The Miami Dolphins added one of the NFL's most dominant defensive players this offseason in Ndumakong Suh and retooled the offensive weapons around franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There is a lot of upside on the Dolphins' roster, but they still have to prove that they can turn talent into wins.
The Dolphins visit the Washington Redskins, a team that also underwent a major roster overhaul. The Redskins added talent to their defensive line and an aggressive defensive coordinator in Joe Barry. On the other side of the ball, the quarterback carousel spun around again, and for the time being it has landed on Kirk Cousins. He will have to prove better in his second go-round as starter for head coach Jay Gruden.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Dolphins and Redskins.
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1. Protect Ryan Tannehill
If the Dolphins are going to win, they must protect Tannehill. The offensive line has been shaky for the past two seasons, and it doesn't look much better this year. The Redskins are going to rush the passer often, and if Tannehill doesn't have enough time for plays to develop, the offense will struggle.
2. Give Lamar Miller 20-plus carries
Lamar Miller didn't top 20 carries once last season, but he's sure to get more touches. Week 1 may seem early to give Miller a bigger workload, but he needs to prove to the coaching staff that he can handle it. The Redskins' defense isn't among the best in the league so it shouldn't be terribly tough sledding for Miller.
3. Stop the run
The Redskins are going to rely heavily on the run game this season given the quarterback situation. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones are both physically imposing backs, which means the Dolphins will have to stop the run and avoid missed tackles. If Miami can take away the run, it will force Cousins to throw the ball.
1. Carry over the preseason momentum and stop the run
The Redskins installed a scheme under Barry that relies on the defensive line to create pressure and make stops in the run game. In the preseason, the Redskins' first team defense allowed 57 total rushing yards through three preseason games before the meaningless fourth game. The Dolphins run an offensive scheme similar to the Eagles under Chip Kelly -- one the Redskins are familiar with. This means that they will look to use the run to open up the pass, and the Redskins can't let them.
2. Get rookie Matt Jones involved early
The Dolphins were already difficult to move the ball on through the interior in 2014, and now that they added Suh, it will be nearly impossible. The Redskins need to utilize rookie running back Matt Jones early and often. Jones displayed an explosive first step, the ability to get through holes quickly and the ability to create yards after contact this preseason. He ran for 139 yards and a touchdown on 20 preseason carries. According to Pro Football Focus, 96 of those yards came after contact.
3. Contain Jarvis Landry in the slot
Starting nickel cornerback Bashaud Breeland will miss the opener while serving a suspension, and this is especially bad news in this matchup. Tannehill developed an excellent chemistry with slot wide receiver Jarvis Landry over the second half of the 2014 season, and the two have carried this over to the 2015 preseason. If the Redskins don't pay added attention to Landry, he could burn them with several key catches for first downs to extend drives.