Weekend Look Ahead

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

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1. Something about south Florida

It's hard to know just what brings out the best in Josh Allen when he plays the Miami Dolphins. Yes, he is 5-1 against Miami in his career with 17 touchdowns against just four interceptions and a 114.3 passer rating.

But one could argue he's been even better on the road at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. In his three games as a visitor he's thrown for just over 900 yards (902), nine touchdowns and two interceptions with a passer rating of 112.7. He also has averaged better than 10 yards a carry when he takes off and runs (10.5 avg.) with 210 yards on just 20 carries.

Allen wisely downplayed his level of success against the Dolphins.

"It's not like I get any more fired up for them than I do any other game," he said. "Our coaches do a really good job of game-planning. And there are games where we executed really well. So we've got to have a team mindset of just going out there, and whatever coach calls, we've got to put forward our best effort."

2. Opportunistic Dolphins

The Dolphins got a pair of takeaways last week against the Patriots forcing three fumbles and recovering two of them. One of those takeaways came as New England was driving into Miami's red zone with just over two minutes remaining. The turnover allowed the Dolphins to seal the one-point victory in Foxborough.

Miami now has a takeaway in each of their last 23 games, which is the longest streak in the NFL since 2013.

"Definitely a big takeaway team," said Stefon Diggs. "As you watch them on tape, they're active. They're flying around. And it's a team that hustles. You can tell they're well coached when it comes to getting around the ball. So, just taking those extra steps throughout the week as far as being aware – so just as far as protecting the ball, and not making it too much more than what it is. We had some mishaps, so just being aware of it."

Bills head coach Sean McDermott was pushing a more disciplined approach this week for his team when it comes to taking care of the football after they had four fumbles last week, losing one to Pittsburgh.

"We've got to be aware of that, we've got to do a better job on our end, protecting the football, being more intentional about it, and that's the discipline part of it," McDermott said. "We've got to be more of a disciplined group on offense. "We've got to do a better job of that."

The last team to not turn the ball over to the Dolphins in the regular season was on Nov. 17th, 2019, when the Bills beat Miami on the road 37-20.

3. Less spread?

In Week 1, Buffalo's offense put a lot of faith in their offensive line to protect Josh Allen. They spread the field with four or five receivers on 44 percent of their offensive play calls, leaving little to no help for their front five against a defensive front that has logged 50 or more sacks in four consecutive seasons.

Last season at Miami, also in Week 2, Buffalo went four wide only 17 percent of the time and never put five receivers on the field. Josh Allen also threw for better than 400 yards and four touchdowns.

Does it mean they'll spread things out less? Not necessarily.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is always going to do what he believes helps them post a victory and if that means going back to a lot of the personnel groupings he made use of last week, he'll do it.

"We try to put together the best plan that we can, and throughout the game, we try to call the best plays we can call," said Daboll. "They're not always going to work. You put a lot of work and effort into it, and a lot of studying, and you have a plan, and that plan kind of adjusts throughout the game, and you'd like them all to work."

Miami's defensive front is not littered with first-round picks like that of Pittsburgh, though they do play a 3-4 front like the Steelers. They offer more power rushers than blinding speed off the edge, which is why they generally rely on well-timed blitzes with corners and safeties to generate speed from the flanks of the rush (See below).

Buffalo's offense is going to largely rest on Allen's right arm, so while we may not see empty backfield sets with five receivers this week, we're likely to still see a good deal of three and four receiver sets.

The only question is what role will the run game play and how will it best serve Buffalo's passing game this week?

Scroll to see photos of the Bills as they prepare for the Week 2 game in Miami.

4. Will Dolphins be blitz heavy again?

Miami was a blitz heavy team last season, and proved to be that again in Week 1 at New England. They blitzed on almost half of their pass defense sets (47.5%) last week. Their success rate however, was limited by the Patriots quick passing attack as they generated pressure just over 26 percent of the time. Their sack rate hovered just above five percent as Mac Jones completed almost 78 percent of his passes when facing the blitz.

Josh Allen has been pretty successful against Miami's blitz schemes the past two seasons completing almost 60 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 126.5. Even when Allen hasn't found a passing target when blitzed he has successfully run for positive yardage to avoid sacks vs. Miami.

"The Dolphins generate pressure with a lot of blitzers sending five, sometimes six guys after the quarterback," said Sports Illustrated Dolphins beat reporter Alain Poupart in an appearance on 'One Bills Live' this week. "Josh Allen has killed Miami almost every time he's played them, so I think there's reason to be concerned about the matchup of the Dolphins defense against the Bills offense if you're a Dolphins fan."

5. O-lines still settling in

Buffalo's coaching staff has indicated that their current platoon at right guard could continue as a week-to-week development after Cody Ford and Ike Boettger took two series apiece before rotating out for the other through the course of the first half.

Ford then got the balance of the second half in Week 1 as he performed admirably in the game.

"We'll see. We're going through that, but it's true of every week though," said head coach Sean McDermott. "We want to compete during the week so you see where we're at, see where some of the guys are with their injuries and these guys know that we compete every week and guys have to earn playing time, and that's true for all of us."

Miami's offensive line shuffling has been more out of circumstance. Left without starting left tackle Austin Jackson, who was on the COVID reserve list in Week 1, the Dolphins chose to start rookie Liam Eichenberg at left tackle. By most accounts he was steady knowing his first NFL start was on the road.

The question now is do they re-insert Jackson into the starting lineup, or does he still need time to recover from the time away from the team and the practice field?

"Head coach Brian Flores gave a quick answer when he was asked who would start at left tackle this week, and the answer he gave was Austin Jackson," said Poupart. "I think Flores doesn't want to see Jackson lose his job just because he was on the COVID-reserve list last week."

Knowing how Flores operates, however, if Jackson struggles on Sunday seeing the rookie Eichenberg subbed in for him shouldn't be ruled out.

6. Tua taking steps forward

Miami's second-year quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa is still a work in progress, but the important thing is he is progressing. The Alabama product is a rhythm passer and co-offensive coordinator George Godsey has made a point of using a quick passing attack to keep Tagovailoa in rhythm.

In his career when plays call for him to deliver a short pass right at the top of his drop, Tagovailoa completed more than 74 percent of his passes over the last season plus. When he has to drop and sit in the pocket that completion percentage plummets to 35 percent according to NextGenStats.

When asked to deliver the ball further downfield, his effectiveness also slumps with his completion percentage on throws of 10 air yards or more (38.9%) about half of what it is on passes of less than 10 air yards (77.5%).

"Without question we have seen signs of progress, but he's not there yet in terms of being able to say, 'That's the franchise guy,'" said Poupart. "Where Tua excels and where the Dolphins have to take the offense is with quick slants and a lot of short throws and let the receivers do a lot of work after the catch. There have been some throws and bad decision making, like his interception late in the fourth quarter last week where they could've lost the game if Xavien Howard doesn't get a turnover late.

"Tua had another play where he hesitated in the pocket, scrambled and forced a throw over the middle that could've easily been picked off. He's got to eliminate those plays and he has to be more consistent making plays before the offense gets where it needs to be."

7. Playing the rooks

Along with Eichenberg, Miami played its other top three draft choices a good deal in their Week 1 game at New England. Jaylen Waddle was the most productive of the group logging four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown as he beat his defender in a race after the catch to the pylon.

Miami effectively used a quick pass game and stack formations to get the ball into Waddle's hands quickly after the snap.

Fellow first-round pick Jaelen Phillips got snaps at outside linebacker where he did rush the passer a bit, but surprisingly dropped into coverage a decent amount. Second-round pick Jevon Holland had a pair of tackles in his time lining up at free safety as well as a forced fumble on Patriots TE Jonnu Smith that New England fortunately recovered.

Eichenberg played all 54 snaps on offense, while Waddle got 80 percent of the offensive snaps. Phillips and Holland played part-time roles, but still played close to a third of the game in their debuts.

8. Down a nose tackle

After missing their nose tackle in Week 1, Buffalo is hoping Star Lotulelei is healthy enough to play on Sunday in Miami. The veteran run stuffer is trying to return from a preseason calf injury and has been limited in practice this week.

Miami had its starting nose tackle, Raekwon Davis for Week 1, but a knee injury in the first half knocked him out of the game. Earlier this week the Dolphins put the Alabama product on I-R meaning he'll miss at least each of the next three games, including Sunday against the Bills.

John Jenkins lined up in his place for most of the remainder of their Week 1 matchup with the Patriots, though they may consider other options or a rotation, perhaps with Zach Sieler, who is a capable reserve player.

Buffalo used a committee approach in the absence of Lotulelei with Vernon Butler, Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips and Justin Zimmer.

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