Well hello there, Phinsider faithful! It's the start of another season of Miami Dolphins football. It's been an interesting offseason, with more news being generated by who's no longer on the team than who's currently on it. So I thought I'd give you a preview of what I'd like to see in terms of progression over the course of the season, one game at a time. Obviously based on a specific opponent, I might focus on different things where I feel we might excel or where I would be concerned. So we start things off with the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium...
1. Which WR is going to step up?
We all know Bess is going to be Bess, but who is going to step up and be the go-to target in this offense? While it would appear Hartline and Naanee would have the inside track on being that guy. Neither has done anything to show it. Hartline has been recovering (far too long IMO) from a calf injury, and Naanee hasn't endeared himself to our starting QB by dropping anything that hits his hands. I don't expect much from Anthony Armstrong yet, as he'll take some time to absorb the playbook and get on the same page with the QB. That leaves us with Marlon Moore and Rishard Matthews. Moore has the speed to excel in the WCO offense, but can he run the routes and get enough separation to be effective? Matthews is a rookie, and I don't expect him to see the field much unless for injuries.
2. Can Sean Smith live up to the hype?
Sean Smith has been talking some serious smack during OTA's and training camp. Unfortunately it's been to OUR WR corp, and that's not saying much. With the departure of Vontae Davis to Indy, it will fall on the shoulders of Sean Smith to cover the other teams #1 WR. First up, Andre Johnson. Can Smith step up and make a name for himself as a shutdown corner? We've all seen he has the confidence, if you've been watching Hard Knocks. But can he back that talk up against a real Alpha Male WR?
3. Will the OL keep Tannehill upright?
The Houston Texans boast a very stout front seven, and Wade Phillips isn't afraid of sending blitzers early and often. The addition of John Jerry seemed to help out Martin in the Atlanta game, but teams rarely blitzed us during the preseason. Jerry and Martin will have their hands full against the likes of JJ Watt, Brooks Reed, and Brian Cushing. Not to discredit the right side of Antonio Smith, Connor Barwin, and Whitney Mercilus who have the unenviable task of going up against Long and Incognito.
4. How will the run defense contain Arian Foster?
Yes, he's been hobbled by a knee injury but still expected to start. Going into the season our run defense was our strength, after finishing 3rd last year. Even though we've switched to a 4-3 base defense, I don't expect our run defense to diminish any. But what better way to find out, then against a team who's finished in the top 10 rushing the past 2 years (2nd last year).
5. How will Tannehill look in his first NFL game?
From what I've seen during OTA's, training camp, and the preseason games, Tannehill has all the physical tools to be a successful QB. He's even shown positive mental aspects, most wouldn't expect from a rookie. Having his former college coach as his offensive coordinator surely helped him with the mental aspects of the game. But now he has to put that to use against defenses that will be game planning for him and his abilities. He's got a very daunting task ahead of him with very little help in the WR corp, and not much help in the running game. Now, by no means am I expecting him to come out looking like an All Pro. I expect him to make rookie mistakes, and in future games may key on to specific things I'll be looking for him to improve upon. As for now, I'll just be looking to get a baseline of how he performs, and what better than against a playoff caliber team that loves to blitz.
After the game I'll check back in with a post reviewing the game and how each of the 5 points I brought up looked.