The Ravens will be the latest team to get a crack at one of the NFL’s early-season surprises with a trip to face the Miami Dolphins.
Miami has opened the year 3-1 for its best start since beginning 4-1 in 2003. The Dolphins were 3-0 before suffering a 38-17 setback at New Orleans on Monday.
Miami is off to that hot start without ranking among the NFL’s elite in total offense (25th), total defense (26th), scoring offense (t-15th) and scoring defense (t-15th). The Dolphins are allowing exactly 22.8 points for and against.
Safety James Ihedigbo is familiar with the Dolphins from his time with the Patriots, a division rival.
“They’re another team that plays very well at home. That stadium is going to be rocking. It’s going to be live,” Ihedigbo said. “They’re going to be geared up to play us. That’s kind of the story. We have the bulls-eye on our backs, and teams get to play their best football when the Ravens come to town. So, that’s what we’re expecting, and that’s what we’re preparing for.”
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill leads the Miami offense and has shown improvement in his second season, but is coming off a contest where he threw for one touchdown and was intercepted three times.
Overall, however, he has completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,076 yards, five touchdowns and five picks. Tannehill has also rushed for 59 yards on 15 attempts.
“Very mobile quarterback. When he’s on, he can put the ball where it needs to be,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “He can put it anywhere, he can make every throw. And if you rattle him a little bit, you can tend to have some success. He might try to get skittish and try to make a play with his legs, so you’ve definitely got to prepare for both.”
Three reasons the Dolphins have played so well thus far are their NFL-best 81.8 red-zone offense percentage, their 47.1 percent third-down conversion rate (fifth in the league) and their discipline. They have the third-fewest penalty yards in the NFL.
Miami has been able to come through offensively when it needs to, especially when it comes to putting up seven points instead of three once it moves inside the 20-yard line, and isn’t setting itself back with flags.
The Ravens are coming off a loss to Buffalo in which they allowed 203 rushing yards. They’ll be looking to get back on track against an offense running for just 81.5 yards per game.
“It is tough giving up that type of rushing yards. They had a great rushing attack, they ran the ball multiple times,” Ihedigbo said of last week’s loss. “But it’s a staple in our defense, and it’s something we’ll correct. Those guys take it personally in the front, and they’ll change that - that’s for sure.”
On the other side of the ball, the Ravens get a chance to see yet another key member of their Super Bowl XLVII team that departed via free agency.
In Week 2, Baltimore played against linebacker Paul Kruger with the Browns and now they get to see linebacker Dannell Ellerbe with the Dolphins. Ellerbe leads Miami with 38 tackles through four games.
“It looks like he’s a leader for them, first of all. He’s done a great job,” coach John Harbaugh said. “On the field, you can see he takes charge, he calls the signals, and he’s a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, just like he always has been. If there’s a screen out there, Dannell sniffs it out, it seems like. He’s just the same great player he was here.”
Said Suggs: “He played phenomenal last year for us. That’s why his name is ‘Phenom,’ and he’s doing great things for Miami. They definitely got a steal, and I guarantee they’re happy to have him down there. We wish him nothing but the best of luck - hopefully not this week - but it’s just going to be fun to see a familiar face on the other side of the ball.”