Five things to watch: Lions at Dolphins
The famous journalism trope of “local boy makes good” is a story line of Sunday’s game as the Lions visit Miami coach Adam Gase, a Michigan native, and the Dolphins.
One of the surprises of the NFL’s early going, the young Dolphins are 4-2. Gase, 40, is living up to the hype that owner Stephen Ross, a Michigan and Wayne State graduate, hoped for when he hired the young assistant coach.
Gase was born in Ypsilanti, played wide receiver at Marshall High School, started his coaching career under Nick Saban as an undergrad at Michigan State and was the Lions' quarterbacks coach in 2007.
He’s very much a contemporary of Lions coach Matt Patricia, 44, and is as well-regarded an offensive mind as Patricia is on the defensive side.
Here are five things to watch in Sunday’s matchup in Miami (1 p.m., FOX, WJR 760):
1. Heat is on
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-80s on Sunday — not the climate the Lions have been used to in Allen Park.
The Dolphins have played to this advantage over the years. Miami is undefeated in three home games this season and 13-6 at Hard Rock Stadium since 2016 renovations exposed the visitors sideline to the south Florida heat, while the Dolphins' bench is in the shade.
Patricia was 6-0 against Miami at home as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, but went 2-4 on Dan Marino Boulevard.
2. YAC-on-YAC crime
Albert Wilson got Golden Tate’s attention this week when the Dolphins wide receiver called himself the “best YAC receiver in the league, for sure.”
Yards after the catch has been Tate’s corner throughout most of his career, but the prideful Lions receiver said this week that he gets the young receiver’s claims. The numbers back it up too, as Wilson leads the NFL by averaging more than 14 yards after catches this season.
But Sunday could be a chance for the old YAC king to reclaim his throne.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out for the second straight game with a shoulder injury, opening the door for backup Brock Osweiler, who beat the Bears 31-28 in overtime last week in Miami.
At 6-foot-7, Osweiler might remind Lions fans of another former Dolphins backup — Scott Mitchell. His uneven career play has been Mitchell-esque, with a 14-12 regular-season record with Denver, Houston and Miami as a starter.
Patricia and the Patriots faced Osweiler and Houston in a 2016 playoff game, intercepting the Arizona State product three times in a 34-16 divisional round win.
4. Scary secondary stats
Which secondary will be better on Sunday?
On one hand, the Lions have allowed a league-low in total passing yards this season at 1,110, but haven’t gotten turnovers in the passing game, with just two interceptions for the defense.
Miami has a league-high 11 INTs, but has allowed 278.5 passing yards per game, which ranks the ninth-most in the league. Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky hung 316 yards and three touchdowns on the Dolphins last week, so Matthew Stafford could be in for a big day.
5. Will Ameer appear?
With running back Theo Riddick and kick returner Jamal Agnew both ruled out, Lions fourth-year running back Ameer Abdullah could have a chance to start a second act of his career.
Hampered by fumbling issues during his time in Detroit, Abdullah has not taken an offensive snap this season.
He could get his chance on Sunday.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.