Soft part of Dolphins’ schedule? ‘No such thing,’ as Miami takes on 1-5 Lions in Detroit – The Denver Post


This is the soft part of the Miami Dolphins’ schedule.

We on the outside can say it as media, fans and observers.

But don’t you dare even think it if you are a player or coach for the Dolphins.

“No such thing in this league,” veteran left tackle Terron Armstead said. “We’re all pros. I’m definitely not a fan of like an ‘easy stretch’ or nothing. There’s no such thing.”

But the proof is in the records of the teams Miami (4-3) plays in this five-game stretch that started with last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-5) and continues with the Dolphins facing the Lions (1-5) in Detroit’s Ford Field for a 1 p.m. kickoff Sunday, especially compared to that from the team’s start to the season.

Miami’s first six opponents enter Sunday a combined 27-14. The next five: a combined 9-23-1 record entering Sunday. Following Detroit, it’s the Chicago Bears (3-4), Cleveland Browns (2-5) and Houston Texans (1-4-1) after a bye week.

While the Lions and their league-worst-ranked defense may be easily overlooked, that’s not the way coach Mike McDaniel is allowing the Dolphins to approach them.

“It goes to one of the lessons that is really close to all of my fundamental pillars of belief of the game of football,” McDaniel said this past week. “Whatever people want to say, we’re defined by our tape and the stuff that we do on Sundays.

“When I look at the Detroit Lions tape, all I see is a team that makes a lot of plays on offense that, fortunately for the opponents, they have made some mistakes along the way. But they are one game away from being as good on offense production-wise as anybody in the league.”

That high-powered offense for the Lions and coach Dan Campbell, who once led the Dolphins as interim head coach in 2015 after Joe Philbin’s firing, gets star running back D’Andre Swift back, and top wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is expected to clear concussion protocol before Sunday. Detroit was averaging 35 points per game through its first four, but since, the Lions were shut out against the Patriots and scored 6 points against the Cowboys.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, heading into his second game back from concussion, is pushing McDaniel’s message through the team.

“It’s not something that is necessarily spoken out in a locker room where guys are like, ‘Oh, this is going to be an easy win,’ ” he said. “But it’s never bad to remind the guys that this isn’t just like a college team we’re playing. These guys get paid too on the other side of the ball.”

Other Dolphins leaders are in line with the mindset of not taking Detroit lightly.

“I see a good team,” second-year safety Jevon Holland said. “They’re a hard-working team. They fly to the ball. You can’t sleep on them at all.”

Added running back Raheem Mostert: “If you have that mindset [of overlooking opponents], you might not get those games that you thought you would have.”

The Lions defense ranks last in the NFL in points and yards allowed, but McDaniel didn’t see the correlation when he studied their film.

“Defensively, I was actually surprised,” he said. “Because the tape is a competitive, fully committed unit that you see strain and activity and disruption the entire game.”

That unit, though, has its share of injuries. Defensive end Charles Harris, a former Dolphins first-round pick that never made his mark in Miami but emerged for 7 1/2 sacks last season in Detroit, is out. Also out are free safety DeShon Elliott, his backup Ifeatu Melifonwu and nickel cornerback Mike Hughes.

Miami’s secondary has been depleted in recent weeks, but after losing cornerback Nik Needham and safety Brandon Jones for the season in back-to-back games, the Dolphins are returning cornerbacks Kader Kohou and Keion Crossen to the lineup while Xavien Howard enters Sunday questionable.

It’s been a struggle for Campbell as Lions head coach, 4-18-1 in that role entering Sunday. He once captured the hearts of Dolphins fans for the enthusiasm he brought to leading Miami as interim head coach, going 5-7 over the final three-quarters of the 2015 season. He bridged the franchise from the end of the Philbin era and the hiring of Adam Gase in 2016, which was the last Dolphins playoff appearance.

The Dolphins’ last win in Detroit was the 2006 Thanksgiving game where Joey Harrington, as quarterback of the Dolphins, threw three touchdown passes against his former team in Nick Saban’s final season as Miami coach.

It’s only the Dolphins’ second game at Ford Field since that win, but they’ve also lost their past two home meetings against the rarely seen Lions of the NFC North for a three-game losing streak overall to Detroit.



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