The Green Bay Packers have put together a win streak, but in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, their defense is going to need to find a way to stop the Miami Dolphins and their two speedy weapons in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
The Dolphins started off the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, thanks to new head coach Mike McDaniel and QB Tua Tagovailoa turning the offense around. Unfortunately, after three straight losses, the Dolphins are looking mortal once again.
Still, it’s hard for defenses to gameplan against two of the fastest receivers in the league in Waddle and Hill. According to Football Outsiders, the Dolphins have the second-highest passing DVOA in the league.
Unfortunately, the Packers have few answers for Miami’s speed at receiver. Second-year cornerback Eric Stokes might have had the straight-line speed to stay in phase, but was placed on injured reserve a few weeks ago with season-ending knee and ankle injuries.
Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander is the team’s top answer to combat Miami’s top receivers, but defensive coordinator Joe Barry has rarely been interested in allowing the 25-year-old to follow the opponent’s top weapon this season. Instead, Barry has typically favored deep coverages like Cover 4 to try and limit explosive plays while giving up throws underneath.
That hasn’t been the answer for stopping the Dolphins. In fact, the Los Angeles Chargers may have uncovered the secret to stopping McDaniel and Tua just a couple of weeks ago, opting to consistently play press-man coverage to throw off the timing between the quarterback and his receivers. Tua completed just 10 of 28 passes in the 23-17 loss, averaging just 5.2 yards per pass attempt.
Green Bay now has film and evidence to support playing press man coverage to stop Miami’s passing game, but will Barry have any interest in deviating from his own personal scheme? The Packers have mixed up defensive gameplans over the last few weeks, so it’s certainly possible, but even if they play more press man coverage, do the Packers have the personnel to execute it?
Rasul Douglas has the size to disrupt smaller receivers at the line, but if he’s unable to do so or the Packers’ playcalling does not allow him to, he may not have the recovery speed to keep up with players like Waddle or Hill.
Keisean Nixon could be an interesting matchup piece in this game. At 5’10” and 200 pounds, Nixon has solid size at the position, and his speed has been put on display as a return specialist over the last few weeks. However, his limited reps at cornerback make it unclear if he’d be able to handle either of Miami’s two dangerous weapons in the passing game.
There are a lot of unknown factors heading into this Christmas Day matchup, but if the Packers can find a way to slow down Miami’s potent passing attack, then there’s a real chance that they can keep their playoff hopes alive for at least one more week.