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Falcons defense vs. Dolphins offense: Can Atlanta keep Tua in check?

Atlanta may have opportunities against a suspect Dolphins offensive line.

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

The Falcons defense is difficult to figure out. They’ve shown flashes of competence marred by meltdowns such as the one against Washington a few weeks back. They have promising young players and some key defensive stalwarts joined by marginal starters and guys who probably shouldn’t even be starters. Yet, they can be a decent unit if the competition matches up well. Is that the case with Miami? Quite possibly. Let’s take a look.

In the trenches

The Falcons need more quality depth up front and they may be getting it back this week with Marlon Davidson practicing again. He’ll be paired up with Grady Jarrett, who is playing quite well, if not quite up to his usual standards. Dante Fowler has been much better this year and other than these guys there’s not much else to talk about. Ade Ogundeji has shown promise but has been a bit inconsistent, as you’d expect from a first-year player. Otherwise, guys like Steven Means and Jonathan Bullard don’t move the needle much.

The Dolphins offensive line has issues. They lost starting guard Michael Deiter in early October and the remaining guys just aren’t doing a good job right now. Left tackle Liam Eichenberg is a struggling 2nd rounder and left guard Austin Jackson is similarly struggling in his second year. Greg Mancz is a decent enough center in the middle and the right side of Robert Hunt and Jesse Davis are not lighting it up either. This is a unit with several spots with issues. Tua had better hope they all suddenly get it together at the same time.

I’m not usually one to give the Falcons defensive front the benefit of the doubt, but this reminds me of the matchup with the Giants. I think Grady and Dante are going to take advantage of this situation.

Advantage: Falcons

The skill positions

For the Falcons, their secondary and linebackers are a mixed bag. Foye Oluokun and Deion Jones are capable but should be playing better given their talent. If Erik Harris is out again, it looks like Jaylinn Hawkins may be ready for primetime, as he was one of the team’s best players against the Jets. Duron Harmon is a reliable veteran, but is not a long-term solution and has had his ups and downs. Richie Grant should see more snaps going forward, especially if Avery Williams misses another game. A.J. Terrell is turning into the corner we hoped he would, it’s just too bad Fabian Moreau is not quite in the same boat.

Again, injuries are marring the Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa missed several weeks but returned and played well against the Jaguars. He’s hardly the biggest issue with this offense. A lot will depend on who else is healthy with him. DeVante Parker missed the Sunday game and it’s unknown whether he’ll play on Sunday. They’re already missing William Fuller and Preston Williams is banged up too. Guys like Mack Hollins, Albert Wilson and Jaylen Waddle aren’t an intimidating unit. Waddle does have a ton of potential, though. Myles Gaskin is getting the biggest payload at running back and he’s not exactly a terrifying weapon either.

Tua may end up being a very good QB, but he’s not getting much help right now. Waddle is still a rookie and learning the game and if Parker and Williams are out again, this could be another instance of Tua having to make the best of a bad situation. The Falcons secondary has issues though, so the best Atlanta is going to get is a push for now.

Advantage: Push

Overall

The Dolphins have scored more than 21 points just once this year. This offense is struggling and Tua wasn’t able to do enough to overcome their injuries, though it’s unfair to blame him for what’s going on in Miami. The Falcons defense isn’t good, but this may be another matchup they finally have a slight edge in, especially if key guys like Parker miss another game on Sunday.

Advantage: Falcons