SF 49ers: 5 Dolphins weaknesses Kyle Shanahan must expose

Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Kyle Shanahan and the SF 49ers need to take advantage of these five weaknesses the Dolphins have if they want to get out to 3-2.

42. 59. 2-2. 49ers -9. 1:05 p.m. ET. 1-3. Fox. Sunday, Oct. 11

The Philadelphia Eagles exposed some key weaknesses the SF 49ers had back in Week 4, and the Niners paid for it by losing on Sunday Night Football 25-20.

Angered by the loss, head coach Kyle Shanahan should look to pass on the favor to the visiting Miami Dolphins at Levi’s Stadium this Sunday, going after a 1-3 Miami squad in rebuild mode with a lot of pieces who are mere fill-ins until the Dolphins have a playoff-caliber roster.

While the latter part might be a season or two away, Miami remains a dangerous opponent after playing San Francisco’s NFC West division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks, hard enough en route to a 31-23 loss.

Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is still under center despite the Dolphins’ first-round NFL Draft addition of former Alabama signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa. That might be a bonus, as the SF 49ers have had issues with mobile quarterbacks.

But with Fitzpatrick already boasting 115 rush yards and averaging 5.5 yards per attempt — not bad for a 38-year-old veteran — keeping the quarterback in the pocket is one thing Shanahan and the Niners should focus on doing.

And that’ll play into one of the weaknesses the Dolphins have, which San Francisco would be wise to exploit in Week 5.

No. 5: SF 49ers must keep Ryan Fitzpatrick in the pocket and force him to throw deep

This might seem counterintuitive, as the SF 49ers are likely to be without all three of their starting cornerbacks, Richard Sherman (calf), Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) and K’Waun Williams (knee) on Sunday.

It’s compounded by the fact the Niners aren’t putting up the sack totals envisioned earlier this offseason, just having eight sacks which is tied for 18th. So that would appear to indicate Fitzpatrick would have far too much time in the pocket.

Fitzpatrick, perhaps more than nearly any other signal-caller, loves to air it out deep, as his 23.2-percent aggressiveness rating, per NextGen Stats, ranks second among all qualifiers. But he hasn’t exactly been successful doing so over these first four games.

According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick has 142 passes beyond 20 yards in distance –13th most. But on those attempts, he’s thrown a passer rating of just 29.7 percent.

That’s second worst only to Washington’s Dwayne Haskins.

So that might be the trick for San Francisco. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh shouldn’t worry too much about sacking Fitzpatrick, rather having him try tossing deep in order to increase his already high interception total of five this season.