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The Dolphins secondary, while average on paper, is building momentum. We highlight a few things to watch for as the Bengals look to continue their explosive pass production on Sunday.
It’s no secret the Dolphins have the No.1 ranked run defense. If the Bengals want their run game to work in their favor, it will minimally be used to keep Miami’s defense honest as they attack the ground to set up the pass. The question is: What will Andy Dalton and the Bengals receivers be facing this week as they presumably rely on their passing game?
Injuries Put Weight on Unproven Shoulders
Dolphins cornerback Richard Marshall has been hampered by a back injury all season, and he’s been ruled out of Sunday’s game as a result. Cornerback Nolan Carroll has been moved up to into a starting role with only four starts to account for in his NFL career. Carroll will be joining starters Sean Smith, R.J. Stanford, and De'Andre Presley, who was promoted from the practice squad this week.
Cornerback Sean Smith Will Have His Hands Full
Cornerback Sean Smith had a huge performance against the Arizona Cardinals with 2 interceptions. Smith did well covering Larry Fitzgerald last week and held the stud wide receiver to 64 yards. He couldn’t keep Fitzgerald out of the endzone, however.
Smith will more than likely be shadowing A.J. Green as the Dolphins try to find ways to cover him. Andy Dalton and his arsenal of wide receivers will need to douse Smith’s momentum off Week 4 early and take advantage of mismatches as a result of the Dolphins patching injury holes with unproven corners.
The Bengals Meet a Familiar Face in Kevin Coyle
Former Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle is now the Dolphins defensive coordinator. Coyle has a long history with Cincinnati as he spent 11 seasons molding Bengals defensive backs. While he was in Cincinnati, Coyle helped Tory James (2004) and Deltha O'Neal (2005) make the Pro Bowl, with O'Neal generating 10 interceptions in 2005. Cornerback Leon Hall was also an All-Pro in 2009 during Coyle’s tenure. Had Mike Zimmer moved into a head coaching role elsewhere after the 2011 season, Coyle was the favorite to assume the position at defensive coordinator in Cincinnati.
Now, Coyle is charged with the task of stopping the Bengals 8th ranked passing offense, and he certainly isn’t underestimating the Bengals receivers from the top to bottom of the depth chart.
According to Joe Reedy of the Enquirer, Coyle holds Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins in high regard and recalls putting Hawkins against Bengals secondary in practice because Hawkins’ speed could not be replicated.
"Does it surprise me how well he has developed? No. But it does scare me because I have to go up against it this week," Coyle said. "I knew early on that he was going to be a special player. He is a great hard worker, has talent and also has heart and is tough."
Needless to say it will be a battle on both sides of the ball. Assuming the Bengals are game planning around the Dolphins stout run defense, the results will more than likely be found in the air. The passing game has been explosive over the past several weeks and the Dolphins are next in line to attempt to stop it.