The NFL regular season may have begun on Thursday night, but the game about which we most care does not kickoff until Sunday, when the Miami Dolphins visit the Washington Redskins. What will it take for the Dolphins to get out to a fast start in the game, and the season? We have three things to watch this week.
Tight ends and the Red Zone
The Miami tight ends have been nearly non-existent thus far this year (well, through the Preseason). Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has made great decisions throughout the three exhibition games in which he played, but somehow, those decisions never seemed to favor getting the ball to Jordan Cameron or Dion Sims. Miami needs both of those guys to show up for the offense, especially in the red zone. The Dolphins struggled in the red zone last year, despite leading the league in red zone opportunities. Cameron and a more expansive role for Sims is supposed to solve that issue, but it has not helped thus far. Miami needs red zone touchdowns, and the tight ends are the perfect people to get them.
Defensive line domination
The Washington offensive line is a mess, and Miami has what could be the best defensive line in the league. If the Dolphins do not dominate from the opening whistle, there is something seriously wrong. Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Earl Mitchell, and Olivier Vernon should be able to get after Kirk Cousins throughout the game. They have to do more, however, as they have to stop what should be a strong Washington running attack. If they can clog up holes, and let the linebackers flow freely, Miami's defensive line could be on their way to establishing themselves at the top of the league.
There may be other things to watch that are more obvious than the two rookie kickers Miami will be using this year, but none may be as critical as punter Matt Darr and placekicker Andrew Franks. The Dolphins made the move to go with two undrafted free agent rookies, and now will have to live with any rookie mistakes that they make. The coaches seem sure that both Darr and Franks are ready to be NFL kickers, but until they are put in a high-stress position, and the perform, there will always be a concern.
What are will you be watching this week?