The NFC East leading Dallas Cowboys are off to a 2-0 start, and it’s about to get even better when the league’s worst team moseys into AT&T Stadium on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins were a bad team entering the season, but it’s gotten even worse over the last month as they have traded away two of their best players in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The team is in complete fire-sale mode as they collect draft capital and position themselves to take Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in next year’s draft.
The Dolphins are ridiculously bad. They have the worst offense and defense in terms of yards gained and points scored. Offense and defense! That’s atrocious. They’ve turned over the ball more than anyone else, they have the fewest first downs, and have given up the most rushing yards in the league so far this season - averaging 195 yards and two touchdowns per game. I can think of a particular someone who can’t wait to add to that total on Sunday. And they’re equally terrible running the ball themselves. In fact, the Cowboys quarterback has more rushing yards last game than the entire Dolphins team has for the entire season!
Rushing yards...— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 20, 2019
Dak Prescott last game = 69 yards
Miami Dolphins all year = 63 yards
Having said all that, let’s get ourselves pumped for an exciting game on Sunday, shall we? Here are five things to keep an eye on when the Dolphins come to town.
1. No “Fitzmagic” as the Dolphins pull a quick-change at QB
The only way to envision the Dolphins pulling this game out somehow involved an impressive magic act from their sleight of hand quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran has been no stranger from pulling out some impressive performances recently as he started the 2018 season with two straight games with 400+ passing yards and four touchdowns. He led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 2-0 start against the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles last year. It was very impressive.
But alas, there will be no Fitzmagic on Sunday as the team is giving Josh Rosen a shot to see what he can do. As we’ve seen in the past, a new-starting quarterback can sometimes spark an offense. It’s going to take something like that to happen for the Dolphins to have a fighting chance.
2. Cleaning out the Fish Tank
Sunday will mark the debut of Robert Quinn, who the Dolphins traded to the Cowboys this offseason. There is nothing like starting your season against your former team. While fans will be curious to get their first look at Quinn, it could be his partner in crime on the other side that completely blows things up against Miami.
On the surface, it may feel like the Cowboys new $100 million edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence has been quiet. He hasn’t. Tank’s impact is felt weekly as he leads the team in pressures. It doesn’t take him lighting up the box score for him wreak havoc in the trenches, and that’s exactly what he will be doing Sunday against the Dolphins.
After the Dolphins traded away left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans, they had to move their best remaining tackle, RT Jesse Davis, to the left side to protect the quarterback’s blindside. That put third-year, 2017 fourth-round pick Julian Davenport on the right side; however, he is dealing with an injury and won’t be available on Sunday. That moves veteran backup J’Marcus Webb into the team’s starting right tackle position. Webb didn’t make the final roster cuts with the Indianapolis Colts, but the Dolphins signed him a week later after the Tunsil trade left them short-handed. Essentially, because of trade and injuries, Tank gets to go after the Dolphins fourth-best offensive tackle. That’s bad news for the Rosen.
Like what often happens when the right tackle is over-matched facing Lawrence, the Dolphins are going to have to give Webb help. And considering this Dolphins offensive line has already allowed 10 sacks so far this year, this could be a big day for the Cowboys defensive line. Look for Maliek Collins to feast, and you might even see a little something from rookie defensive tackle Trysten Hill, who should be making his NFL debut this week.
3. Matchup to watch
The Cowboys best receiver is Amari Cooper. He had seven touchdown catches last season and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. The Dolphins best corner is Xavien Howard. He had seven interceptions last season and also earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. These two are sure to see some battles on Sunday when the Cowboy are on offense.
Cooper and Howard are no strangers as they’ve squared off twice already when Cooper was with the Raiders. In 2017, Howard held Cooper to four catches for 58 yards. Last year, he shut him down even more as Cooper had just two catches for 17 yards.
The Dolphins don’t have many good players, but Howard is one of them and this could end up being a great matchup to watch. Of course, being able to stop Cooper on the Raiders and stopping him on the Cowboys are too very different things. Cooper is fitting in well with Dallas and he’s on pace for another 1,000+ yards season with more than doubling his season-high touchdown total. Howard knows this won’t be an easy task as the former Baylor star corner certainly respects Cooper’s game.
“His route running,” Howard said. “It’s crazy, man. Ever since college, his route running has been like that. It’s going to be a tough battle.
“Great guy. The dude competes. I like his game.”
The Cowboys have plenty of receiving weapons to not have to challenge the Dolphins star corner, but with Michael Gallup out and Cooper such a talented target - we should expect a good battle between these two young stars.
4. Bringing out the safety net
The Dolphins have a lot of holes on defense, but one of their strengths to open the season has now become a liability - the safety position. The team traded rising star Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they also have veteran Reshad Jones out with an ankle injury. This leaves the Dolphins having to man the position with a couple of backups - former fifth-round pick Bobby McCain and undrafted free agent Steven Parker.
The Cowboys are banged up at wide receiver as both Tavon Austin (concussion) and Gallup (knee) are dealing with injuries. This opens the doors for a couple of the bottom guys like Devin Smith and Cedrick Wilson to get their chances. But don’t be shocked if the Cowboys attack the middle of the field with their tight ends. Blake Jarwin has the athleticism to be a threat down the seam.
The Cowboys will also be without their top safety as Xavier Woods has an ankle sprain of his own. This puts the onus on backup Darian Thompson to make plays. We might also get to see Donovan Wilson make his NFL debut if his ankle is good to go.
5. Squaring off against an old friend
Robert Quinn isn’t the only player who gets to play against his former team from a year ago. And no, I’m not talking about Taco Charlton who was just claimed by the Dolphins. Sure, it would be fun seeing the new Fish Taco going against Tyron Smith or La’el Collins in a live-action game, but we aren’t likely to be so lucky. Charlton will probably be inactive (he’s used to that) until he can get acclimated to his new team.
The former Cowboys player that they will play against is Allen Hurns. The team signed Hurns to a two-year deal last year, but the Cowboys were so stacked at the position that he was released before training camp started. Hurns fell short of expectations last season, only catching 20 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns. He’s on pace to do even worse this year as he only has two catches for 20 yards this season with the Dolphins.
Miami’s top receivers are DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, so those are the players most likely to make noise in the passing game, but keep a look out for no. 17.