Armando Salguero

A Miami Dolphins plan for taking advantage of obvious mismatches vs. Tampa Bay Bucs

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi should figure prominently in attacking the Tampa Bay defense -- but not the way you think.
Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi should figure prominently in attacking the Tampa Bay defense -- but not the way you think. TNS

For weeks I’ve been hearing Miami Dolphins players talk about how much talent they have on offense.

I’ve been hearing how the wide receivers are among the best group in the league ... How Jay Cutler has a wonderfully talented arm and how quickly he found chemistry with his new pass catchers and .. well, you get the point.

Training camp and the preseason is as good a time as any for dreaming big.

“We have a lot of dynamic athletes,” tight end Julius Thomas said Monday afternoon in the Dolphins locker room. “We’ve got some guys that are very explosive. We feel like we’re able to stretch the field, we’re able to run the ball and we’re able to attack the middle of the field.”

That doesn’t leave much room for weaknesses. That doesn’t leave many questions, although Thomas admitted the only proof of all this optimism is when a team gets on the field and performs.

So the Dolphins offense, highly praised, highly hyped, gets a chance to finally prove if it is highly charged in the looming regular-season opener against Tampa Bay.

(This is where I tell you I don’t think the game will be played on Sunday but no decision has yet been made as of this writing when to play it).

And so I offer this: Prove it.

Go get ‘em.

Attack!

The Dolphins believe they have a great wide receiver room. They’re paying Kenny Stills $8 million per season. Jarvis Landry believes he is one of the NFL’s premier receivers and is eager to prove he should be paid like it. And even DeVante Parker, who speaks in whispers, has let an outstanding past six months -- and his teammates -- say some pretty impressive things about what he’s about to do.

“It’s exciting to see the way DeVante’s developed these past couple of years and we’re all anxious to see what he can do this year,” Stills said Monday. “Obviously he’s had a great preseason and a great training camp and the buzz is building around him, so he’s going to show us what he’s got on Sundays.”

Perfect.

Do it.

This, by the way, is not a challenge. It’s a plea.

Please, do it.

Against the Buccaneers.

I definitely would.

Football, you see, is a match-up game. And I think this game presents the Dolphins with a grand opportunity to get off to that fast start they’ve been all talking about by blowing out of the gates with an attacking offense.

Me?

I see that Dolphins receiver room that gets so much publicity -- and that’s not counting Jakeem Grant since he went all Steve Smithy the last couple of preseason games -- and then I look at the Tampa Bay secondary. And I’m thinking that’s a major mismatch in Miami’s favor.

So I roll with that mismatch.

I put Stills and Landry and Parker on the field. And I put Grant on the field, too. Yes, in the old days they called this four-wides. Remember that? The Dolphins used to do this around the time Dan Marino was Jay Cutler’s current age.

Anyway, with Stills, Parker, Landry and Grant on the field, I force Tampa Bay to match up.

Now, I know everyone knows the Bucs have Brent Grimes starting at cornerback because how could anyone forget his departure brought on by what’s her name’s disgusting behavior in Miami. And I know most fans recognize Vernon Hargreaves is a good cornerback as the other starter.

So those two are solid despite the fact Grimes is now 34 years old and needs to prove he’s still as good at this age as he was four or five years ago.

But please tell me who is Tampa Bay’s third cornerback? And then tell me something about their fourth cornerback...

Stumped, right?

You’re looking for the names Robert McClain and Ryan Smith. And while both must be respected because they’re NFL players, I wonder which one can consistently cover Landry or Stills or Parker while Grimes and Hargreaves are working against the other two?

And, yes, I put Grant on the field, too. So then it’s Miami’s fourth receiver -- who had an explosive preseason and is the fastest player on the team -- against Tampa Bay’s fourth cornerback.

By the way, if Smith is Tampa Bay’s fourth-best corner he’s going to have to prove it because this is only his second season and he spent most of last year playing on special teams. If McClain is Tampa Bay’s fourth-best cornerback, that would explain why he’s been with four teams in six seasons.

The point is the Dolphins have an obvious advantage if they really want to press it against Tampa Bay’s secondary. Oh, did I mention Parker is 6-3 and Tampa Bay’s tallest corners are 5-11?

[Peanut gallery 2017 debut: But Mando, the Dolphins need to run the football because Jay Ajayi was the fourth-leading rusher in the NFL last season and Adam Gase promised to give him the football 2,193 times this season. So trotting out four-wide makes zero sense.]

Thank you, gallery and welcome to the new season. I see you still have zero vision.

I believe if the Dolphins were to put four-wides on the field, forcing Tampa Bay to play some sort of dime defense with six defensive backs, that spreads the field.

Now there are only five guys up front in the tackle box.

That is the perfect time to run Jay Ajayi.

Ajayi led the NFL in forced missed tackles last season and was second in yards after contact. That’s while he was facing a six-, seven- or sometimes eight-man tackle box. Can you imagine the damage he would do against a five-man box?

By the way, this is not ground breaking stuff I’m proposing. I’ve seen it before. It was called the Buffalo Bills K-gun.

They put a lot of good receivers on the field. They had a great quarterback. They had a great running back. And when defenses matched up to stop the four wide outs, Jim Kelly would hand the football to Thurman Thomas and he would shred them. I believe that offense led the NFL in rushing a couple of times in the early 1990s.

So everything old can be new again.

The Dolphins obviously have enough talent at wide receiver to do this. They have a veteran QB who knows the system and has the faith and trust of his coach. They have a talented running back who makes people miss even when defenders outnumber him.

All they need is the gumption to prove all that talk of having tons of talent translates to points on game day.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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