The Dolphins travel to Las Vegas on Sunday to face the Raiders in Allegiant Stadium at 4:05 p.m.
The Fins suffered an embarrassing loss, 35-0, to the Buffalo Bills in week two.. A lot went wrong. Now the team must fix its mistakes and prepare for Allegiant Stadium, nicknamed “The Death Star” after the planet-destroying Star Wars weapon. Last year the Dolphins played managed to win there after a deep throw from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick while his facemask was being pulled across his face set up a game-winning field goal.
The Dolphins will do so without second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He took a ferocious hit on the second drive of the Bills game that left him with fractured ribs. Head coach Brian Flores said on Wednesday that Tagovailoa will not be available against Las Vegas.
Will Manso, sports director for Local 10 has covered South Florida sports for more than 20 years. Here are his key points on what could be a pivotal game.
Offensive line needs to play better:
The O-line for the Dolphins was awful against the Buffalo Bills last week. They allowed six sacks and 11 QB hits.
Miami plays its best offense when the quarterback throws quickly. In the Bills game, pressure nixed that. “Buffalo right away from the first play of the game was taking away the first read,” said Manso. “Before you knew it [Tagovailoa] was getting crushed. He didn’t make it out of two series. That’s how much the pressure was.”
The O-line will have changes come Sunday. “They can’t just go status-quo and say. ‘it was a bad game, we will be fine.’ They know they won’t be fine if things don’t get better by each player and by the staff,” Manso stated.
Dolphins’ second-round pick from Notre Dame, Liam Eichenberg, will get the start at left guard on Sunday over Solomon Kindley, who started last week. Eichenberg started in week one at left tackle after Austin Jackson was on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Establish a run game:
The Fins’ run game is in the bottom half of the league after two weeks. Asked what the team needs to do to win the game versus the Raiders, Manso said, “Run the football…your quarterback is not taking hits if you’re running the football.”
Now it is up to the Dolphins coaching staff to commit to the run and running backs like Myles Gaskin and Malcolm Brown to come up big. Brown was picked up in free agency to be the bruising back for short-yardage situations, but he failed to convert on a fourth-and-1 last Sunday.
Manso did have praise for starting running back Gaskin. “He’s run hard in limited action. He has proved he’s the kind of guy to make nice plays.”
Jaylen Waddle has to make an impact:
Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle had six receptions for 48 yards against the Bills. Versus the Raiders, he will have to produce more.
“Make no mistake about it, they are going to have to score some points against Las Vegas,” said Manso.
Waddle, a rookie drafted in the first round from Alabama is becoming the Dolphins’ best offensive weapon. “You just got to put the ball in his hands…we have not seen that huge play yet, but every time he gets the ball, you sense that huge play is about to happen,” Manso stated. “He can really, really, change this Dolphins offense with a big play and they are going to need that.”
While Waddle is not big in stature, he makes up for it with his competitive nature. Expect to see the Fins give him the ball as often as possible in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Raiders are 2-0 after beating the Baltimore Ravens in week one and the Pittsburgh Steelers in week two. They seem to have a good offensive with quarterback Derek Carr leading the league in passing yards.
Manso, in our interview, stressed how important it will be for the Dolphins to score. “They are not going to win a 17-14 type of game like they did against New England.”
It will be hard for the Dolphins to accomplish this with their backup QB and no quick fix to their O-line, Raiders win 24-14. Manso remained optimistic even if they lose this game. He feels that late into the season the Fins will be in the playoff race.