Are the 3-0 Dolphins for Real?

 

 

Chip Bayless
By Chip Bayless

 

 

Three weeks into the NFL season, the Dolphins are undefeated and sit atop the AFC East standings. The only other undefeated teams left are the Chiefs and Rams, both of which look like Super Bowl contenders at this point.

 

The Dolphins can attribute much of their success to the fact that their defense has played exceptionally well this season, giving the offense ample opportunities and great starting field position on a consistent basis. Thus far, the ‘Fins have allowed only 52 points, which makes their defense statistically the best in the AFC East so far in 2018.

 

 

Only five other NFL teams have let up 52 points or fewer in 2018, and Miami has some rising stars to thank for their defensive success. Cornerback Xavien Howard, linebacker Kiko Alonso, and star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick have been Miami’s key contributors thus far. After pulling down two INTs against the Raiders, Howard currently leads the NFL in interceptions with three, and one of them was perhaps the turning point in Sunday’s game. Howard’s exceptional coverage ability and ball skills are some of the leading factors in the Dolphins impressive +4 turnover differential.

 

 

Throughout his career, Kiko Alonso has often been criticized for his lack of aggressiveness and tackling ability in comparison to his coverage skills. This season he is putting doubters to rest as he had 15 tackles against the Raiders, and he currently has 34 tackles on the season—good enough for second best in the league and first on the Dolphins.

 

Minkah Fitzpatrick was an All-American at Alabama and is so far translating his skills well to the NFL. Fitzpatrick had 10 tackles against the Raiders during his first start at safety which gives him 19 on the year, placing him behind only Kiko Alonso as Miami’s leading tackler.

 

Fitzpatrick played all over the field at ‘Bama

 

 

Offensively, the Dolphins have been buoyed by an incredibly balanced attack as they currently have a run-to-pass ratio of 74-74, and an explosive receiving core as Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, and newcomer Albert Wilson have all flashed their big play ability—and should quite frankly be scaring the shit out of defenses.




None of Miami’s most productive receivers are over six feet tall (in fact Grant and Wilson are both under five foot nine), but their speed, acceleration, and agility have proved tantalizing for opposing defenses.

 

Grant and Stills both run sub 4.4 40-yard dashes (both clocked at 4.38 at the Combine), and Albert Wilson runs a still-blazing 4.43. Thus far into the season the trio has taken turns slicing apart opposing defenses as each receiver has at least two touchdowns so far.

 

 

Sunday against the Raiders, they each played a part. Wilson absolutely flew by the entire Raider defense on a 74-yard jet sweep, and he was so far past Raiders defenders that he and Grant exchanged a high five as Wilson glided into the end zone. Grant had a 52-yard TD of his own (courtesy of a throw from Wilson), and Stills had another TD from 34 yards out.

 

 

Jakeem Grant finished the day with two TDs and 70 yards on just two catches, Wilson finished with 74 yards and a TD on just two catches of his own, and Stills finished with 61 yards and a TD on three catches. With that kind of production/volume ratio, Ryan Tannehill doesn’t need to be elite or even exceptional, he just needs to get the ball to his guys and let them do the rest.

 

The Dolphins are undefeated for the first time since 2013, but they travel to Foxboro in week 4 to take on the Patriots, where they have not won since 2008. However, if Miami’s receivers all come to play and Miami’s defense keeps up its performance, it will be a long day for the New England Patriots.




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