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5 things to watch: Lions at Dolphins

The Lions are in sunny Florida today to take on a Miami Dolphins team looking for its fifth win of the season, and to stay perfect on the year (4-0) at Hard Rock Stadium.

The Lions will have their work cut out for them in all three phases of this NFC vs. AFC matchup.

Here's a look at five things in particular to watch out for later today:


The Dolphins' offense likes to spread defenses out and distribute the ball to players in space, who are very good with the ball in their hands after the catch.

Albert Wilson has 196 yards after the catch to lead the Dolphins, but receivers Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant and running back Kenyan Drake are all shifty players that can make defenders miss in the open field.

"I think it's critically important," Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said about being a good tackling team this week. "We're going to have to do an excellent job of playing in space and being athletic in space and tackling obviously in space."

The Dolphins have five different players who've been targeted with at least 20 passes this season, but not a single player that's been targeted more than 32 times. They spread it around and look for the best matchup.


Detroit has a few options for the nickel cornerback role after placing second-year cornerback Jamal Agnew on IR due to a knee injury. The Lions could turn to one player or treat it as a platoon position week to week based on matchups.

Quandre Diggs and Nevin Lawson probably have the most experience playing inside, though they both currently play other positions -- Diggs at safety and Lawson in the outside cornerback spot opposite Darius Slay.

Cre'Von LeBlanc, Lenzy Pipkins, Teez Tabor and even safety Tavon Wilson could play inside if needed.

Detroit has options. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do this week against Miami's shiftier and quicker inside receivers.

In terms of Agnew's punt-return responsibilities, the Lions also have some internal options as well in Golden Tate, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell and Ameer Abdullah.


The Dolphins named veteran Brock Osweiler the starter for this one earlier in the week after not seeing enough progression from starter Ryan Tannehill and his injured throwing shoulder.

Osweiler and Lions head coach Matt Patricia have crossed paths before: Osweiler at quarterback for Houston and Denver, Patricia as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

They played against each other four times with Patricia holding a 3-1 edge. Osweiler's completed 56 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and six interceptions for a passer rating of 62.7 in those contests.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018.


Detroit's coverage units have had their struggles at times this year. The Lions rank last in punt return average against (21.9) and 27th in kickoff return average against (26.4).

The Dolphins have a terrific return man in Jakeem Grant. He's averaging 17.9 yards per punt return this year with a touchdown. On kickoffs, Grant is averaging 34.4 yards per return, and has a touchdown there as well. Those totals rank second in the league in both categories.

"I just haven't done a good job," special teams coach Joe Marciano said last week of the coverage units. "I have to do a better job, to be honest with you."

We'll see if they are better today against one of the league's best.


It's expected to be hot and humid in Miami, and that Florida sun will be beating down on the Lions' sideline for the duration of the contest.

Battling the elements started for the players early in the week. Golden Tate joked that if a player waited until Saturday to get hydrated, it was way too late. It's something that's been an emphasis all week in Allen Park. So too has been getting extra rest.

Chicago last week used some kind of hand-held screen to try and keep the sun off players on the bench. The Lions could do something similar.

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