Game Day Preview: Dolphins

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The Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins square off this week at Sun Life Stadium, both coming off of completely different past game appearances. The Redskins continue to struggle and had another dismal offensive showing in their 19-11 loss to the 49ers. The Dolphins on the other hand, have two fewer wins than the Redskins, but are at least coming off their first victory of the year – a 31-3 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Miami lost seven straight games, before quarterback Matt Moore threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns last week to get them back on track. It was his best outing of the season, and while Miami has struggled to score points this year (25th) – they didn’t last week and upped their season average to 17.3 points per game. The Dolphins aren’t going to beat you with their passing game though, largely due to the fact that their offensive line isn’t very good in pass pro. Moore will be looking to his supporting cast for support. See this week’s match-ups for more information on Miami’s run game, their offensive line and more.

On the other side of the field, John Beck will make his way back to the place where he started. A second round pick of the Dolphins in 2007, Beck played in five games for Miami, starting four of them, and since he is still looking for his first ever NFL win, obviously he didn’t win any of those games. Beck replaced Grossman last month, but is 0-3 since, and he still looks lost at times. He will be trying to build off of a good last drive against the 49ers last week, that resulted in the Redskins first major in two games. That drive gave him a padded 254 yards for the game, and came against a prevent defense, but perhaps some confidence can be gained from it. Beck is charged with the task of ending this four-game slide for Washington, and trying to prevent the Redskins from losing five games in a row for the first time in the last decade. He will be aided by Trent Williams being a little healthier at left tackle this week, and by just having yet another week of reps with the offense.

Roy Helu will be looking to continue where he left off against the 49ers. The rookie running back took over the starting duties against San Francisco, and while he only had 41 yards on 10 carries, he set a franchise record for receptions with 14 (105 yards). Unfortunately, Helu fumbled the ball last week, and it was a hert-breaking turnover at the time. It may have tainted some people’s opinion of his performance, but it shouldn’t – look for Helu to put extra care into securing the football this week though, and see the head-to-head match-ups for more on Helu.

The Redskins rookie running back wasn’t the only rookie getting his first start last week, Leonard Hankerson did as well. He showed a lot last week, despite only pulling in 4 catches; he showed so much, that he is one of the key head-to-head match-ups this week, and you can read more about Hankerson below.

Regardless of who is providing the offense for Washington, or lack thereof, Washington will once again be counting on their defense to have a fighting chance. Despite a 3-5 record, the Redskins defense has been plenty good enough for Washington to have a much better, even a winning, record. The Redskins defense is seventh overall, and all six teams ahead of them not only have winning records but very good records, with the Texans at 5-3 being the worst record of the bunch other than Washington.

The Redskins defense will have to do the same thing they’ve had to do each of the last 4 weeks – stop the run – unfortunately, while they have definitely done a decent job, they haven’t been able to shut down anyone completely, at least not for an entire game. Some of that has to fall on the offense, and their inability to put together plays and give the defense any type of rest period. Check the match-ups below for more analysis, but suffice to say that if the Redskins can stuff Miami’s run game, then they force Moore to put the game on his shoulders, and that’s exactly what the Redskins want.

Washington has to get after Moore and pressure him to make mistakes. The Dolphins offensive line is no match for the Redskins pass rush (see match-up), so if they pigeonhole Miami into passing, it will give Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo major opportunities to make game-breaking plays. This is integral to Washington’s success this week. The Redskins haven’t done very well in the turnover ratio department of late, and they could really use a couple of good breaks as well as good field-position, to help jump start their struggling offense. The defense may not be able to score the points for the offense, but they can certainly make the offense’s task infinitely simpler by shutting Miami down.

There isn’t much confidence in Redskins Nation right now, and rightfully so. The team has regressed rather than progressed in the second quarter of the season, and are now left looking at a tough schedule, with very few ‘easy’ games. At first glance, the Dolphins would appear to be the easiest game left on the schedule for Washington. They must win this game – not because of playoff implications, but because if they don’t stop the bleeding, then a ravenous fan base will continue to revolt against the re-building process. That is one of the worst scenarios possible for the Skins, because they need time to fix this broken ship, and more than just this 2011 season. They can’t get overly bogged down in wins and losses when they just aren’t quite there yet, in terms of depth and talent and overall team play. But at some point, you have to offer everyone involved a little bit of hope and good cheer. Losing to one of the league’s worst teams would only compound an already tense situation.

Winning this game would get the monkey off of their back for a week, and at least get the players, the fans, and the coaching staff back to just concentrating on rebuilding a broken franchise. It was always going to take time, and while that’s a valid argument – it doesn’t excuse going backwards instead of forwards. The one good thing about the slide is that it has put Washington into the position of being able to justify giving their young guys a chance. That might not mean more wins this season, in fact it might mean less, but in the long run, it’s putting the ball in the hands of the future right now. The coaches can evaluate just exactly what they have in the young guns, as well as giving them valuable experience and playing time.

Putting an emphasis on the future is valuable to Washington – because the future was never going to be now.

Here are this week’s key match-ups:

Washington Pass Rush vs Miami Pass Protect
By Grant Paulsen

One matchup that should dramatically favor the Redskins on Sunday is Washington’s pass rush against Miami’s pass-protectors. The Redskins have done an exceptional drop at forcing quarterbacks to throw the ball before they’d like to, and the Dolphins boast one of the league’s worst protection units. Look, for example, at the sack totals the two teams have contributed at the midway point of the season.

The Redskins have generated 25 sacks, third most in the NFL. Only the Giants (28) and Ravens (26) have tallied more sacks than Washington’s defense. As far as the Dolphins offense goes, Miami has allowed 27 sacks, which is also the third highest total in the NFL (better than only St. Louis and Seattle). Miami’s inability to protect passers is part of the reason why the team is throwing for just 207 yards a game this season (24th best in football).

You should expect the Dolphins to try to take advantage of what Washington allows them underneath. If DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are pressing in coverage, Matt Moore will probably spend much of the afternoon throwing quick-routes to his wide receivers. Moore’s going to have to get the ball out in a hurry, so spinning the football out to the edges on comeback and out routes, as well as checking the ball down to running backs, will be his best friend. The good news for the Redskins is that short passes don’t beat you if your able to make sure-tackles.

Washington needs one of its pass-rushers to step up and dominate. If you’re looking for likely candidates, Brian Orakpo could be one. The third-year defender has a sack in two of the Redskins’ last three games, but he hasn’t had a multi-sack game since the Redskins played the Rams in early October.

Dolphins Run Game vs the Redskins Front 7
By Andre Mitchell

Miami’s running game against Redskins run defense
The Dolphin’s run game has received a significant jolt due to the emergence of Reggie Bush as a featured back the last few weeks. Meanwhile the Redskins run defense looks for a break after facing four straight opponents ranked in the top 10 in rushing. The Redskins have given up 160.8 yards a game on the ground over the last 4 weeks in which they’ve lost all 4 of those games.

Rookie Daniel Thomas has been having an injury-plagued season which has allowed Reggie Bush to thrive. Thomas has shown that he can wear a defense down and with Bush playing as good as he has on top of that, the Redskins could be in for another long day trying to stop the run.

Then there’s the possibility that Laron Landry and O.J. Atogwe could miss this game. That would spell danger for the Redskins defense as backup safety Reed Doughty has had a tough time coming in to help on run support & rookie DeJon Gomes hasn’t been seen enough to know if he can be solid.

The Dolphins have a decent offensive line anchored by left tackle Jake Long but the run game is at its strongest when it runs behind the right side of the line with former Cowboy Marc Columbo & Vernon Carey. Adam Carriker & Ryan Kerrigan will be big keys to stopping the strength of the Dolphins run game. Kerrigan has been one of the Redskins better run support linebackers this year, so it plays into the Redskins strength as well. The Redskins can stop the bleeding by making Miami have to throw the ball, but is this the week they’ll get a break from the opposing team’s run game?

Advantage: Dolphins.

Redskins OL vs Miami DL
By Justin Partlow

This week’s matchup pits a Washington OL that is in a state of flux again, against a Miami DL that ranks 11th in the NFL in sacks with 20. Washington will have their hands full with the 3-4 front that Miami likes to run. Washington must not allow Miami’s DL to soak up the blocks, because if they struggle, then Miami could have a field day.

Lets get to the Washington Offense. Last week against the 49ers, Washington actually played pretty well considering the state the OL had been in the previous weeks. Having Trent Williams back at LT was huge even if he wasn’t at 100%. Maurice Hurt for his first game wasn’t great, but also at the same time played ok for a rookie in his first ever game. Jamaal Brown struggled again at RT and had to come out of the game after a groin injury, and was replaced by Sean Locklear. Chris Chester has been solid all year, as has Will Montgomery. This week playing Miami will present a similar challenge to last week against SF. The Miami DL likes to absorb blockers and allow the LB’s to make plays, and if Washington can get to the 2nd level, it could be a long day for Miami.

Now to Miami… its simple they love to play defense and they can get after the QB. With 20 sacks this year they have been able to keep the team in many games. With Jared Odrick and Paul Soliai manning the DL, they have two guys who can stuff the run and make life tough for opposing RB’s. This game for Miami is simple, wear down the Washington OL and then the benefits will come. If Miami can get a consistent push up the middle against Hurt and Montgomery and Chester, then this could be a long game for Washington, as they tend to struggle against the interior rush.

This matchup is going to be an easy one to talk about and one that is simple to predict. I like Washington in this matchup if Trent is healthy and Hurt can continue to improve. Miami could very well win if the whole OL struggles, which in turn will lead to a long game for the offense and John Beck.

Leonard Hankerson vs. Vontae Davis
By Emmanual Benton

This week could be considered a “homecoming” for Leonard Hankerson; who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and attended Miami University. Washington’s rookie receiver is coming off his first career start (4 receptions for 34 yards), in which he displayed some major ability. Though the 49ers played a soft off man coverage for the majority of the game, receivers still must do their job by running crisp/efficient routes, and Hank accomplished that. He was open often, however, wasn’t given many opportunities.

Miami’s Defensive Back, Vontae Davis is coming off a crazy week that included a hamstring injury, confrontation with Brandon Marshall, and apparently alcohol. Davis was suspended from last week’s game, due to reporting late to the Dolphins Saturday walk through, and reeking of alcohol. Vontae practiced fully for the first time Wednesday, and is preparing to start Sunday against Washington.

After earning some playtime the past few weeks, this may be the best corner Leonard Hankerson has faced as a Redskin. Vontae Davis uses his hands at the line of scrimmage well, and has great long speed. Therefore, Hank must prove he can be physical at the LOS, and continue displaying his ability to run crisp/efficient routes. With his family in attendance, a little “home cooking”, and John Beck distributing the football properly, there are reasons to be optimistic and excited about this match-up for Redskins fans.

Roy Helu vs Dolphins Atrocious Defense
By Kevin Ewoldt

Although Roy Helu did not have a lot of yards after the catch last week with his franchise breaking 14 receptions, the versatility of the former Husker was surely on display.

A key stats to look at this week: Miami’s defense has allowed an average of 140.3 rushing yards against, in their three home games.

It’s hard to get excited for this stat though because the Redskins went against the Bills and Panthers, two teams with horrible rush defenses and couldn’t do squat. It was a bit odd for Helu to get only 10 rushes last week, as we know, Kyle prefers passing the ball. Why wouldn’t you want the ball in Grossman or Beck’s hands more? Sarcasm there.

As much as we want the Shanahans to run the ball, this pass defense is really bad. They rank last in INTs with 10 and 27th in yards passing allowed. Opposing QBs have a 98.8 QB rating. Kyle has the green light to pass here as much as he wants.

Thanks to all of the guys that make this article happen, and give them a holler on Twitter to let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Grant Paulsen

Kevin Ewoldt

Andre Mitchell

Justin Partlow

Emmanual Benton

Mark Solway

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway

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