CHARLOTTE, N.C.—This will be one of the Dolphins‘ hardest games of the season, and they’ll need to be nearly perfect to pull a Monday Night Football upset against the Panthers.
Carolina is a nine- or 9.5-point favorite Monday, depending on the sportsbook, and it’s won two straight. There’s also the element of dynamic quarterback Cam Newton, who presents one of the most unique challenges in the NFL.
Here are three position groups that will make the difference one way or the other for the Dolphins on Monday:
These guys bear a big part of the responsibility for managing Newton, who combines speed with bruising power. He’s incredibly difficult to tackle. One linebacker who could meet him repeatedly is Rey Maualuga, who is actually lighter than Newton (6-foot-6, 260 pounds). Lawrence Timmons and Kiko Alonso will be called upon as well. Newton’s threat as a ball carrier should be the Dolphins’ top concern. While he’s 27th in passer rating (well below Jay Cutler), 20th in completion percentage and has more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (10), he averaged 62.8 yards per game and 6.3 per carry over the last four games
Miami coach Adam Gase is clearly frustrated by the lack of deep completions this year and he’s adamant that he’s been calling plays to get those shots. There have been a variety of hindrances, including shaky offensive line play, good coverage and Cutler playing conservatively, but DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills need to get that going. It’s especially important against Carolina, which has the No. 1 overall defense in the league and is sixth against the pass. Gase has been waiting for all the bits and pieces of his offense to come together, and establishing vertical threats might be the key.
The Dolphins’ offensive line is under scrutiny every week and they’re fighting through a major shakeup this week. After enjoying relative stability with four starters playing every game thus far, they lost right tackle Ja’Wuan James to a season-ending hamstring injury this week. He’ll be replaced by Jesse Davis, who has mostly been at guard this season. Ted Larsen is likely moving in as the starter at left guard, but there’s no guarantee on him playing well in his first game back from a torn biceps. Miami is also still waiting for Laremy Tunsil to turn a corner at left tackle.
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook