Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase sees some challenges with the Cincinnati Bengals defense this week with Vontaze Burfict returning, but hopes his team’s big-play potential can be an advantage.
Gase spoke to Cincinnati media in a conference call earlier this week, addressing the strengths of his team, particularly how the offense moves with quarterback Ryan Tannehill and veteran running back Frank Gore.
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The AFC East-leading Dolphins (3-1) travel to play Cincinnati (3-1) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from what Gase said about the matchup with Cincinnati:
1. Speed makes Dolphins dangerous
Miami hasn’t been putting up a ton of points compared to the rest of the league, but the Dolphins are dangerous because of their ability to make explosive plays. Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant all have touchdown receptions of more than 50 yards, and another long score came on Grant’s 102-yard kickoff return in the opener against Tennessee.
Gase said there is no secret to the Dolphins’ big plays.
“I think most of it has to do with the fact that those guys have outstanding speed,” Gase said. “They’re decisive with what they do. We’ve done it a few different ways to where, whether they get the ball in the backfield or if it’s a kickoff return, if it’s a throw down the field, this group has the kind of speed that you rarely see as an entire group. Really, it’s more about players than plays when it comes to that stuff.”
2. Tannehill looks more comfortable
Tannehill, who led the NFL in red zone quarterback rating two years ago, missed the entire 2017 season because of injuries to his left knee, but Gase said he got enough reps in the spring and throughout training camp that he’s looking more comfortable in the offense.
He’s thrown for 787 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 106.1.
“It’s really, when you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and have control of the offense and the skill players around you are all working together trying to make sure they execute things correctly, that helps the quarterback in a lot of different ways,” Gase said. “He really trusts what our guys are doing and he’s turning the ball loose early, just trying to make sure they can get the ball in those guys’ hands.”
3. Gore is still grinding
Miami’s running game hasn’t been quite what Gase was hoping for just yet, in part because of injuries up front with offensive lineman Dan Kilgore and Josh Sitton out for the year.
However, Gore, at 35 years old, is still leading the way. Fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing leaderboard, he has 139 yards this season but his impact extends beyond production on the field, Gase said. The fact he’s still doing what he does after all these years serves as motivation to a lot of players.
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“You watch him on a day like today and it’s 89 degrees out there and he’s grinding away,” Gase said. “He loves practicing. He loves playing in games. He’s so engaged in everything. You can tell he loves everything you could possibly think about football. Guys respect him so much and when he speaks, it goes miles with our players. He’s done a good job of taking a lot of these guys (under his wing).”
4. Bengals defense poses challenge
Gase said the Bengals’ defensive line, and especially their ability to put pressure on the quarterback, presents a challenge for his offense, and now Cincinnati’s run defense should be better with Burfict back as well.
“It all starts up front,” Gase said. “Geno (Atkins) is still a nightmare to deal with. He’s going to cause problems in the run game and prevent you from doing a lot of things. If you leave him one on one at any time, you’re looking at the possibility of him shaking free. He creates a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think they’ve done a good job at linebacker. There are a couple of young players over there and now getting one of their better players (Vontaze Burfict) back, that’s going to be a challenge for us.”
5. Gase is a big Dalton fan
Gase said he’s been a fan of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton since he was coming out of college, but Dalton seems to be playing at his best this season, and the Dalton-Green tandem is one he doesn’t look forward to facing.
“Just watching him over the years, watching him develop and watching him and (receiver) A.J. Green do their thing, it’s been impressive,” Gase said. “It’s fun to watch when you’re not playing them because he pushes the ball down the field and at the same time he knows when to get underneath and use those targets as well. Him and A.J., they’re a tough tandem to deal with.”