The Miami Dolphins are sitting at 3-0 as they prepare to face another 3-0 team, the New Orleans Saints, on Monday Night Football. What can the Dolphins do to come away from the game with an unblemished 4-0 record? Here are my five keys for tonight's game.
1. Handle the Superdome. Being able to operate within the Superdome is going to be critical for any sort of offensive success. That building is going to be loud and hostile. If the offense cannot communicate, it's going to be a long day for Ryan Tannehill. Rob Ryan has the defense firing off the ball and getting after opposing quarterbacks right now, and the noise is only going to help that, as the Dolphins' offensive line tries to adjust the protection. The Superdome really could be the difference in this game.
2. Find a way to slow Jimmy Graham. Jimmy Graham lines up all over the field and is averaging 15.6 yards per reception, with 23 catches already this year. He has six receptions of over 20-yards and has been in the end zone four times in three games. The Saints have a lot of weapons, but Graham is clearly choice number one for Drew Brees. The Dolphins will not stop Graham, but if they can find a way to slow him down, and prevent the big plays from the tight end, they will have a much better chance Monday night.
3. Run the ball. The Dolphins are a pass first team, and it's exactly what we have all wanted to see from Miami for the past few years. This week, however, the run game will probably come into play. The Saints are allowing over five yards per carry right now. The Dolphins have to take advantage of that, forcing the Saints to respect the run, open up the play action, and maybe slow the pass rush just a little. I don't think the Dolphins need to run the ball 2002/2003 Ricky Williams style, but they do need to force the Saints to acknowledge that Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are a part of the game plan.
4. Get Charles Clay and Brandon Gibson the ball. The middle of the field is the way to attack the Saints' pass defense. Enter Clay and Gibson, who can make a living sitting right in the middle of the field tonight. Feed them early, and the outside will likely loosen up, letting Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace work deeper down the field.
5. Defensive line has to get to Brees. The front four for the Dolphins must be able to put pressure on the Saints' All Pro signal caller. If Cameron Wake is unable to play, that task is going to fall on Derrick Shelby, Olivier Vernon, and Dion Jordan from the edge, as well as the interior pass rush from Randy Starks, Jared Odrick, and, possibly, Paul Soliai. The four guys lining up along the line of scrimmage have to be able to put pressure on Brees, because the minute you resort to blitzing to generate pressure, Brees starts to tear you apart. If the Dolphins have to take someone out of coverage in order to bring an extra pass rusher, the Saints will simply exploit the mismatch, wherever it is.
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