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Five Players To Watch: Dolphins vs. Broncos

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Will it be first score wins between these two struggling offenses?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 in the National Football League features a matchup between two equally struggling teams in the Denver Broncos (3-8) and the Miami Dolphins (4-7).

Despite a 3-1 record to start the season, the Broncos have been one of coldest teams in the league, losing their last seven games following last week’s 21-14 loss to the Raiders while the Dolphins have lost their last five after last week’s 35-17 defeat to the New England Patriots.

A pair of teams that have been shuffling between quarterbacks and struggling to find an offensive identity, the Broncos and Dolphins probably isn’t the game for you in week 13 if you’re looking for an offensive outburst as both teams rank in the bottom seven of the league in points per game.

While both teams are still “mathematically” eligible to make the playoffs, post-season play for either of these teams seems fairly far fetched as both teams would be wise to invest playing time and game planning with the future in mind to help determine their building blocks moving forward.

Since the overall outcome of this game seems fairly meaningless at this point, here are five players to keep an eye on that will not only be important to this game, but also to the future of these two franchises.

Laremy Tunsil

Playing significantly better the last couple of weeks, Tunsil now draws the task of going against one of the best edge rushers in the league in Von Miller.

One thing that is still getting the best of the left side of the Dolphins’ offensive line is stunts by opposing team’s defensive lines. This may be due to the shuffling of players at left guard, but it will be important for Tunsil and left guard Ted Larsen to form a solution to this issue before facing, what has the potential to be, a very dominant defensive line.

Tunsil and Branden Albert struggled with stunts early last year while Tunsil settled into his role at left guard, so hopefully for the sake of Jay Cutler, Tunsil and Larsen can build similar chemistry relatively soon to help protect the quarterback’s blind side.

T.J. McDonald

McDonald has been a very good tackler since returning to the Dolphins from his eight-game suspension to begin the season, but there has been quite a few miscommunications in the secondary leading to players from opposing teams running wide open downfield for easy completions and chunk-yardage plays.

With McDonald and Reshad Jones it seems as if Miami has two safeties that are both better suited to play in the box and excel as tacklers rather than as pass defenders, so it will be important to see how this plays out for the remainder of the season.

Jarvis Landry

Truly the only consistent playmaker on the Dolphins’ offense this season, it will be interesting to see how Landry – a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve – bounces back after expressing some frustration both on the sidelines and in the media about the coaching staff not challenging an incomplete pass he believed had a chance of being overturned last week against the Patriots.

Despite a career-high six touchdowns so far this season, Landry once again continues to be treated as a security blanket averaging a career-low 8.5 yards per catch.

Landry averaged a career-best 12.1 yards per catch last season, and while that’s still a low number, it was a sign that Miami was finding more success on longer plays downfield. However, the trend of increasing his yards per catch each year of his career will likely come to an end in 2017 with the team’s offense that is lacking big plays in the passing game.

It remains a mystery if Landry will be on the team in 2018 and beyond, so to be on the safe side, enjoy this unique receiver while you still have the opportunity.

Von Miller

Arguably the best pass rusher since entering the league in 2011, Miller would be receiving more media attention this season if the Broncos weren’t 3-8.

Currently tied for 12th in the NFL with eight and a half sacks, Miller’s domination as an edge rusher gives opposing team’s tackles arguably the toughest challenge of any position on the field.

With Tunsil at left tackle and career backup, Sam Young, playing right tackle for an injured Ja’Wuan James, smart money would be on Miller adding to his season sack total this Sunday.

To expand on how dominant Miller has been since joining the Broncos, he’s recorded double-digit sacks every year except 2013 when he played just nine games.

Devontae Booker

Booker has the most potential upside of the current stable of running backs on the Broncos’ roster as Jamaal Charles nears the end of his career while C.J. Anderson remains a consistent guy who can get the job done when called upon.

Seen as a threat both as a runner and pass catcher out of Utah two years ago, Booker has 20 receptions for 204 yards but is averaging just 3.5 yards per carry on the ground.

Booker had a receiving touchdown overturned last week against the Raiders so he remains with just one total touchdown this season. With the inconsistency shown from Booker early in his career, the Broncos will like to see more from him the remainder of the season in an offense likely to undergo an overhaul this offseason.