The New York Giants travel to South Beach for a matchup against a 5-7 Miami Dolphins team that has won four straight games. The defense of the Dolphins is one of the main reasons why the team is currently in a winning groove.
On the year, the Dolphins defense rank 19th in scoring defense, allowing 23.3 points per game. However, the defense has only allowed 13.3 points per game in their last three games, ranking third. On the season, Miami allows 367.4 yards per game, ranking 24th. In the last three games, they're the seventh-best, allowing 294 yards per game.
Miami is the 10th best rush defense on the season and the sixth in the last three games; this doesn't bode well for the Giants, who are terrible at running the football. Miami's pass defense has been much better with a healthy Xavien Howard. They're 28th on the season, allowing 262.5 passing yards per game. They have only allowed 207 yards in the last three games.
Patrick Graham was the defensive coordinator under Brian Flores for the third-year head coach's first season. Flores sticks to the New England model of defense--a man, heavy, aggressive unit. Miami runs more man coverage than any other team in the NFL, and it isn't close. Just under half of their coverage snaps are in man coverage. This is convenient when Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are your team's cornerbacks, and Nik Needham has developed well as a slot defender.
Flores' defensive unit is strong overall, and they're playing very well now. Their strength of the unit is the secondary and their ability to consistently run man coverage and not get beat deep. Flores runs a lot of trap/robber buzz defenders along the seams to assist the cornerbacks with inside crossers; in doing so, there is immense pressure on the outside cornerbacks. Byron Jones and Xavian Howard can handle the pressure.
Man coverage leaves both Howard and Jones susceptible to surrendering touchdowns in the red zone due to pick routes. Howard has allowed seven touchdowns (3 against Tampa Bay and two against Buffalo). Many of these touchdowns were all in the red zone. Howard also has eight pass breakups and three interceptions. Jones doesn't have an interception, but he has seven pass breakups.
Howard plays on the right side more than the left, but he has shadowed as well, not that it's overly necessary when Jones is the number two cornerback. Howard is surrendering a sub-60 percent completion rate, with Jones at 64.8%. Golladay will see a lot of these two cornerbacks.
Nik Needham is the slot defender who gives up underneath throws but doesn't get beat deep too often. He hasn't allowed a touchdown this season, and he has an interception with three pass breakups. All three of these players are good in run support.
The former first-round pick from Auburn, Noah Igbinoghene, rarely gets on the field. He has dealt with injuries this season, and he's an incredible athlete who still isn't technically sound. Igbinoghene played 11 snaps last week. Justin Coleman also comes into play when Miami is in the dime. He's a veteran who is adequate in coverage, and Flores uses him in many ways.
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Jason McCourty suffered an injury in week 7, so Miami is rotating three safeties into the defense, with aggressive Oregon rookie Javon Holland being the primary player. The guy is a missile who is aggressive and attacks the football. He delivers gigantic hits in run support. Eric Rowe also plays a lot of snaps in the absence of McCourty. The Giants can take advantage of Rowe, who is more of a replacement-level player.
Sheldrick Redwine, the former Miami Hurricane, and Cleveland Brown may also see the field. He was on the Jets earlier in the season and was recently signed to the Dolphins after McCourty's injury.
Miami has blitzed more than any other NFL team; the only one that's close is Todd Bowels and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have 28 sacks on the year, ranking 10th in the NFL, and they lead the league in quarterback knockdowns per dropback (percentage stat). Expect a lot of heat from rookie Jaelin Phillips, who just had three sacks against the Panthers, and Emmanuel Ogbah, who leads the team with 50 pressures.
Both Phillips and Ogbah are good run defenders, and the former is starting to figure out how to play in the NFL. According to PFF, Ogbah has 50 pressures and seven sacks, Phillips has 31 pressures and eight sacks, and Andrew Van Ginkel has 33 pressures and four sacks. In the last four games, Van Ginkel has had 19 pressures (all victories for the Dolphins).
The EDGE defenders on this team are solid, and Christian Wilkins and gigantic Raekwon Davis do a good job occupying the middle of the defense and are good athletes for their size. Wilkins is 6'4, 315 pounds, and he gets really good pressure from the interior. He will be a problem for Billy Price and Matt Skura.
Davis is 6'7, 312 pounds. He hasn't quite put his entire game together yet, but that length will be an issue for the Giants. The former Patriot, Adam Butler, plays the second-most snaps inside for the Dolphins. Butler is a smart defender who is never out of position, and he typically dictates the point of attack. He has 18 pressures and a sack on the season.
Zach Sieler is a 6'6, 290-pound defensive lineman used all over the formation upfront. He's strong and does a good job disrupting opposing rushing attacks. Sieler is more of a run defender than a pass rusher. He's second on the team in STOPS, behind Christian Wilkins.
Jerome Baker, Duke Riley, and Elandon Roberts handle the middle of the defense. Baker is more of a run defender and Riley a bit more of a passing downs linebacker. Riley is a good athlete who had a huge blocked punt last week against the Panthers. Riley's overall usage is inconsistent, but he played a lot of snaps on Sunday.
In the middle of the defense, Baker is a physical player who plays on passing downs. Baker has blitzed over 100 times this season; he's frequently the fifth rusher. Roberts is ahead of Riley on the depth chart but behind Baker. He's also starting to get towards the backend of his career despite being 27. He hasn't played well since leaving New England two years ago.
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