Behind Enemy Lines: Just how good are the Dolphins?

The 49ers last game against the Dolphins in 2020 was a disaster. Both teams are dramatically different from that last meeting and they enter Sunday’s game looking to establish themselves firmly in the Super Bowl contender conversation.

We don’t get a ton of looks at an AFC team from Florida, so we got in touch with Dolphins Wire managing editor Mike Masala to chat about Sunday’s matchup and how Miami has arrived at Week 13 with an 8-3 record an an MVP candidate at quarterback:

Niners Wire: How awesome is Mike McDaniel?

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Mike Masala: McDaniel has completely changed the culture in Miami. Brian Flores was getting some production out of his players during his time in South Florida, but his no-nonsense demeanor seemed to irritate some in the locker room. The coaching change has allowed for guys to be themselves and have fun playing football. He’s clearly doing so with the media and on the sidelines. His dry delivery hits every time. On top of that, his offense has been so fun to watch. Every week there’s something new that we haven’t seen before.

NW: What kind of usage can we expect to see from Jeff Wilson Jr and Raheem Mostert?

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MM: Mostert missed last week with a knee injury, something 49ers fans are probably too used to hearing, so Miami will likely be cautious with him in this matchup. However, Wilson has run hard since being traded to the Dolphins at the deadline. Coaches and teammates have talked about his energy and intensity on the field, and that will be something that they’ll definitely need to call upon this week. Miami should be trying to get the ball in Wilson’s hands even if there are struggles on the offensive line because he’s a capable pass catcher.

NW: In what ways has Tua Tagovailoa improved this year?

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MM: Tagovailoa’s confidence has been the biggest change, and that’s come with McDaniel’s arrival. The rocky relationship between Tagovailoa and Flores was well-documented, and McDaniel has done everything in his power to make him believe in himself, including a 700-play highlight tape of why he’s a great quarterback. The former Crimson Tide signal-caller now has the belief in himself, and trust in his weapons, to allow them to make the big plays. He no longer has to feel like the pressure is all on him.

NW: What does Miami's defense do well?

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MM: Miami’s defense has been ravaged by injuries. Cornerback Byron Jones has yet to make his season debut after offseason Achilles surgery. Defensive starters Brandon Jones, Nik Needham and Emmanuel Ogbah have all been ruled out for the year as well. Despite this, the Dolphins have done a great job, especially since acquiring Bradley Chubb at the deadline, of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With a lack of depth in the secondary, forcing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball early or take a sack is of the utmost importance for this unit.

NW: How confident are you in Greg Little and Brandon Shell?

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MM: Not confident at all. It’s unclear where the tackles will line up if Terron Armstead doesn’t go, but they’ve both had opportunities at left tackle this season, and they’ve both been horrendous. Shell has been a sufficient right tackle, so it may be smart to keep him on Tagovailoa’s blind side and give Little more help on the left. Armstead’s absence is even more concerning when considering that left guard Robert Jones, who has been playing for Liam Eichenberg, doesn’t have a lot of experience either. San Francisco’s defense could have a field day against this unit.

NW: Let's get a prediction on who wins.

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MM: The Dolphins’ offensive line issues this week feel like a lot for this team to overcome against the league’s top defense. Tagovailoa may not have the time to get the ball to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. That’s something we saw last week against the Houston Texans after Armstead went out. Nick Bosa and company will make life very difficult for the offensive unit, and that will probably keep Miami from winning this game. 49ers 23 Dolphins 20

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire