Some days I leave Miami Dolphins camp, the work day done, thinking these guys must be messing with my head because it is either that or they don't know what they're talking about.
As I was thinking about Sunday's matchup between the Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles this week it occurred to me that perhaps the Miami defense could draw on some of the insight and knowledge it has from facing the Miami offense so much in training camp. I was thinking that can help Miami against the Eagles Sunday.
After all, the Dolphins and the Eagles run a very similar offense. And Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor came from the Eagles where he was the quarterbacks coach.
So I asked defensive tackle Earl Mitchell if this similarity could help Miami?
"It can," Mitchell said. "At the same time, the you have different guys and different playmakers and stuff. But anytime you can get points just from practicing because we see our offense every day ever since training camp, going into the game there should be a lot of concepts we should be familiar with."
It makes so much sense that Ryan Tannehill was asked if he watched a lot of Eagles tape when Lazor took over as OC in Miami. And then Tannehill kind of dismissed the notion.
"... We do a lot of stuff that’s different," Tannehill said. "Some stuff is similar, but a lot of it is different."
So how much is actually similar because watching these two offenses, they really do look similar -- maybe not in the results but certainly in their approach and the plays they run.
“I don’t know, it’s tough to say," Tannehill said. "I don’t know, 25 percent maybe."
Mitchell said there are a lot of concepts that will be familiar. Tannehill said the offenses are different and maybe only 25 percent is similar.
My head hurts.
When the Dolphins pass the football: The Dolphins have actually tried to take a few more shots down the field in recent weeks with some success. Ryan Tannehill and Kenny Stills had a 46-yard hookup last week even in the face of what was expected and was good quarterback pressure by the Bills. The Dolphins would like to get the football more to tight end Jordan Cameron because he is a matchup problem down the seam and in the red zone, but Cameron has been slowed by an ankle injury and that's one reason he had only one catch last week. The Eagles secondary is a collection mostly of free agents, including Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond, who joined the team this year. Former Dolphins draftee Nolan Carroll starts and generally plays well but, as Miami fans remember, he is sometimes prone to giving too much cushion particularly along the sideline. The Dolphins must be aware of Brandon Graham who has four sacks the past five games. ADVANTAGE: Even.
When the Dolphins run the football: The emergence of rookie Jay Ajayi last week promises something of a different combination for the Dolphins backfield. Lamar Miller, a speedster who likes to slash, still starts and should get most of the carries. But Ajayi, a downhill runner unlike any the Dolphins have had in a while, seems poised to be the short and tough-yardage back. He had a fine NFL debut against Buffalo last week, gaining 41 yards on nine carries, including a 23-yard run. The Eagles run defense, No. 21 in the NFL, has allowed opponents to gain 4.6 yards per carry or better in three of the last four games. This seems like an area the Dolphins should be able to exploit. The Dolphins will likely spend much of the afternoon double-teaming defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, as most teams do. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
When the Eagles pass the football: The Eagles started slow this season, losing three of their first four games, and some of that seemed to fall on new quarterback Sam Bradford, who was still getting familiar with coach Chip Kelly's offense. Bradford has still delivered some clunkers of late, notably against Carolina and the New York Giants, but he's completed nearly 65 percent of his throws the past four games as the team has won three of four. There is a question about this team starting slow in games (sound familiar?) and Bradford is still trying to get in synch with tight end Zach Ertz to overcome that. It should help Philly that receiver Riley Cooper, who has missed time with a toe injury, is expected back in the lineup. The Miami secondary is coming off a disappointing performance in which Brent Grimes got toasted by Sammy Watkins and Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor completed 11 of his 12 passes. The Dolphins must get a more consistent pass rush on Bradford, particularly from the outside, to make the quarterback uncomfortable. I'm told it is unlikely left tackle Jason Peters will play against Miami. That means Lane Johnson will start at left tackle. ADVANTAGE: Even.
When the Eagles run the football: The Eagles run game has taken flight in recent weeks. Since Week Five, Philadelphia is second in the NFL in rush yards per game and is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt. Ryan Matthews and DeMarco Murray are as good a 1-2 combination as there is in the league and then the Eagles throw in draws and screens with Darren Sproles. The Dolphins are 31st in the NFL in run defense and this isn't an old problem that has been resolved of late. Indeed, Miami allowed Buffalo to rush for 266 yards last Sunday. The Bills not only ran well but gashed the Miami defense with runs of 48 and 38 yards. ADVANTAGE: Philadelphia.
Special teams: Kicker Caleb Sturgis, a doppelganger for The Great Gazoo, is doing a good job for the Eagles after being cut by the Dolphins. He's connected on two of his three kicks of 50 yards or more but has missed two extra point tries from this year's longer distance. Sproles is a scary punt returner and the Dolphins would be wise to kick away from him because Philadelphia ranks first in the NFL in punt returns and Sproles has three punt return touchdowns the past two seasons. The Miami special teams is coming off a game in which it collected five penalties that hurt Miami's field position and, yes, led to points for the opposition. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Coaching: Chip Kelly brings a downhill run offense that works extremely fast so as to vex opponents and is improving week to week. He has an experienced offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator in Bill Davis. Dan Campbell had a rough game against the Bills and, the thing is, no one really helped him in deciding to call time out with only seconds to go in the first half and the ball at the Buffalo 1 yard line last week. What should have been three plays turned into only one. Inexperience. ADVANTAGE: Philadelphia.