After comfortable season-opening wins, the Ravens and Miami Dolphins will face off Sunday in Baltimore in one of the week’s most anticipated matchups.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was more aggressive throwing downfield in Sunday’s win over the New England Patriots than he typically was last year. Does wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s arrival make that a viable approach in 2022, or is it more of a gamble with Tagovailoa’s arm strength?
There was a lot of debate throughout the offseason regarding whether Tagovailoa has the arm strength to maximize Hill’s speed. But for all the talk about that, two things weren’t often discussed. One, Hill’s average depth of target in his last season with the Kansas City Chiefs dropped to a career-low 9.1, according to Pro Football Reference. And two, the success of passing offenses isn’t really determined by what happens 20-plus yards downfield but more in the intermediate range of the field.
Tagovailoa has struggled in that area of the field, but Week 1 showed how Hill, paired with Jaylen Waddle, can aid him. His stats on throws between 10 and 20 yards against the Patriots were much better than his career averages. That’s the part of the field that first-year coach Mike McDaniel wants to live in, too, because he can optimize their yards-after-catch potential. Tagovailoa’s arm strength and ability to make off-platform throws consistently do remain questions, but Hill widens the margin for error.
The Dolphins blitzed Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson into submission in last season’s upset win. With McDaniel having replaced Brian Flores as coach, do you expect any significant changes in Miami’s game plan in the rematch?
Flores may be gone, but defensive coordinator Josh Boyer was retained, along with all 13 players who made at least five starts in 2021. Boyer has said the defense’s core philosophies will stay the same, and that appeared to be the case in Week 1. The team’s blitz rate (27.3%) against the Patriots was lower than last season’s figure (39.6%), but playing with a lead for most of the game and the absence of cornerback Byron Jones, who is on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, all could have been factors in the decline in blitzing.
Against Baltimore, I wouldn’t expect much to change: Crowd the line of scrimmage, key on the Jackson-led run game and get the Ravens into third-and-long situations, where they can unleash “Cover 0″ again. With a full week of preparation, as opposed to last season’s short turnaround, the Ravens should be better prepared, and the Dolphins will need to have counters ready. But why go away from what worked so well?
Where do the Dolphins have the biggest advantage over the Ravens, and where are they most vulnerable?
Baltimore Ravens Insider
You never want to overreact to one game, especially a Week 1 game. But the Dolphins’ defensive line looks like it could again give the Ravens’ offensive line trouble. Miami has a deep front, led by players such as Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins, Jaelan Phillips and old friend Zach Sieler. Newcomer Melvin Ingram looked really good in his first game as a Dolphin. A lot of pressure will be on players such as center Tyler Linderbaum, left guard Ben Powers and potentially Patrick Mekari at left tackle to create push up front and give Jackson enough time in the pocket.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins’ upgraded offensive line looked solid but still appears to be a weak link in the new-look unit. The Dolphins rushed for only 65 yards, and protection broke down at times. Right tackle Austin Jackson left the game with an ankle injury and did not return. McDaniel said the injury is serious enough that it’s something they’ll have to monitor throughout the week. New additions Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams should steady the young group, but left guard Liam Eichenberg will need to play better than he did in Week 1, or in last season’s matchup, for that matter. The Ravens got a good interior pass rush against the New York Jets, so that could be a key matchup Sunday.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV: Chs. 13, 9
Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM