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Scouting the Enemy: Miami Dolphins

The Denver Broncos travel to Miami this weekend to face the undefeated Dolphins. Can the Broncos pull off an upset on the road? Let’s take a deeper look at their opponent on Sunday.

Miami Dolphins v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are 0-2 and head on the road this weekend to face the undefeated Miami Dolphins.

After losing to both the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders, arguably two of their easiest games on this year’s schedule, frustration levels have hit fever pitch. If the Broncos lose this weekend to the Dolphins, they will be in an 0-3 hole and their odds of making the playoffs will be vanquished.

Historically, the Broncos haven’t faired well in the city of Miami. They are 1-8 on when travel to Florida and are 7-12 historically against the Dolphins. Can the Broncos buck and beat the historical odds and come out of this weekend’s matchup a winner?

We will just have to wait and see.

But here is something I do know. Another loss would send most of Broncos Country into a downward spiral. In my opinion, there would be very few reasons to be optimistic the rest of the year after starting out their 2023 with three consecutive losses. And most folks will be eager to discuss the future of the franchise as opposed to caring about being a mediocre at best team the rest of the year.

There is no doubt the Dolphins will be the toughest opponent the Broncos have faced this year. Do they have any shot at salvaging their season? Let’s take a deeper look at the Dolphins and see what is in store for Sunday.

2022 Miami Dolphins Review

Last year the Dolphins placed second in the AFC East with a 9-8 record and earned a wild card playoff berth. Their offense was ranked 11th in points scored and 6th in total yardage. Their defnse was quite poor, ranking 24th in points allowed and 18 in yards allowed.

2023 Offseason Moves and Acquisitions

The Dolphins were out two first-round selections in the 2023 NFL Draft for violating the National Football League’s anti-tampering policy. The Broncos so happened to be the beneficiaries of their other selection (#29 overall), which was acquired for Bradley Chubb, and eventually became part of a trade package to acquire Head Coach Sean Payton from the New Orleans Saints.

After a series of other trades, the Dolphins had just two selections on Day 2 of this year’s draft. They bolstered their secondary by drafting South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith in the second round. In the third round, they took Texas A&M speedster Devon Achane, who I was a big fan of during the pre-draft process.

The team was relatively quiet in free agency due to limited cap space. In fact, a good amount of their additions didn’t even make their squad. Their biggest signing was bringing in former Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long Jr. on a two-year, $11 million deal, but he hasn’t made much of an impact for them thus far.

Speaking of impacts, let’s take a look at Miami’s offensive X-Factor for Sunday.

The Dolphins Offensive X-Factor — Tyreek Hill

The Dolphins’ offensive line is much improved over last season. Their passing game looks more diverse and potent too. That is quite a scary combination for the Broncos to have to face this weekend.

Vance Joseph’s defense has struggled to cover the middle of the field and have allowed several big plays down the field to opposing offenses in the first two weeks of the year. Second-year player Damarri Mathis has been dreadful and was beat twice for touchdowns last week against the Washington Commanders.

To make matters even worse, Justin Simmons has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. The backend of the Broncos’ defense is down to just Kareem Jackson, Delarrin Turner-Yell and J.L. Skinner as their only active safeties ready to play against Miami. None of those guys are plus coverage defenders, so defending the deep ball is obviously an area of significant concern.

That’s where Tyreek Hill comes into the equation. Broncos Country has a lot of bad memories with Hill, who routinely torched Denver’s defense as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. We all know what he is capable of and understand he is one of the league’s best receivers.

I’d wager that Patrick Surtain II will be locked on to him most of the game, but there is no doubt Mike McDaniel will move him around and find ways to scheme him open and away from Surtain, who is once again playing at an All-Pro level.

If the Broncos want a shot to win on Sunday, they will have to keep Hill in check and limit his production. That’s easier said than done, but they can’t afford to get into a shootout with the Dolphins, who have a ton of weapons to use in the run and pass game.

The Dolphins Defensive X-Factor — Vic Fangio

Most of the time in my Scouting the Enemy installments, I choose to focus on individual players as candidates for my X-Factor discourse. This week I’m choosing to go in the opposite direction and focus on a coach that all of Broncos Country is familiar with. That’s our old pal Vic Fangio, who is Miami’s defensive coordinator.

Fangio’s defensive blueprint is now the gold standard throughout the National Football League. It’s obviously the major reason McDaniel and Chris Greer brought him into the fold in South Beach—to revamp a defense that ranked in the bottom half of the league in virtually all categories in 2022.

While the Dolphins’ offense has been cooking their defense has struggled a bit getting acclimated to Fangio’s style of defense. However, they have been pretty good at one major area that all successful defenses are good at—getting after the quarterback. In their first two games of the year, they have posted seven sacks—third best in the league.

That’s a big concern for me. Why?

The Broncos’ offensive line, especially blue-chip free agent acquisitions Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey, have really struggled to date in pass protection. They are going to have to bring their ‘A’ game if they want to give Russell Wilson a shot to make plays on offense and keep Fangio’s defensive front seven at bay.

Can the Broncos actually win this weekend?

Anything is possible, but Denver is going to have to play out of their minds to have a legitimate shot at winning.

Their defense has been porous and will face one of the league’s best offenses. Vance Joseph vowed this week that he still believes the team can be a dominant unit. Now he has a chance to prove that.

Despite Denver’s first half offensive performances looking great, they have been absolutely dreadful in the second half (especially the third quarter) in their first two games of the year. That has got to change or the Broncos are going to continue to have issues.

The franchise gave up a first-round pick (acquired from Miami) and then some for Sean Payton. At the end of the day it’s up for the players to execute, but Payton’s going to need to call a great game and diversify his personnel groupings and game plan to go toe-to-toe with Fangio’s defense.

All fans heard this offseason from the players and coaches was how the culture was going to change for the better and that they would get things back on track. So far nothing has really changed. All they have done is lose. But you know what would change with a win on Sunday? The outlook fans have on the rest of the year.

Tune in this Sunday to see how it all plays out.