Oct 272011
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By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, October 30, 2011: The loss to the Seahawks turned the Bills game into an almost must-win game and the Giants went out and took care of business against Buffalo.  With everything the Giants have been through since the lockout ended – most notably free agent defections and injuries – the 4-2 record at the bye seems respectable.  Still, there is a lingering feeling of lost opportunity since the Giants’ two losses came against one unimpressive division opponent and one terrible team.  But there is no point in dwelling on the past.  The Giants are in first place and a chance to make the playoffs is still in front of them despite the upcoming schedule.

The Giants have two assets that all teams crave: (1) they have a franchise quarterback who is playing very well, and (2) they can rush the passer with the best of them.  These two assets should keep them competitive for the remainder of the season.  There were some hints against Buffalo that the running game may start to be coming around.  If it does, then there are no big worries on the offensive side of the football though the offensive line is likely to still have its down moments as it continues to gain cohesion and chemistry.

Special teams have actually been decent.  Punting and punt coverage has not been a problem.  Kickoffs and kickoff coverage has been decent too.  Aaron Ross has done a respectable job as a punt returner.  It would be nice to see Devin Thomas break a big kickoff return.  Field goals haven’t been an issue except for two blocks – the latter has been the big negative on specials.

In my eyes, the biggest question mark with this team is defense.  For a team that rushes the passer as well as the Giants do, it’s a crime that the back seven can’t cover better than it does.  This is a veteran secondary with a lot of high-round draft picks.  They should be doing better.  And the run defense has not been good.  If the defense doesn’t improve under Perry Fewell’s guidance, the Giants will not make the playoffs.  It’s that simple.

The Dolphins are winless, but as the Seahawks game demonstrated, the Giants can take no team lightly.  How bad are the Seahawks?  The Cleveland Browns beat them 6-3 last weekend.  The Dolphins are a bad team, but they do have a respectable defense, and they are still playing hard.

This is a big game for Tom Coughlin.  If his Giants fall to the Dolphins at home, three weeks after losing to the Seahawks at home, I think he is very much on the hot seat unless the Giants then go on to make the playoffs.

Giants on Offense: The Dolphins have the 23rd ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed (the Giants are 22nd).  Miami is 21st against the pass and 18th against the run.  The stats are misleading because the Dolphins’ offense has been so poor that the defense has been on the field more than it should.  It’s a 3-4 defense with some ability to rush the passer (14 sacks – though a bunch of them came last week against the Broncos).  The three defensive linemen (LDE Kendall Langford, NT Paul Soliai, and RDE Randy Starks) are an underrated group. WLB Cameron Wake leads the team with 5 sacks and ex-Cardinal ILB Karlos Dansby is a good all-around player.  The secondary has some talent too at both safety and corner.

QB Eli Manning knows the defense should not be underestimated:

“(The Dolphins) have good players and you have to account for all of their rush ends and linebackers. They do a good job of mixing up some blitzes and getting to the quarterback, showing some different looks. So they are talented. You can’t sit back there and hold the ball real long. Try to get the ball out in a timely fashion. Make sure the receiver is getting open. It’s just a matter of everybody understanding what our rules are and being sound in our assignments. Also, making sure guys are getting open, getting the ball out quick…(In the secondary), they play different techniques and they do a good job being aggressive and jumping a few things, but they will play some man and a lot of their defenses are man in principle. But they do a good job of mixing things up. They’re very sound. They play smart football.”

“Every game this year going into the fourth quarter they’ve been up some (or) they’ve been down a point or two,” said Manning. “They played New England very tight…They have talent. They do good things. A lot of teams have had trouble with them. Teams aren’t going in there and scoring a whole lot of points against them. You have to be sound. You can’t give them easy plays. And you can’t give them turnovers. And you can’t give them good field position.”

Remember, turnovers are the great equalizer.  The Giants need to protect the football.

Giants on Defense: Miami is 19th in offense in terms of  yards gained but 30th in terms of points.  The Dolphins are 21st in passing and 18th in rushing.  The bad news for the Dolphins is that they give up a lot of sacks and their offensive line is a bit beat up (RT Marc Colombo and LG Richie Incognito are ailing).  But we all saw what happened when the then dead-last ranked offense of the Seattle Seahawks came to town.

WR Brandon Marshall is a headcase, but he can take over a game.  Fellow receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess can make some plays.  Halfbacks Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are averaging four yards per rush.  Quarterback play has been a problem for the Dolphins as Matt Moore has struggled.  Like the Giants, the Dolphins have trouble converting on third down (32nd in the NFL).

If the Dolphins can’t run the football, they should be in trouble against the Giants’ pass rush.  The key is to put Miami in third-and-long and then get after Moore.  The Giants also need to prevent the cheap big play like the two they gave up early against the Bills.

Giants on Special Teams: The Dolphins do a respectable job on punt returns, averaging 11.5 yards per return.  The Giants have yet to break a big punt or kickoff return this year.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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