Miami Dolphins “Keys” to victory: on offfense


When the Miami Dolphins take the field they will open their 2015 season with a lot of hype and expectations. Not just from the outside but from within as well. It’s imperative for the Dolphins to get off to a fast start. It keeps being pounded into everyone’s head but the front end of the schedule is much more forgiving than the back-end.

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The Dolphins will need to play a complete game to beat the Washington Redskins and the Dolphins offense needs to begin the season firing on all cylinders. Miami is expected to have DeVante Parker available if they need him. Parker has been practicing all week at full speed and his teammates have taken note of the strides he has made after missing so much time.

Miami can beat the Redskins on offense alone but it will take a concerted effort to score the points necessary to win should the Dolphins defense fall flat. Not saying that they will or that it’s a possibility just an “if” should things go wrong.

In order for the Dolphins offense to be working well, Miami needs to use the vast array of weapons that they added this off-season. It starts with the wide-receivers where more change has been made than at any other complete unit. The additions of Parker, Greg Jennings, and Kenny Stills completes an overhaul that saw Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Brandon Gibson depart. Returning slot receiver Jarvis Landry has high expectations for himself as does the team and Rishard Matthews and Matt Hazel both are expected to see far more reps this season.

It’s hard to know exactly how much time Parker will play this week. He will likely be on a “pitch” count of sorts and frankly the Dolphins don’t need him to be in the lineup this weekend as a starter. That time will come soon enough.

Passing game

The Dolphins are capable of running four and five wide-receiver sets consistently and that’s not a bad option. Stills is a deep threat that can pull coverage from the safeties while Landry can hit the middle, outside, slant, and mid-range routes between 10 and 15 yards. Jennings is the possession receiver who’s route running is probably the best on the Dolphins offense. Jennings I suspect will be a key factor in this game as he presents an outlet receiver for Tannehill.

Matthews will see extended playing time regardless of whether he starts or not but it’s very unlikely that we see Still, Jennings, Landry, and Matthews on the field at once. The reason is Jordan Cameron. Cameron is the first legit tight-end the Dolphins have had in a very long time. He is a seam threat receiver who uses his body well to shield defenders and is a big red-zone target.

The Dolphins will face a stiff pass rush from defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Paea and Mike Pouncey will have to stop Terrance Knighton from the nose tackle position. The Redskins run a 3-4 defense and get plenty of production from outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan who posted 14.5 sacks last season. If the Redskins choose to rush both of their ends and at least one of their outside linebackers, which they should, the Dolphins will find a favorable match-up with Cameron.

The Redskins are a bit better than just good at cornerback. Chris Culliver is solid and DeAngelo Hall has his moments of being the younger player he was but his game is starting to fade. Stills and Jennings will draw single coverage most of the game and the Redskins will likely use a safety over the top to protect the deep throw to Stills. Landry will face safety coverage one on one or will see linebacker/safety coverage. That leaves Cameron with one on one linebacker coverage and that’s a tough draw.

I suspect the Dolphins will run a lot of three wide sets with Cameron as a fourth option but I also believe that we will see the Dolphins test the Redskins line and boundaries with Lamar Miller consistently. Miller should have around 23 carries for the game and he could post another 100 yard outing. He could however be more valuable on the swing route out of the back-field and I expect the Dolphins to go this route if they have trouble handling the edge rushers.

Ryan Tannehill has shown great consistency this off-season and he seems to get better as games move along. This week will be no different. Tannehill is turning into a 2nd half quarterback but he needs to develop that killer instinct to put teams away. In fact the entire coaching staff needs to develop that mentality. Too often over the last three years the Dolphins have gone into a ball control offense in the late third quarter and that allows teams to get back into games.

Washington is going to test the younger guards and the coming off injury Branden Albert and while Tannehill was hardly touched in pre-season, pre-season is over and the Redskins line will also get better as the game ticks along.

Running game

Lamar Miller eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark last season and that was after he didn’t start the first week. Through pre-season Miller looked very good and decisive and that will be important against the Redskins. Miller needs to hit the holes and hit them quickly but more importantly he needs to keep his grip on the football. Miami can ill afford stupid turnovers. Miller hasn’t been a player who has fumble issues but the Redskins are going to try and take that ball away.

Damien Williams will line up to spell Miller and will likely see a bulk of the 3rd and long snaps as he is a better receiver out of the back-field. Williams has done well sliding out to the edge and turning up field and I suspect we will see more of those types of passes if the Dolphins get into trouble. On the ground, I don’t expect Williams to make much of an impact as I don’t think he will see the number of touches to warrant big numbers.

What to watch

The play of the guards is very important because the Dolphins will face increasingly tougher challenges from opposing defenses. This is not a simple test by any means as the Redskins are boasting a better front seven than last year. How well Jamil Douglas and Dallas Thomas play will be an important key to the success of this offense. Not just in passing downs but in the running game where the Dolphins will try and get Miller active between the guard/tackle and guard/center gaps.

Defense will come later today.