in light of the shortage, McDermott said it's a bit premature for that.

4. Size guys

Buffalo's defensive backs did not have a lot of size to deal with in Week 1 against the Jets, but that will change dramatically this week, especially if DeVante Parker is able to suit up. Miami's top receiver is dealing with a hamstring injury that prematurely forced him out of last week's opener at New England. He was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

Parker goes 6-3 and 211 pounds and number two receiver Preston Williams stands 6-5 and 218 pounds. Add in TE Mike Gesicki at 6-6, 250 and it's obvious that size and catch radius is an advantage for the Dolphins receiving corps.

"Big receivers, they've got a ton of speed," said Tre'Davious White. "They've got a guy in (Ryan) Fitzpatrick who can take over games. There's nothing that he hasn't seen. He pretty much knows what's you're going to do. So it's going to come down to execution. Hopefully we can get a little bit of luck and see if the football can come our way."

Parker finished fifth in the NFL last season in receiving yards with 1,202, of which 190 came in two meetings with the Bills. His last outing against Buffalo, Parker rolled up 135 yards on seven receptions.

5. Pass rush possibilities

The Dolphins made a concerted effort in the offseason to improve the quality of their offensive line. They drafted Austin Jackson as one of their first-round draft choices and they took Solomon Kindley in the fourth round. They're starting at left tackle and right guard respectively while free agent acquisitions Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras are starting at left guard and center respectively.

Right tackle Jesse Davis is the only incumbent on Miami's line.

In Week 1, Miami's protection was good for the most part. The unit is helped by Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to deliver the ball on time with great regularity.

But over the last three games the Bills have had good pass rushing success against Miami with 12 total sacks. Trent Murphy has been on a tear amongst the Bills pass rushers with five sacks in his last six games going back to last season.

Scroll through to see the best photos from Buffalo's practice as they prepare for Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins.

6. Mimicking the culture build

The Dolphins began their roster overhaul last season and they are now in year two of reconstructing the roster in the desired image of coach Flores. Miami's sideline boss, in conjunction with GM Chris Grier, made sure to take a deep dive into other successful roster turnarounds in the league to gain some perspective on what works and what doesn't.

Coach Flores was open in sharing that he took a long look at the job done by Bills coach Sean McDermott and the culture he has built in Buffalo along with the roster building of GM Brandon Beane.

"Sean and Brandon have done an incredible job," said Flores. "I think it's about bringing in the right types of people. I think in any business, it's about the people. In his case, he's got the right people in place from a scouting standpoint with (Assistant General Manager) Joe Schoen, Brandon Beane. They've got a great staff over there. It's the same thing from a coaching staff standpoint and then bringing in the right types of players. They've certainly been a model.

"They've done something that I've definitely looked at and I referenced as we're trying to do some things over here. Now we have a long way to go. There's no doubt about that. But we know it's going to take hard work. I know I've seen that from Sean and his staff when we've come across them. (Offensive Coordinator) Brian Daboll is obviously a great friend of mine who I've spent a lot of time with. He just fits the mold of everyone else that's over there. They've done a great job and you can see the fruits of their labor over the last few years."

7. A bold prediction

'Good Morning Football's' Kyle Brandt is a weekly guest on 'One Bills Live' during the football season. The NFL Network morning show co-host has been bullish on the Bills all offseason. He sees not only a win for Buffalo in Week 2. He is calling for a convincing victory.

"I think you look for Singletary and Moss (to play big) for the Bills," he said. "I think this is going to be their week to emerge. Look at what the Pats did against them. The Bills should wipe this team out. They're way better. They're way more talented.

"Let's get used to the new reality with Buffalo now. There are some teams they should blow out. You don't always have to white knuckle it in the fourth quarter. I want to see them roll over on this team. After a while that's what the Pats did, and the Bills are more talented and the quarterback in their system is more experienced. The Bills are a juggernaut, show them you're a juggernaut."

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