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Five things you need to know about the Dolphins

10.24.13 at 9:00 am ET
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1. They have a hard time protecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill does a good job evading the rush — he’s a former college wide receiver who has pretty good footwork — but he’s still had little luck when it comes to protection. He’s been sacked 26 times through the first six games of the season, and is on pace to absorb 69 sacks over the course of the 2013 season. (To give you some perspective, Tom Brady took a career-high 41 sacks in 2001.) The Dolphins made something of a panic move earlier in the week when they traded for tackle Bryant McKinnie, swinging a deal with the Ravens for the perennial underachiever. The Patriots don’t necessarily have an elite pass rush, but the opportunities should be there for Chandler Jones (a team-leading 6.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits through the first seven games), as well as fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich (who leads the team with 20 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus).

2. As a result of those protection problems, Tannehll has had ball security issues. The quarterback has fumbled the ball away seven times through the first six games of the season, and that, combined with a penchant for some ill-timed interceptions — he has seven, tied for sixth in the league — has led to issues for the Dolphins. The Patriots, who have forced turnovers in 34 consecutive games, will also have opportunities to force takeaways. New England enters the game with a plus-five takeaway ration, good enough to be tied for fourth in the AFC with the Bills.

3. They are below average when it comes to running the ball. New England should be able to breathe relatively easy when it comes to the Miami running game, as the Dolphins do not pose much of a threat when it comes to their ground game. Miami is 25th in the league when it comes to average rushing yards per game with 78.0. (The Dolphins average a relatively respectable 3.9 yards per carry, 16th in the league.) Lamar Miller is perhaps their best back, as he has 59 carries for 254 yards (4.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. A 5-foot-10, 216-pounder, he had a season-high in a Sept. 15 win over the Colts.

4. They have struggled to defend tight ends. The Dolphins have had issues trying to slow down some of the NFL’s best young tight ends at the start of the 2013 season. Jimmy Graham of the Saints lit them up for four catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4, while Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron had nine catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 and Indy’s Coby Fleener had four catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. In all, they’ve allowed four passing touchdowns to tight ends in six games. That’s bad news when you’re facing someone like Gronkowski, who had eight catches (on 17 targets) for 114 yards in his regular-season debut last week against the Jets.

5. They’re a smart, well-disciplined team when it comes to penalties. The Dolphins have played six games to this point in the season, and they are tied with the Vikings for the league low in penalties assessed with 25, and have been assessed the smallest amount of penalty yardage (212). The Patriots aren’t much worse — they have played one more game than Miami, and are 25th in the league in total penalties (33) and 20th in the league in penalty yardage lost (342).

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