It has become clear to the Dolphins coaching staff that Miami's secondary can hold its own against smallish, quick, agile receivers. But strong, tall, physical receivers are another story.
The Dolphins lost every single battle against Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter this year. They won or held their own against guys like Laveranues Coles, Wes Welker and others.
The problem, coach Tony Sparano says, is that Miami's 11 remaining games promises many matchups against big, strong receivers.
"We're going to see it," Sparano said. "In this league there are a lot of big receivers. We're going to see it. We've just got to do a better job of making plays. Several times with Andre Johnson, we were in position to make plays and just didn't make the play. That sounds easy, you hear it from the players, and you'll hear it from coaches. You've just got to make plays. We've got to make plays.
"That's a reality. You're in position to make the play. Or the other guy does. One way or the other somebody's going to make it and somebody's not going to make it. We need to make more than we don't. In the game that we do, we win. In the games we don't, we haven't. We're going to see more of it."
A look at Miami's schedule shows the Dolphins won't be facing prototypical big receivers the next two games against Baltimore and Buffalo. Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason for Baltimore are not imposing guys, as neither reaches 6-feet nor is at 200 pounds. Same with Lee Evans and Josh Reed for Buffalo.
But there are some games afterward that should get the attention of the Miami secondary.
Denver will come at them with 6-4 and 230-pound monster Brandon Marshall -- not to mention smallish but fleet rookie sensation Eddie Royal.
Seattle will compete with 6-1 and 205-pound Koren Robinson, 6-1, 210-pound Keary Colbert, and 6-1 and 205-pound Courtney Taylor, not to mention 6-4 and 215-pound Billy McMullen.
Oakland is starting 6-2 and 210-pound Ronald Curry and 6-3 and 215-pound Javon Walker.
The Patriots have Randy Moss, who is 6-4 and 210, but the saving grace there is he doesn't have much of a QB throwing to him these days -- just ask Joey Porter.
The Rams' best receiver is Torry Holt who isn't imposing. But Drew Bennett, their possession guy is 6-5 and 197.
San Francisco has 6-3 and 211-pounder Bryant Johnson and 6-1 and 208-pounder Arnaz Battle. Kansas City has 6-2 and 221-pounder Dwayne Bowe and 6-1 and 213-pounder Devard Darling.
That means the Dolphins have seven games remaining against teams with the type of receivers the secondary typically struggles against. None of those receivers outside of Bowe and Moss and Marshall are game-changers. But all are capable of making plays.
So what will the Dolphins do to keep those players from making too many plays?
"All we can do is keep putting them in position in practice" Sparano said of his secondary. "We have three big receivers that work every day in practice out there, every day. We had some balls, quite honestly this week in practice, that were caught in some of those competitive situations. We need to do a better job in practice of competing to get the ball out and not to allow that to happen."