Thu, 22 Oct 2020

Top News: Combating the Zone Read

Miami Dolphins
17 Sep 2020, 22:05 GMT+10

Travis Wingfield

Wednesday serves as the proverbial page-turning day in the NFL. The corrections from the previous week are made by the coaching staff and communicated to the players, and the game plan for the following Sunday's contest is distributed.

Wednesday, Brian Flores discusses the team's mid-week focus.

"We've kind of made all of the corrections from the game," Flores said. There were a lot of issues in the game. We're going to go out and practice today and try to make those corrections on the practice field. We've moved on and our focus is on the Bills. There's a lot to focus on there. They're a good team."

One of those corrections, and consequential challenges the Dolphins will face Sunday against the Bills, is defending a capable quarterback on the hoof with more success. Josh Allen rushed for 57 yards in the Bills opener and has accumulated 318 rushing yards in four career games against Miami.

Dolphins linebacker Kyle Van Noy detailed the difficulties of facing dual-threat quarterbacks.

"Anytime you get a chance to see how a quarterback runs and does certain things and certain plays, you get a better understanding of how to defend them and how they were attacking us," Van Noy said. "I think we'll be ready for all of those these week because we got a good challenge the first week, and Josh Allen is just as big a problem as Cam Newton running the ball."

One particular look Newton and the Patriots gave the Dolphins was the zone read. Used throughout college football, the zone read - a running play where the quarterback has an option to keep it himself or hand off to the running back - has been integrated into the NFL over the last decade, give or take.

The quarterback will typically read the defensive end, or the force player (whose responsibility it is to turn the play back inside where the defense has help). If the end crashes, the quarterback will keep it and attempt to get outside. If the end maintains his containment, the quarterback will give the ball off inside to the running back.

Van Noy discussed the perils of trying to stay disciplined and read the options for the offense on that particular play.

"The more and more we go over it in practice and the guys get on the same page, the more and more we'll get better at it," Van Noy said. "Cam Newton had a little success and I feel like we took it away but then there were other runs he started to create a little bit more. Hopefully we can limit those this week against Josh Allen, because we know that they are going to probably do it because it was successful against us. We've got to do a better job as a group. I've got to do a better job and hopefully we can get this QB run taken care of."

A fellow newcomer playing off the edge in the Dolphins defense is Shaq Lawson, who will see his former team for the first time Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. Lawson, who made 13 tackles for loss last season with the Bills, talked about his responsibility in shoring up the Miami run defense.

"I was hard on myself," Lawson said. "As a leader - as a defensive line, period, it starts up front and all the guys on the d-line, we took full responsibility of that for not stopping the run. We just hold ourselves accountable and we've just got to continue to do better and stop it this week because that's what the NFL is going to try to do. It starts with the run."

Lawson also weighed in on defending the zone read.

"People have different responsibilities on the zone read, so it really depends on the call," Lawson said. "But the zone read, it's been around for a minute. It's a college play. They're bringing it back in the league. Successful mobile quarterbacks do the zone read a lot, so we've just got to defend it in the right way and we've got to get 11 hats to the ball."

The Bills present challenges in the passing game too. Sunday against the Jets, Allen threw for 312 and two touchdowns. The big quarterback comes equipped with a big arm, but also a deep wide receiver corps.

"This is a very good group of receivers, really a good overall offense - receivers, backs, tight ends, o-line, (Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley)," Flores said. "This is probably as good of a group as there is around the league. This will be a great challenge for us as a defense to go along with the quarterback, who has the ability to scramble, who has the ability to fire the ball down the field."

Miami's passing game will look to recapture the form it displayed at the end of 2019 when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 739 yards and five touchdowns combined in the two games. Sunday in New England, Fitzpatrick passed for 191 yards. He couldn't wait to get back on the practice field Wednesday.

"The best medicine for a performance like that is getting back on the practice field," Fitzpatrick said. "So, today was a great day for us. New opponent, new week, starting fresh and just getting into the preparation. Having a week like I had last week, that can't happen if we're going to win football games."

Sunday's home opener will be Fitzpatrick's 15th start as the Dolphins quarterback. Flores and Fitzpatrick have developed a tight bond, a relationship tethered by their shared desire to compete.

"He's a competitive player. That's what makes me confident (that he'll bounce back)," Flores said. "He's had success in this league. He's bounced back before. I think everyone feels like they could've played better, feels like it could've been better last week."

Injury report

The first injury report for Week 2 is available.

Linebacker Elandon Roberts (concussion) was the only player not on the field Wednesday for Miami.

Five players were limited participants in practice for Miami: wide receivers DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Jakeem Grant (calf), safety Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) and cornerbacks Xavien Howard (knee) and Byron Jones (Achilles).

Two Dolphins were listed on the Wednesday report but participated in full. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (hand) and Preston Williams (knee) went through the entire practice with normal rep counts for Miami.

The visiting Buffalo Bills listed seven players on their Wednesday injury report.

Four players did not practice for the Bills. Wide receiver John Brown (foot) and a trio of linebackers - Matt Milano (hamstring), Tremaine Edmunds (shoulder) and Del'Shawn Phillips (quadriceps) were not on the field Wednesday.

Linebacker Tyrell Dodson (neck) and quarterback Jake Fromm (not injury related) were limited participants on Wednesday at Bills practice.

Defensive tackle Vernon Butler was listed for a hamstring, but was a full participant.

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