Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Three keys to Washington upsetting the Dolphins


The Washington Commanders are coming back to FedExField to play the Miami Dolphins, hosting the AFC East team for the first time since 2015. Here are three keys to getting the upset, presented by KIA.

1. Avoid getting beat over the top.

Here's a stat that sums up the Commanders' biggest priority this weekend: the Dolphins create more explosive plays than any other team in the league, while the Commanders have given up a league-leading 49 pass plays of at least 20 yards.

Of all the No. 1 receivers Washington has faced this season, none are playing as well as Miami's Tyreek Hill. Not only does he lead the league with 1,324 yards -- he has a realistic shot of being the first receiver in NFL history to hit 2,000 yards -- but he also has the most yards after the catch (524) of any receiver. He averages 15 yards per reception, and he has 21 receptions of at least 20 yards.

His counterpart, Jaylen Waddle, has been half as productive but almost as potent, catching 69% of his targets. He's reported to have a 40 time of 4.37, and he's used that speed on several occasions this season.

It's a difficult matchup for the Commanders, who have often struggled to contain the NFL's better receivers. A lack of communication in the secondary has led to wideouts being wide open and finishing plays in the end zone. Through 12 games, the Commanders have given up more passing touchdowns (28) than any other defense.

Hill and Waddle are going to have solid games on Sunday. That's as much of a statement on them as it is Washington's defense. No other team has found a complete answer for them this season, and it's hard to imagine that Washington will completely solve its problems in just a few days.

However, the Commanders can still limit the explosive plays. They'll need to give Hill and Waddle plenty of cushion to avoid giving up plays behind the secondary. They give themselves a better chance at forcing the Dolphins to march downfield on longer drives.

If the Commanders fail to do that, it's almost guaranteed to be a long day.

2. Make every drive count.

The Dolphins have scored 42 touchdowns this season, averaging nearly four per game. The Commanders have not been as lucky; while the Burgundy & Gold offense has shown promise at times, they have lulls in production as they can occasionally struggle to finish drives in the end zone.

In their last two games alone, only six of their drives have ended in points, and only three have resulted in touchdowns. On an even more disappointing note, 10 of their drives have ended in either a fumble, an interception or a turnover on downs.

To put it plainly, that cannot happen against the Dolphins if there is any hope of getting an upset. The Dolphins can score almost at will, and their efficiency is better than most on offense. They average the second-most first downs per play; they face the second-fewest third downs per game; and they have had the fourth-lowest punts per play.

Washington was forced to be aggressive in the second half against the Cowboys. It didn't yield any points, but with the Cowboys boasting one of the NFL's best offenses, it was the right decision. The Commanders will need to do that again on Sunday. It wouldn't be a shock if they were considered to be in four-down territory from the moment they cross the 50-yard line.

Even if the defense does improve, Washington will still likely need to match the Dolphins point-for-point to give itself a chance. Field goals won't beat this team.

3. Don't forget about the Dolphins' ground attack.

Finding answers for Hill and Waddle is certainly going to demand much of the Commanders' attention on Sunday, but they can't completely forget about the threat the Dolphins can pose on the ground.

The numbers alone show how much of a problem the Dolphins can be when they run the ball. They average the second-most yards per game behind the Baltimore Ravens but average more yards per attempt than anyone despite being near the middle of the league in carries (292). They have fumbled the ball 15 times this year, which leads the NFL, but it hasn't led to any disastrous outcomes for them.

Raheem Mostert and his 4.32 speed seem to have outrun his age. He's leading the AFC in rushing yards (785), and he only needs 215 more to hit 1,000 for the first time in his career at 31 years old.

But the nine-year veteran is hardly the Dolphins' only threat at running the ball, which is what makes their ground attack so difficult. Mike McDaniel has been creative with getting the ball to his playmakers with 13 of them having at least one attempt this season. De'Von Achane has been almost as effective as Mostert, as six of his runs have gone for at least 20 yards. Achane, drafted in the third round this offseason, blazes past defenders with a 4.32 40 time, and he's used that already in the form of a 76-yard run against the Giants.

The Commanders have given up explosive plays in the run game this season, although there have been less of them compared to the passing game. While bottling up Hill and Waddle is important, doing the same for Mostert and Achane isn't far down the list, either.

Related Content