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Texans-Dolphins Preview: SIX Things To Watch For

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Matt Weston gives you SIX things to watch for when the Texans play the Dolphins.

Detroit Lions v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Dolphins are an abhorrent franchise. When I say this I’m not commenting on their team building strategy, their 30 year old potential franchise quarterback, their draft decisions, how they replace talent with similar talent in free agency, and the fact their last playoff appearance was a fluky aberration lifted by Fortuna’s wings. I’m talking literally about their aesthetics.

They took something beautiful and perfect, a clash of green and orange dancing together in stripes, and a football playing Dolphin wearing an actual helmet leaping behind a setting sun, and turned it into a postmodern cubist atrocity, something that removes all feeling. Bland. No characteristics. Nothing memorable. The Dolphin is now a squirt of tooth paste ejaculated from a tube smashed in early morning stubbed toe howling. I see an uglier version of Eco the Dolphin, not football, when I look at this squirted thing.

The colors are now aquamarine, the color of mermaid tail scales, the color of rental beach condo community pool water, white, so much white, with strips of orange tape. The font is italicized. Dolphins. There’s a Miami tramp stamp, when tribal would have been one hundred times cooler. Their stadium is a multi-story gazebo the size of a battleship who’s endzone is contained by a wall two yards behind the back boundary, leading to security guard injuries, all so the elite can drink $20 margaritas even closer to the action turning a football game into a trip to see pre-Blackfish Shamu.

With Ryan Tannehill’s injury, the Dolphins have found the perfect quarterback to lead this garish franchise garnished with nauseating garments. The one, the only, [NAME REDACTED]. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. The crowd goes wild. The lions are in the arena. I can’t believe this happening.

HIT IT

1.) [NAME REDACTED]

I knew when [NAME REDACTED] signed with Miami he was 100% going to start a few games this season. He’s become the new Matt Cassel. The backup quarterback given an opportunity that broke everyone’s hearts, who still manages to start a game or two a year. One day he’s going to start a game for the Titans. I can feel it. Yet, little did I know, Ryan Tannehill would sprain his AC joint, miss games against Chicago, Detroit, and now, Houston in Houston. That big bearded man way up there in the sky knows how to rearrange the setting in the most perfect and poetic way sometimes. It really is unbelievable how square and perfect it all is.

The last time people saw [NAME REDACTED] was on a Twitter video interception or Redzone gaffe, and the last time they probably consistently watched him play was in 2016. That year. That awful horrible wretched year. I’m dry heaving all over again. [NAME REDACTED] completed 59.15% of his passes, threw 15 touchdowns to 16 interceptions, averaged 5.8 yards an attempt, had two games where he averaged less than four yards an attempt, threw a fumble farther than his average pass attempt in Denver, and finished 33rd in DVOA and DYAR, just ahead of a Jeff Fisher led Jared Goff. It ended in a playoff loss to New England where the defense played well enough to turn the witch into cremains. A bad trade to remove his contract with a second round pick. The tradeup for Deshaun Watson. A new life that’s better than the old life.

During his two starts in Miami [NAME REDACTED] has thrown 6 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, is averaging 8.2 yards an attempt, has been sacked 4 times, and could jump to 8th in passing DVOA once he hits the 105 pass minimum threshold after this game. The numbers only mean so much. They can only explain X amount. A culmination of life summarized. [NAME REDACTED] hasn’t been good. He’s still all those mean nasty things you yelled at the dog when he was in Houston.

The main thing [NAME REDACTED] does is throw short passes. The majority of them are swing routes. Miami’s offense is flatter than the Earth. Are you ready for it? Because it’s coming. Here it is. This is Miami’s offense.

Ooooooo, you feel that tremble up your spine. Here’s some more. A play action pass to the tight end seeping out to the flat from the fullback position. Watch out!

[NAME REDACTED’S] passing distribution is 15 short passes into the flat, 5 disgusting throws, and 1 good throw. Look at his passing chart by passer rating. The green is from wide open throws where the receivers take off and run forever.

His stats are propped up from the Chicago game. In that one the Dolphins had a passing offense DVOA of 58.5%. You can blame Albert Wilson breaking every tackle in his way for that. This is a 4 yard pass. Wilson catches a “75 yard touchdown pass”. [NAME REDACTED] gets credited for all 75 yards when he threw a simple comeback route and screams like he won tickets to see NSYNC in 1999 as Wilson ran around four tacklers, cut past another one, and turned the rest of it into a sp00ky leaf crunching jog.

Watching him play there are still run ins with hilarity and the absurd. [NAME REDACTED] is still throwing passes to noone. Your guess is better than mine.

He still can’t throw the ball with any accuracy. If there’s two safeties deep he’ll checkdown forever. That’s safer than having to actually make a throw with any sort of placement.

And when teams do, the rest of the game becomes check down after check down after check down. I don’t even think Adam Gase is designing things like this. Tannehill pushed it downfield. I just think [NAME REDACTED] absolutely refuses to.

Where was I? Oh yeah. He’s bad, but he can be hilarious, and sometimes he’s rewarded for it. They should put [NAME REDACTED’S] jersey on display in Canton for this pass.

Him dealing with pressure is also always a joy. He’s a giant clopping horse in a mobile home. He really should have just stayed in Denver. He’s a cat with tape on the bottom of his feet. There’s glass all over the floor. He marches in big slow cautious steps, and when the rush is around he can’t get away. Houston should 100% try to smoke him out with slot corner blitzes he can’t escape from.

To say it’s all horrendous is untrue nose growing. He’s made some BIG plays and some actual throws this year. The type of stuff that reminds one of a snowy game against New England. This corner route touchdown pass that murders a security guard is perfect. The ball is right over the back of the chasing corner. Kenny Stills has more than enough room to get both feet in. Dammit I hate how close that stupid wall is so much.

This one is fine. The receiver is galloping across the field and he hits him in stride. Pretty good.

And on the run he found Danny Amendola on a nice post route touchdown while stampeding out of the pocket.

These are the rare exceptions, but they still happen. With Deshaun Watson’s lungs scrambled up it’s expected for Houston to play another cautious low scoring game. It’s possible [NAME REDACTED] could make enough of these throws, to score just enough points, to pull off the unthinkable, which, when you really think about it, would be the most Texans’ thing ever. They’ve lost some stupid football games in impossibly stupid ways, but nothing could be dumber than this.

The Dolphins are without Albert Wilson who has a hip injury and Kenny Stills. They only have Amendola, Jakeem Grant, maybe Mike Gesicki, and Davante Parker could throw to. For the fourth week in a row the Texans’ secondary will be masked by a sad! wide receiver group. The Texans should still be able to play five yards off the line and play soft zone without having to worry about anything, like they have the last three weeks. If Houston can get a smidgen of rush, and chase and tackle, the Dolphins shouldn’t be able to get anything going. This is all you have to do to stop the Dolphins’ offense.

It doesn’t tear me up. I don’t hate [NAME REDACTED]. It’s all so long ago, it’s just some strange dream. It’s what happens when monomaniacal whale chasing NEED drives decisions. I do prefer the current reality instead. I wouldn’t have it differently when it comes to the quarterback position. I don’t hate the Dolphins. I don’t hate [NAME REDACTED]. I just hate their uniforms, jerseys, and stadium. And for everyone whose already slobbers vitriol, this game shouldn’t make you anymore hostile than you already are.

2.) Don’t Bother

The Dolphins have run the ball 50 times since [NAME REDACTED] has taken over at quarterback, and they’ve had success. They ran for 161 and 107 yards the last two games. Miami has a duo at the running back position. It’s Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake. Gore is the better runner of the two. He’s averaging 4.6 yards a carry, has accrued 38 DYAR, and has a DVOA of 5.3% on 72 carries. Gore is the same as he’s been. He’s a vertical runner. He always picks the correct path to chow down the most yards, and his vision is perfect. One day, if he wants to, he’ll make a spectacular running back coach.

Gore’s center of gravity is low. He bounces off tackles, and keeps his legs moving, they are always moving. And when he’s eventually brought down he falls forward. If you need five yards Gore is your guy.

Drake has 282 rushing yards on 58 carries, 0 DYAR, and a DVOA of -8.5%. He can actually catch passes though. This season he’s caught 25 of his 39 targets that he’s turned that into 160 yards. Gore is extinct on third down passing situations. In these cases it’s all Drake. He’s a better athlete than Gore. He can cutback better, and can hit home runs instead of wimpy exit velocity singles.

Teams have to account for him in the passing game, and run out wide when he’s there. Restricting his catches is the first step to stopping the Miami offense. The problem for the Dolphins is going to be on the ground. Honestly, they shouldn’t even run the ball.

The Texans are now first in rushing defense DVOA at -35.4%. They’ve taken the crown from New Orleans. It’s what this team does best. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney, Whitney Mercilus, Zach Cunningham, D.J. Reader, have been a brimstone sleigh pulled by Cerberuses. Even the secondary is tackling well and not allowing runs in the open field. It’s been a total team effort to stop the run like they have.

This unit held Ezekiel Elliot to 54 yards on 20 carries. They devoured LeSean McCoy. T.J. Yeldon didn’t exist last week. If Houston can dismantle these attacks, they shouldn’t have a problem against Drake or Gore. It should be a lot of first and second down road closures, and long third down attempts for [NAME REDACTED]. This, plus some shoddy interior blocking, seems like an awful matchup for Miami because it is.

3.) Protection

Deshaun Watson had to ride a Greyhound bus to Jacksonville last week. I imagined him sleeping, coughing up blood, coming to with a different person next to him each time, a red beard New England backpacker, drooling on a McDonald’s fattened arm, chickens wandering through the aisle, a sound cloud rapper producing beats. He came to. Completed 50% of his passes, threw a touchdown, ate a ‘W’, then returned home after being sacked only one time.

The Texans’ offense has reverted back to 2016 once again. They’re running the same offense [NAME REDACTED] ran. First down run, second down run, third down shotgun pass. The main difference is there’s an idea that Watson can run, even though him being used as a runner in the run game are empty threats and gestures. I think I got it. I think this is an Agatha Christie novel where I’ve discovered who was dead all along halfway through the book. Houston is going to be cautious. Try to do just enough to win. Wait for Watson to get healthy. And then open the offense back up around December when the playoffs arrive. The Texans have an easy schedule, and their defense doesn’t have to deal with any spread passing offenses for the rest of the year. They’re the division favorites now, and can probably coin flip their way to a division title.

They should be able to pull off the bubble boy offense again. The Dolphins’ pass rush is meek. They are generating pressure 22.4% of the time, and rank 31st in pressure rate. Their best pass rusher is Robert Quin, he’s fine. Technically, he’s a great rusher. He can rip and swim and long arm and spin and use every move an edge rusher can use. This year he’s generated 1 sack, 6 quarterback hits, and 13.5 hurries. Yet, he doesn’t have the same athleticism. He can’t close the gap to the quarterback, and turn these rushes into the end all be all pass rushing measure. If this was 2012 or 2013 this would be a sack.

Their second best rusher is Cameron Wake, who after a great 2017, looks to have finally deteriorated. Wake would have been a demon for Kendall Lamm or Juli’en Davenport. He’s always been a player that obliterates lesser tackles. Things are sad for Wake this year. He has just 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits, and 6.5 hurries. He’s been invisible on the field.

Once again the Texans, even with an offensive line that ranks last in pressure rate, should be ok this week, just like they were last week. Both Davenport and Lamm should be able to handle their edge assignments. The Dolphins don’t have an interior rush presence. And if anyone actually gets a rush going, Watson should be able to get away and outrun these ancient edge rushers.

4.) If They Must

Let’s say the unusual happens. [NAME REDACTED] walks by his old locker, drives by his old house, watches old H-E-B commercials, puts on his old cowboy hat, thinks about Bill O’Brien pushing him up against a wall and confronting him, and absolutely crushes it. He’s scrambling, throwing touchdowns on the run. Grant breaks some tackles and YACs a touchdown Albert Wilson style. Johnathan Joseph can’t stay with the newly healthy Parker. Amendola is picking bunches of first downs like he’s in witness protection on some Mormon orchard. Cunningham gets beat covering Drake by himself. Let’s say this happens, and the Dolphins actually put up points.

The Texans should be able to match whatever Miami does. Because the Dolphins, unlike most of the NFL’s bad defenses, doesn’t have a couple of great players. They have two. Xavien Howard is a cornerback number one. He hasn’t graded as a top 25 defensive back, but those numbers should even out as the season goes on. Howard is great at mirroring receivers, and cuts his way in front of short crossing routes really well.

Reshad Jones reads offenses well, can affect passes in the center of the field, and can come into the box and mash. Other than that, there isn’t much here talent wise in Miami.

Anyone can get open against the Dolphins. They struggle covering tight ends and running backs and are 15th and 26th by DVOA at covering these spots. Their linebackers are slow in pass coverage. Kiko Alonso is better, but you don’t want him running around with backs and tight ends on his own.

Jerome Baker is lost in coverage. Teams have capitalized attacking the middle of the field between the linebackers and safeties because of his play—Detroit especially. This could be the week where Jordan Thomas or Jordan Akins breaks out, especially with Ryan Griffin out. It would also be a good week to use Lamar Miller or Tyler Ervin in the pass game. Without a real slot receiver in Keke Coutee, they have to find ways to attack the middle of the field. It’s going to be too open not to.

DeAndre Hopkins has the advantage against Howard when he’s against him, but nothing will be easy. It will be a less physical version of last week, yet Howard can match him stride for stride the majority of the time. The big matchup advantage through the air is whenever Fuller V is up against Torry McTyer. Fuller V was a strobe light against A.J. Bouye last week. In a flash he disappears off the screen, in a flash he’s open on the sideline. McTyer has allowed 18.5 yards a pass on 12 targets, has a success rate of 25%, and receivers are picking up 5.8 yards after the catch on him. Crispy.

After Howard and Jones it’s an enormous drop off in Miami’s secondary. The pass rush doesn’t exist. I don’t think Houston wants Watson to have a big game, but even if he has to, he should be able to without too much trouble.

5.) Franchise Left Tackle

I forgot what it’s like to watch a franchise left tackle. They just kick slide out there on their own. All alone. In their own little world. There’s no coddling or checking up. They’re just playing with rocket ships in their bedrooms. Laremy Tunsil is that guy. The gas mask has moved from left guard to left tackle, and now, in year three, the goliath is staring to get things down.

His upper body strength bends the bar. When he punches and grabs the block is over. The defender is suffocated. There’s no Daffy Duck reincarnation. The soul doesn’t return back to the body. He sits and waits for it all to come to an end. Typically, these are how his pass blocks look like.

In the run game his feet carry him. He’s always hitting the correct contact point, and he’s consistently making contact first. Tunsil can climb up to linebackers and make one on one blocks on his own. The one big bit of trouble he gets into his not knowing who to block. Occasionally, he allows free rushers by blocking down instead of picking up the blitzer, and allows free runs to the ball carrier by not seeing his next block. Other than that, he’s excellent.

He’s going to be the best offensive lineman the Texans have faced all year. Whenever the Dolphins are traveling to the left on your television, east?, west?, I don’t know, make sure to check him out there on the left side. He’ll predominantly play against Jadeveon Clowney in this game, and that’s the best match up we got.

6.) Greatness Is A Transitory Experience. It Is Never Consistent.