The Miami Dolphins don’t have the most threatening of offenses in the league. They rank just 22nd in points per game (21.7) and 10th in yards per play (5.9). Their running game is average, and their quarterbacks just aren’t very good.
Despite that, Miami’s offense does pose a real threat to the Detroit Lions, their Week 7 opponent. Last week, the Dolphins obliterated the Chicago Bears defense, which was Football Outsiders’ No. 1 defense in the league through five weeks according to their DVOA metric. Miami put up 541 yards of offense and 31 points against Chicago, blindsiding their way to a 31-28 overtime victory.
The key to their success? A receiving corps that brings a ton of speed and open field talent to the table.
“They’ve got some outstanding change-of-direction guys,” Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said on Tuesday. “(Danny) Amendola is exceptional—has been for a long time, (Jakeem) Grant is a very, very quick, very, very good change of direction guy. There’s no question (Albert) Wilson is excellent underneath on screens and just route running. So they’ve got a really talented group.”
He’s not kidding. Just take a look at the athletic scores of these receivers coming out of college:
Look at those 40-yard dash times: 4.37 (Grant), 4.38 (Stills). 4.43 (Wilson), 4.45 (Parker).
Unfortunately for the Lions, they’ll be without one of the fastest players on their team. Jamal Agnew, who had been getting a lot of playing time—specifically in the nickel—was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week.
That will test the Lions’ secondary depth that has been beat up over the past few weeks. Quandre Diggs was wearing a cast last game, Tavon Wilson hasn’t played since Week 4, and Teez Tabor left the Packers contest early with a groin injury.
One player the Lions may ask to slide inside to cover speedy receivers is Nevin Lawson, who has played significant snaps both on the outside and inside this year. Lawson, too, noticed the Dolphins’ speed against the Bears.
“They’re fast,” Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson said. “They’ve got a lot of fast guys and they try to stretch the field, that’s what they want to do. If they can’t do it when they want to, they try to get the ball in their players’ hands in open space to make people miss and get yards.”
So how do you stop a group of receivers that are so dangerous with the ball in their hands? It comes down to fundamentals: proper angles and tackling.
“We’re going to have to do an excellent job of playing in space and being athletic in space and tackling in space,” Pasqualoni said.
Lawson mirrored those thoughts.
“Keep your leverage, take away what you need to take away, and know where your help is coming from,” Lawson said. “At the end of the day, just go tackle.”
The Lions have struggled against these type of receivers already this season, especially in recent weeks. Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley racked up four catches for 53 yards in Week 4, and the highly underrated Davante Adams pulled in nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Lions’ last game.
But the Lions have had a week of rest to heal up and an extra week to prepare. It’s no secret what the Dolphins will try to do offensively on Sunday. The question is whether the Lions can stop them.