The Miami Dolphins bring an underrated secondary into their Week Six matchup with the Chicago Bears. It will be an excellent test for Mitch Trubisky
After shredding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to head into the bye week, many Mitch Trubisky doubters have pointed to the Tampa Bay defense has a lot to do with the success.
That certainly is a fair complaint, the Bucs rank 32nd in defensive efficiency, highlighted by the fact that they rank 32nd in passing defense. So, that game could be looked at as a situation where we should be worried if Trubisky did not have a big game, rather than be relieved he did.
Still, it was a huge game nonetheless. While many will say that Trubisky may not be tested again this week, they are mistaken. In fact, on paper, this will be the best pass defense that he has seen so far. The Dolphins rank fifth in DVOA, fifth in passing efficiency, and eighth in success rate allowed. No matter how you look at it, the Dolphins are getting it done.
What is more impressive than the fact that they are getting it done, is how they are getting it done. The team has dealt with some injuries in the back end and have had to shuffle their secondary around. This while incorporating rookie first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick.
In Week Two, Reshad Jones went down with an injury. Fitzpatrick has started his career in the slot. However, when Jones went down, the Dolphins best bet was to move Fitzpatrick to free safety.
Bobby McCain moved from the outside to the slot, his natural position, and Tony McTyer has had to see extended play. Unfortunately, as Jones was inserted back into the lineup, McCain went down with an injury.
So, McTyer has had to play a significant role in three games, Fitzpatrick has played free safety for two starts, and the slot for three starts and McCain missed their last game against Cincinnati. Still, fifth against the pass.
The Bengals have the number nine passing offense in the NFL. At home against Miami, the Bengals were able to put up 13 offensive points, relying on two defensive touchdowns to beat the Dolphins. They slowed down what had been a passing attack firing on all cylinders.
The first piece to the puzzle has been Xavien Howard, who typically follows the teams top wide receiver, This makes it easier on a player such as McTyer. Howard currently leads the league in interceptions. Howard has been up and down this season but has typically performed better against bigger wide receivers, where he can keep them square in front of him.
While he was slated to square off with Green on Sunday, Green ended up having a big day. However, that is not because of Howard as much as it was the Bengals were able to find matchups to get Green away from Howard. Green lined up in the slot the most in his career. You can see from his route charts that he was working the slot.
This is why Tyler Boyd ended up with one of the worst games in his breakout season. Howard said after the game that he would be willing to travel into the slot to make sure that this did not happen again. This will be interesting to see against Allen Robinson because a lot of the Dolphins success revolves around trusting Howard in his matchup.
Robinson has moved into the slot in the past, and with Howard slated to follow him, he almost certainly will test him from the slot in this game.
Although he missed two games, Jones is the straw that stirs the drink, and that is part of the reason why you saw such a strong performance against a talented passing attack in Cincinnati.
Jones is so valuable because of how versatile he is. Jones is one of the hardest hitting safeties in the NFL, and likely would be best as a strong safety in the box. However, the team has T.J. McDonald, who is much better in the box than back deep. So, Jones has played the free safety role and has been practical and efficient.
As you can see in the play linked here, he can make plays in the passing game defending the deep half of the field. He waits to break on A.J. Green over the middle of the field, knowing he can get Dalton to throw his way. That is when Jones pounces, and tips the pass into the air, leading to an interception.
Mitch Trubisky cannot let Jones bait him into one. He also cannot let Jones get to him at the line of scrimmage. In that same game, you can see him blitzing off of the edge with bend and speed. He forced Dalton to make a big play.
One area in which Trubisky has had to show improvement is in blitz recognition. While Jones can sucker him into one in coverage, he also can force Trubisky into a bad decision by putting the pressure on him in the box.
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The versatility of Reshad Jones comes together when you put him with a first round pick in Minkah Fitzpatrick. Some Bears fans would have had no problem if he ended up in Chicago on draft night, and he has had a decent start to his career.
He has shuffled between the slot and free safety, and while that helps Jones and makes the defense more versatile, it has caused some downs for the rookie. However, the ups have been just as high, and he has already proven to be a vocal leader on this defense, and a player who plays with instincts and aggressiveness.
The two plays highlighted here are worth noting for Bears fans. Both are screen plays. One, A.J. Green is attempting to block him. The other is against Rob Gronkowski. Both situations show Fitzpatrick reading the screen, snuffing it out from the jump and dismantling the play before it ever had a chance to get going.
The Bears have been reliant on screens, sweeps and other motions to get the offense going and expose Tampa Bay in that regard. There is no exposing Fitzpatrick with tricks near the line.
If you wanted to see Trubisky get tested after his breakout against Tampa Bay, you got it. The Dolphins are coming off of two losses but are back at home and ready to make things right.
They will follow Allen Robinson with Xavien Howard. They will use Fitzpatrick to bust up screen passes and force Trubisky to test them deep. But deep, they have the talented Reshad Jones who has been known to turn the ball over.
It seems like many are discounting the Dolphins, but their pass defense will make this an interesting watch.