The Bengals and Dolphins met in 2019 for what may have been the best game that no one watched that season. Both teams have had quite the offseason, though. We thought it’d be a good idea to catch up with Kevin Nogle of the Phinseder to get his perspective on the Dolphins heading into the game.
Patrick Judis: We have to talk about how Tua Tagovailoa has looked through his limited playing time this season. How has the first impression been of the future at the quarterback position been?
Kevin Nogle: He has shown flashes of what we think he will be, but he has also made rookie mistakes. The accuracy is definitely there, and he is moving around without any lingering issues from the hip injury, so those are good things. He has not officially thrown an interception yet, but he has also been lucky because one interception he threw, the defender stepped out of bounds and one was called back because of a penalty. On both of those throws, it was a rookie making a mistake and trying to force a pass he should not have thrown. He also ran himself out of bounds one-yard behind the line of scrimmage in his last start, giving up a sack for no apparent reason. Another rookie mistake. He has not learned to throw receivers open yet, instead, it seems, he is looking for the player to break away from the defender before he throws, which works at Alabama but he has to understand that “open” in the NFL is a completely different thing. I think he is absolutely going to be the franchise quarterback this team has needed for so long, but he also is a rookie still.
PJ: One of the first things that sticks out when looking up the Dolphins is how their defense is the second best scoring defense in the league, but they are also 20th in yards allowed. How does that happen?
KN: Part of it is the team’s ability to force turnovers. They will let you rack up 75 yards, then force a fumble or pick off a pass, and those yards did nothing for you. The other part is, during their five-game winning streak, they blew out some teams really early in games, leading to opponents passing for a bunch of yards as they tried to climb back into the game. The Dolphins are led by their defense, and there is no doubt about that.
And, to be fair, it also helps when you play two games against the New York Jets, who managed three points combined in those games.
PJ: What has really been amazing is how Miami is sitting at 7-4 right now considering how both of these teams were picking top five in last year’s draft. The most impressive part is how they’ve done most of it without Tagovailoa as a catalyst. Has this come about from the defense carrying the offense, or have the coaches been doing that good of a job of working with what they have?
KN: Both. The defense forces turn overs and scores on its own. Special teams has been a factor as well, with return touchdowns and blocked kicks. This coaching staff is doing an exceptional job of putting players in position to succeed, recognizing where they have strengths (i.e., Byron Jones and Xavien Howard in man coverage with little to no safety help on the back side as Miami loves the 0-Coverage blitz), and then exploiting matchups. The offense has struggled to find a rhythm at times, both with Tagovailoa and with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, and the defense has been there to bail them out. That is not to say the offense cannot find a rhythm and put up some points, but this clearly is a defense-first team.
PJ: Who is a Dolphins player or players you don’t think get enough national attention that Bengals fans should know about for Week 13?
KN: Xavien Howard leads the league in interceptions this year and is among the league leaders in just about every next-gen style stat for cornerbacks, yet people do not seem to know him. A little more obscure is linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, who is a beast making plays all over the field. He can blitz, he can cover, he can block field goals and punts. He is a fun player to watch and he is one of those guys who just does everything you want.
PJ: What is your prediction for the game?
KN: I think Miami’s defense again carries the day. The team is playing it close to their chest on if Tagovailoa will start, or if it will be Fitzpatrick again, so I do not know where to go there. I am not feeling any special performance coming from Brandon Allen. The Bengals are averaging 20.9 points per game this year, while allowing 26.3. Miami is scoring 25.8 while allowing just 18.6. Based on those averages, plus a little loss of points due to Allen and not Burrow, I will say a final score in the neighborhood of 27-17 Miami.
Thanks again to Kevin Nogle for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’d like to check out more of his work or Dolphins’ coverage ahead of the Bengals game against the Dolphins check out the Phinsider.