Miami Dolphins (0-0) at Washington Redskins (0-0)
Last season, the Redskins offense was clearly a run-oriented offense, as Al Saunders offenses generally are. They ranked 4th in the NFL in rushing offense, averaging over 138 yards on the ground per game. But through the air, that was a different story. For the season, they ranked 21st in pass offense, averaging just 189 yards through the air, which was actually lower than Miami's passing offense led by guys like Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington. That right there shows you how much of a disappointment this Washington offense was last year. However, some of that can be attributed to the switch that was made at quarterback following week 10. That was when Jason Campbell finally took over as the team's QB, and though he didn't light the world on fire, he certainly didn't play poorly, throwing 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 7 games.
But before we get to Campbell and the passing game, let's talk more about the ground game. In on of my earlier posts, I question the health of Clinton Portis, stating that there was a reason why Mike Shanahan was willing to part ways with his great back. It's the same reason that Portis, a guy with that much talent and ability, fell to the 19th pick of round 2. Injuries were a concern with him. However, upon writing that, I see my articles being posted on Redskin message boards and people bashing me, saying I don't know what I'm talking about. Well I can't wait for the day this year when Portis suffers a serious knee injury, because that day is nearing, and is lost for the season. I just hope those Skins' fans think of me.
As far as this game is concerned, I think there's two possible scenarios that play out with Portis. First, he's rested and fresh and is able to run effectively behind this average at best offensive line. Or, the more likely scenario, is that Portis comes out a little rusty and, due to a mediocre line and Miami's very, very good front 7, struggles a bit. But we also can't forget about Ladell Betts, who had a good year last year. I was also killed on messae boards for saying how Betts doesn't worry me as a Dolphin fan with this great Dolphins front 7. But the bottom line is that in last year's games, though Betts did average 4.7 ypc for the season, he averaged 3.6 ypc or less in 7 different games. So my point here is that Washington's running doesn't really worry me like it might some others. The Dolphins' front 7 is borderline "elite" and shouldn't have many problems against a rusty Portis, an average back in Betts, and a mediocre offensive line.
Washington's passing game, on the other hand, does worry me a bit more. Yes, Jason Campbell is inexperienced, but he isn't a bad quarteback. He has a strong arm, is tough, and can find an open man. Washington's receivers are also quite good. Santana Moss will provide matchup problems all game for Miami's secondary. I would expect Will Allen to cover Moss with help over the top by one of Miami's safeties. If they don't bracket cover Moss all game, he could create 1 or 2 costly big plays.
The Redskins' key pass catcher, though, is likely going to be H-back Chris Cooley. He's 6'3, 250, and can run for a big man. Washington uses him in creative ways and, last season, Cooley was a favorite target of Campbell. In fact, in those 7 games where Campbell started, Cooley averaged 4 catches for 58 yards and scored 3 times. Those numbers may not look like anything special, but consider this: Cooley caught over a quarter of Campbell's completions last year. To be precise, it was 27%. Miami will need to make sure they know where Cooley is at all times, especially on 3rd downs.
So how will Miami's defense handle this? I think the Dolphins will throw many, many different looks, blitzes, and coverages at the young Campbell, as Capers will look to confuse him and force him into making mistakes. You're likely to see blitzes coming from the edges, the middle, and the corners. What the Dolphins must make sure of, though, is that on the plays when they blitz heavily and force the corners into man-to-man coverage, they must get to the QB and not allow Campbell to take a shot deep to Moss or Randle-El, both speedy receivers. As for defending Cooley goes, you'll probably see a mixture of Joey Porter, Zach Thomas, Channing Crowder, and even a safety covering Cooley.
Redskins Running Game vs Dolphins Rush Defense: Advantage Dolphins
Redskins Passing Attack vs Dolphins Pass Defense: Slight Advantage Dolphins