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Cowboys at Dolphins: ‘Tua Tagovailoa, in his fourth season, has shown he is a special quarterback’

It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins look on Sunday.

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys face a tough one again this week as they venture to South Florida to take on the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys are currently 1.5-point underdogs in the game according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

To get a little knowledge of what is going on with the Dolphins, we turn to our sister site, The Phinsider.

Blogging The Boys: Tua Tagovailoa is having a super season. Give us your full scouting report on him.

The Phinsider: Tagovailoa is literally the film college coaches use to teach the run-pass option and the system head coach Mike McDaniel brought to South Florida perfectly matches Tagovailoa’s skill set. The Dolphins offense is built to pull the defense up, using the running game and the short passes to lull a defense into watching for the slant, only to then have Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle break long for the deep shot.

The Dolphins’ offense loves the slant and in-crossing routes. Tagovailoa’s anticipation and accuracy allows him to be a perfectly placed ball in the spot where the receiver is going to be, even before the receiver’s break has been made. He fits the ball into tight spaces, and he does it with seeming ease.

The Cowboys can disrupt Miami’s passing attack by keeping their linebackers home, putting them in the passing lanes for the slants and crossing routes. Tagovailoa will either be forced into making bad passes, or turning to his check down options. Running backs Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane coming out of the backfield as receiving options in the flat or on wheel routes can be dangerous, but they are not the primary options and they are not Hill or Waddle.

Tagovailoa, in his fourth season, has shown he is a special quarterback. The system and the weapons around him definitely play a factor in his success, but what great quarterback has not had great weapons and a really good coach around him? The Dolphins and Tagovailoa are a perfect fit, and the offensive system is allowing him to reach his full potential.

BTB: The Dolphins offensive line seems seriously banged up. Can you give us a rundown of what’s happening there and how it could affect the game?

TP: It has been ugly when it comes to the Dolphins’ offensive line. Each of their starters has been playing well this year, but injuries are just crushing them. Left tackle Terron Armstead has been limited to seven games. When he is on the field, he is a dominant player who completely changes the line, but lingering injuries have continued to be the story of his career.

Left guard Isaiah Wynn has been on injured reserve for most of the season and will not be coming back. Robert Jones and Lester Cotton have been replacing him, and they are fine. Jones is a good run blocker and he can be effective at either guard position.

Center Connor Williams suffered a torn ACL two weeks ago. He had been one of the top-graded centers in the league, and now Miami has to replace him. Liam Eichenberg, who has served as a pseudo-utility interior lineman, assumes the starting role, but he has a calf injury that had him questionable for the game last week and is still bothering him this week. He could play against the New York Jets, but he definitely was not 100 percent. If Eichenberg is not able to play, Jonotthan Harrison would likely start in his place, despite having been with the Dolphins for about a week now. Miami also has Matt Skura on the practice squad, giving them another option for the position if needed.

At right guard, Robert Hunt has been dealing with a hamstring injury for much of the season and it continues to sideline him. Eichenberg was playing well in his place, but now has to move to center. Jones likely starts here if Hunt is unable to play, with Cotton then in place to start at left guard.

At right tackle, Austin Jackson has been a really good player this year and the most consistent of Miami’s linemen, but he is dealing with an oblique injury. I would expect him to play, but he is not at 100 percent.

The offensive line is definitely a concern, but at least the Cowboys do not have a crushing pass rush or anything.

Wait...

BTB: Is Tyreek Hill going to play, and if he does how effective do you think he will be? How well can the Miami offense function without him?

TP: I think Hill will be playing. He seemed close last week, but the Dolphins have been very conservative when it comes to player injuries this season, preferring to have them available for the three-game stretch to end the season, beginning this week against the Cowboys. The Dolphins knew they did not need Hill against the Jets and they decided to sit him. This week, I would expect them to get him back on the field, even if he - or any other of the injured players - is a little less than 100 percent but can still play.

I think he will be effective, especially if he is running straight. The question marks will be around his making cuts on his routes or as he tries to make defenders miss. I think he will be able to play and he will put up his stats, but it may be more of getting him the ball and letting him run straight lines, rather than have him make double moves to create separation.

The good thing about the Dolphins’ offense is, as much as it is centered on Hill, they have so many other weapons that they can make up for it. Waddle is obviously a threat and would be a number-one receiver on nearly every other team in the league.

Cedrick Wilson, Jr., Braxton Berrios, and Robbie Chosen could all have bigger roles in the game plan as well. And, at some point, Chase Claypool should have a package introduced into the gameplan.

BTB: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Miami defense?

TP: If everyone is healthy, the Dolphins’ secondary is their strength. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cornerback Xavien Howard, and safety Jevon Holland should all be Pro Bowl selections this year. The secondary can shut down opposing receivers if everyone is able to play at full strength.

Miami’s pass rush is pretty stout as well, even with the loss of linebacker Jaelan Phillips to an Achilles tear. Miami is second in the league in sacks, recording 48 so far. Linebacker Bradley Chubb’s three-sack performance last week pulled him to 9.5 on the season, while defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has eight sacks and defensive tackle Zach Sieler has 7.5. The Dolphins have been able to generate pressure, especially in the second half of the season, as new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme has taken hold.

But, Fangio has also been adapting his system to Miami’s players. After years in the Brian Flores/Josh Boyer system of exotic blitzes and amoeba-style defensive fronts, Miami’s players are really well-suited for that style. Fangio has added some of those looks and blitz packages to his scheme, and it is working well.

As for a weakness, the linebackers came into the season with some question marks already surrounding them, especially when it came to stopping the run and tight end coverage. They played well, but now injuries are starting to stack up and the questions are coming back. Run the ball straight at Miami’s defense and make them prove they can stop it. Use the tight ends and running backs out of the backfield as receiving threats in the middle of the field - again looking to make Miami prove they can stop it.

BTB: DraftKings Sportsbook has Miami as 1.5-point favorites. Is that a fair line? How do you think the game plays out?

TP: I am actually surprised the Cowboys are not the favorites in the game. I feel like both teams are fairly equal, but the question marks around Miami’s injury report could lead to the Cowboys having the advantage. I know the storyline about the Cowboys includes they cannot win against winning-record teams and that they struggle on the road, but the storyline about winning teams is also used against the Dolphins. Miami does play better at home, especially when they can use their motions on offense more effectively without the crowd noise, so maybe that leads to the spread.

I think Miami wins this game, because it is in Hard Rock Stadium. I think it will be a close game, and I think both offenses will be coming out to prove something. There is a reason these are the top two scoring offenses in the league. If this is something like 35-34, I would not be surprised.

Thanks for the knowledge, The Phinsider.

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