(CBSMiami)- Tua Tagovailoa’s first start last weekend didn’t produce the dazzling numbers that fans may have hoped, but it did produce a Dolphins victory lifting the team to 4-3 on the season and second in the AFC East. This week, another NFC West opponent looms in the Arizona Cardinals, and there is some opportunity for Tua to have more success in his second outing.
The Rams brought one of the league’s best pass defenses to town last week and while the Cardinals are solid in that category, they’re still a notch below Los Angeles. They don’t have the same sort of pass rushing force as Aaron Donald, but they will get after Tagovailoa with blitzes. Heading into Sunday, CBS Sports NFL analyst London Fletcher believes the Dolphins may open things up for Tua more with the play action game, but the key will be in how he handles the pressure.
“They may open up play action a little bit more let him take a few shots out of that. The thing about the Arizona Cardinals, they love to blitz you,” said Fletcher. “He’s going to be able to have to deal with the blitz and can he get the ball to his play makers versus that blitz? That’s the challenge he’s going to face against that Cardinals defense. They will come after him.”
The good news is the Dolphins have quietly been the best scoring defense in the league allowing opponents just 18.3 points per game. They have allowed 17 points or fewer in each of their last three outings against the 49ers, Jets and Rams. Fletcher has been impressed by the unit’s ability to get turnovers when they need to, comparing them to the New England defenses of the pass that would “bend but not break.”
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“They’ll give up some yards but they also create turnovers. They get critical stops in the red zone. That’s what they did against the Rams. They gave up a lot of yards but got the critical stops in key situations. I love the back end of that defense,” said Fletcher. “I think the cornerbacks are playing at a high level. You look at some of the resources they invested in that defense, all the free agent signings to have the type of players Coach Flores want and need to have a successful defense.”
That corner group in particular will be tested going up against one of, if not the best, wide receiver in the game in DeAndre Hopkins. Traded to Arizona in the offseason, Hopkins has already hauled in 57 passes for 704 yards and three touchdowns through seven games. Those first two marks lead the league. He’ll be matched up with either Xavien Howard or Byron Jones Sunday in a battle Fletcher will be keyed in on.
But, it’s not just Hopkins that Fletcher will be watching the Dolphins response to.
“The linebackers against Chase Edmonds. Edmonds is a dynamic play maker. Being aware of Chase Edmonds, that’s going to be key for the Dolphins defense and however they decide to match up against him because he can make plays in the passing game as well as being a really efficient runner,” said Fletcher.
Edmonds has begun to make more room for himself in Arizona the last few weeks with his game against the Seahawks before the bye being his best of the season. How Miami responds to him will be key.
The Dolphins get the second half of the doubleheader treatment this week with a 4:25 p.m. Eastern Time kickoff. They enter as 4.5 point underdogs.
You can catch all the action right here on CBS.