By Jeremiah Thermidor
Jeff Fisher has more head coaching experience and the better record this year compared to Miami’s Joe Philbin. But on paper, Philbin has the better team. Fisher, now with St. Louis, was being courted to coach the Dolphins in the off-season before Miami hired Philbin. Fisher, instead, chose the Rams with a quarterback in Sam Bradford, who had two years of experience under his belt.
“The kid’s got a big arm,” said Philbin when asked about Bradford’s strengths. “Anytime you play a guy with that kind of arm, you’re worried about the deep ball. He’s accurate enough where he can put it in a tight window.”
However, Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill seems to be developing faster than Bradford did during the early stages of his career. While Bradford currently has slightly better numbers than his Miami counterpart, Tannehill appears to have a higher ceiling and is surrounded by more talented players. The Dolphins are eighth in total rushing yards while the Rams are 21st. In total defense, St. Louis and Miami are 17th and 18th respectively. But Miami by far has the best rushing defense at No. 2 in the league while St. Louis is 20th.
The problem for the Rams is that running back Steven Jackson is their best offensive weapon and the Dolphins haven’t allowed a team to rush for more than 100 yards this year – much less a single player. So, Miami’s defense shouldn’t have a problem shutting down Jackson, who rushed for a season-high 76 yards against the Cardinals last Sunday but put forth a dreadful 29-yard performance versus the hard-hitting Bears in Week 3.
Although he’s rushed for more than a 1,000 yards for the past seven seasons, Jackson’s numbers have steadily declined since 2009. The Dolphins, however, understand the threat Jackson still poses and are prepared to take him on. “We’re going to have to do a great job tackling him. He’s a big man,” Philbin stressed about what his defense needs to do to stop Jackson who stands at 6-2 and weighs 240 pounds. “He runs hard and he’s tough. You can’t just grab a hold of him or he will drag you along.”
The Rams are coming off a 17-3 victory over the Cardinals – a team which was undefeated at the time. Bradford, who completed just seven passes, was able to get the win thanks to his defense, which finished the game with nine sacks and a huge reception by receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola’s 44-yard diving catch set up Bradford’s touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks. Unfortunately, Amendola suffered a serious collarbone injury while attempting a 22-yard grab later in the game.
Amendola did not return to action and will be out for a while, leaving the Rams without their best receiver. So, not only will the Rams face an uphill battle trying to get their running game going against Miami’s stout defense, but they’ll likely be struggling in the passing game as well.
The Dolphins had a great week of practice following their 17-13 win over Cincinnati, but Miami running back Reggie Bush is still working to get back to his early season form following a knee injury he suffered against the Jets in Week 3. Bush was limited in practice on Thursday with the knee injury and Miami’s No. 2 running back Daniel Thomas has missed practice all week with a concussion. So, the Dolphins will be turning to rookie tailback Lamar Miller who has shown bursts of his incredible talent when his number has been called this year.
“I think he’s doing well. He’s coming along nicely,” Philbin said regarding Miller. Miller rushed for a season-high 65 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders in Week 2. He’ll certainly get a lot more touches this Sunday, having another opportunity to prove he’s the real deal. If Miller is able to put up impressive numbers this weekend, he may move up the depth chart as Miami’s 2nd option at the running back position, considering this is Thomas’ second concussion this season and he’s had trouble holding onto the ball with 2 lost fumbles on the year.
The Miami Dolphins (2-3) will play host to the St. Louis Rams (3-2) on Sunday at 1 p.m. eastern.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.