What in the name of Zapruder was happening at the Miami Dolphins practice in Cincinnati on Wednesday with someone sending video of a few plays on social media?
And does it matter?
First, someone with the Twitter handle JFolkUHC shot video of a handful of Dolphins walk-through plays on Wednesday. The only news value was that Tua Tagovailoa was at quarterback. That would suggest he’s going to play Thursday night despite injury issues from last Sunday.
There were a couple simple pass formations, a run, a punt — but you don’t rarely, if ever, see video of teams at such practices. Then again, due to Hurricane Ian, the Dolphins left South Florida early Wednesday and practiced at the University of Cincinnati.
If that gets you riled up a little, relax.
Another picture shows a group of people watching the Dolphins practice. In other words, they knew people were watching and, in today’s world, a video could get out. So it wasn’t the best-case scenario. Nor was it Don Shula moving their practices before Super Bowl VII out of concern George Allen would be spying on them at the designated site (cue to “Still Perfect,” my book on the ‘72 Dolphins that’s out with the 50th anniversary edition.)
It’s not a perfect world in a short week with a hurricane altering travel plans. But nor is it anything that will tilt Thursday’s game.
Let’s get into the weekly five ways the Dolphins can win Thursday’s game:
1. Offense takes control. This looks to be a game the Dolphins offense will be asked to bear more of the load. Why? Because the defense was on the field for 90 plays Sunday — about a game-and-a-half by normal measure — and has to be feeling those effects on a short week. The offense, meanwhile, played closer to half a game with 39 plays. Cincinnati has a good defense, as they rank eighth in yards (310.7 a game) and ninth in points (18.3). A couple injury questions play dramatically into the game. One is whether Tua plays, which is expected at this point. The other is Cincinnati defensive tackle D.J. Reader being out with a knee issue. The 340-pound tackle is labeled by Cincinnati media as the MVP of the defense.
2. Josh Boyer vs. Joe Burrow. The Bengals are susceptible to a rush and Dolphins defensive coordinator Boyer has had great success again this season with blitzing. Safety Brandon Jones strip-sack caused a touchdown against New England, and safety Jevon Holland’s strip-sack led to a touchdown against Buffalo. The Bengals have given up 15 sacks, tied for most allowed in the league. They rebuild their offensive line this year in hopes of keeping Burrow upright. They only gave up two sacks last week to the Jets so maybe their problems are improving.
2. Terron Armstead vs. Trey Hendrickson. First, the issue is if Armstead plays with a toe issue. He hasn’t practiced this week and is listed as “questionable,” although media reports Thursday morning said he would play. He neutralized Buffalo’s Von Miller on Sunday and is the foundational piece of this line. Hendrickson, the former Florida Atlantic player, was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after 2.5 sacks, two quarterback more quarterback hits and two forced fumbles against the Jets. He has 13.5 and 14 sacks the past two seasons. He has 20 sacks in 23 games with Cincinnati.
3. Can the Dolphins run the ball — or should they just air it out again? This would seem a good week to flash an effective running game with Reader out and this Dolphins defense needing help. The Dolphins have run for 65, 86 and 41 yards the first three weeks. Chase Edmonds (3.4 yards a carry) and Raheem Mostert (3.3) could use a big game. Then again, the strength of the Dolphins is Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle making big plays. The Bengals have faced the arms of Mitch Trubisky, Cooper Rush and Joe Flacco thus far, so it’s hard to measure just what their 15th-ranked pass defense can do.
4. Tagovailoa vs. Burrow. The draft-class partners will always be measured against each other in some form. The backstory has Dolphins owner Steve Ross’ “joking” $100,000 offer to coach Brian Flores to lose games — Flores didn’t think he was joking, as his lawsuit says. But in the 2019 Burrow Bowl the Bengals came back from a 35-12 deficit in the second half through onside kicks, Hail Marys, two defensive touchdowns — and the Dolphins had the No. 1 pick in their sights as a tie game went to overtime. They won in overtime, then beat New England in the season finale to get the fifth pick. Now the prizes of that draft meet.
5. How well did Cincinnati study the Zapruder films?
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Miami 24. There’s just a lot working against the Dolphins this week starting with that exhausting Buffalo win in Sunday’s heat. Going 3-1 are this tough first month of schedule is an achievement. Of course, going 4-0 is in their sights. Actually, only one Sun Sentinel reporter is picking the Dolphins.