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Lions present Miami Dolphins a major problem up front

There are some inarguable NFL truths.

Elite quarterbacks erase a multitude of roster flaws. Tight ends are red zone matchup nightmares and, as I repeat incessantly to my twitter followers, they catch TDs in the red zone. And, of course, it is hard to win in the NFL unless you win at the line of scrimmage.

For our purpose here, let's deal with the third of those truths. You'll recall that the Buffalo Bills have made a living against the Dolphins lately, simply by winning at the line of scrimmage. You'll recall that last week I told you the Dolphins could use that very script against the San Diego Chargers.

Well, lo and behold, that was exactly how the Dolphins beat the Bolts. They swamped them at the line of scrimmage. San Diego could do nothing up front offensively, leaving Phillip Rivers to fend for himself -- which he could not -- and they mustered zero running game. The Miami offensive line, meanwhile, allowed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to keep his uniform mostly in pristine condition.

The formula worked for Miami.

But the formula might work against Miami in several respects this week.

The Detroit Lions, you see, at least on defense are not just a mirror image of the Buffalo Bills up front. They are an enhanced, faster, younger, better image of the Buffalo front seven The Lions, in short, can dominate up front in ways few Miami opponents can.


Detroit defensive ends Ezekiel Ansah and Jason Jones this season have combined to produce 50 quarterback hurries, per ProFootballFocus.com. DT Ndamukong Suh has produced 26 pressures by himself and that ties him with Buffalo's Kyle Williams, only one pressure behind Tampa Bay's Gerald McCoy.

Linebacker DeAndre Levy, meanwhile, is very good in run defense. He has a very high run stop percentage of 16.6, meaning he shuts down the run (like by himself) 16.6 percent of the time.

All this says the Miami offensive front will have a tough challenge on Sunday.

“Well, number one, they are very stout upfront," coach Joe Phillbin said of the Lions. "They are a physical football team. They are active on the second level as well. Not only are they strong, but they can move and they are athletic. I think their pursuit is very, very good, and they tackle well. When you have those components, it makes it tough. What are they averaging, 3.2 or three yards they are giving up per rushing play? That’s way up there in the National Football League. They are playing good run defense.

“[Suh] is an excellent football player. He’s strong, he’s quick, he’s athletic, he moves well, he gets off blocks. We’re going to have to play, Mike Pouncey, our whole offensive line’s going to have to play well."

On the other side of the ball, the Lions are not a run-first team. Truth is they don't run well at all, although some concession has to be made for the fact RB Reggie Bush has missed time and actually played hurt before that. It is also true the Detroit offensive line is not exactly a Great Wall so that works against the Lions.

The Lions have given up 24 sacks this year. They are 26th in sacks per pass play, which is bad.

But the Lions are not the disaster up front that San Diego was because of injuries. Indeed, they present a picture of getting healthier up front as right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who's been battling a concussion and other injury issues this season, is set to return against Miami. Waddle hasn't gotten a ton of snaps this year but has been very efficient in pass protection when he does play.

(You may not have heard of Waddle but he is a 2013 undrafted free agent -- a fine pickup by Martin Mayhew, Brian Xanders and the rest of the Lions' personnel department).

“I’ve watched the guys at length and, for the most part, those guys, they work well together," Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. "They’re a hardnosed, tough minded kind of group and obviously play to the whistle. So I think the front, that’s another challenge for us to do whatever we can to find the weakness, get after the quarterback and do our best to keep him from getting the ball in the hands of playmakers."

Isn't that often the key?

Yes. Yes, it is. And while the Miami defensive front has a marked advantaged over Detroit's offensive front, it is not as pronounced as the Dolphins enjoyed last week. The Miami offensive front, meanwhile, has zero advantage over the Detroit defensive front. Last week the Dolphins easily pushed the Chargers around and protected quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

That script probably won't be available this week.