Reporting Paul Gallant
We’re just days away from the Texans season opener against the Dolphins. Here’s what you should expect out of Miami Sunday.
Welcome to the NFL Rook
You couldn’t give rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill a tougher test in his first start. Going up against last season’s second ranked defense on the road is one thing. But on top of that, having Davone Bess as his top receiver? That’s like buying a high powered rifle and loading it with blanks. Like much of last year, the Texans will face an offense incapable of throwing the ball.
The running game? A bit of a different story. Just look at what happened last season in week two. Despite the total incompetence of then-starting QB Chad Henne, backup running back Daniel Thomas gashed the Texans for 107 yards on 18 carries. Meanwhile Reggie Bush, who was ineffective that Sunday, is still explosive both as a running back and receiver.
I’m a bit concerned we could see a repeat performance by Miami’s rushing attack. The Texans run defense was mediocre at best during the pre-season, due in large part to the absence of defensive linemen J.J. Watt and Shaun Cody. Those two will be back this Sunday. But how long will they play? And how effective will they be suiting up after a prolonged absence? After all, Cody was injured early against Carolina, and Watt didn’t even step on the field any of the four games. Those two will likely have their playing time limited a bit.
That being said, the Dolphins O-Line has problems of its own. The weak link is at right guard, where John Jerry is the only guy penciled in on the depth chart. He was fighting the scale through out training camp, weighing in at 360 lbs at one point. He’s shed 20 lbs since, and claims he can handle 65 snaps a game. Call me skeptical, especially after watching Hard Knocks. From the look of things, he was always in Joe Philbin’s doghouse. Things don’t get much better as you continue down the right side with rookie Jonathan Martin starting at right tackle. Meanwhile, left tackle Jake Long - one of the best in the game – is dealing with a sprained knee.
The Magnificent Front Seven
The last decade and a half for the Dolphins has been riddled with turnover. So it should come as no surprise that Miami swapped out of the 3-4 in favor of the 4-3. A questionable decision in my book. Miami had the third ranked run defense in the league last season, thanks in large part to linemen Jared Odrick and Paul Soliai. In the new system, they’ll anchor the middle of the line as defensive tackles, forcing plays towards underrated middle linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Edge rusher Cameron Wake moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. It’s a major transition, but he could be a huge pain in the ass for the Texans if used correctly Sunday. If I were first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, I’d set Wake up at left end to attack new right tackle Derek Newton for the entire 60 minutes.
Miami’s front seven is it’s biggest strength. Their duel with the Texans O-Line will be an important first test for an inexperienced right side.
No Depth Back Deep
Trading cornerback Vontae Davis to Indianapolis was a bizarre move. With Davis, the ‘Phish had a solid secondary. Now? It’s shallow, especially at the corners. Sean Smith and Richard Marshall are decent, but the guys behind him are rather shaky. Third corner Nolan Carroll is considered “shaky”, while their fourth man Quinten Lawrence has never played in an NFL game. If the Texans spread Miami out with three or four wide receiver sets, they could really take advantage.
Oh Hi Troy Nolan
Houston waived him as part of the final roster cut to 53. Lo and behold, he’s now a Miami Dolphin. Nolan is currently listed as a backup at safety. He’s quality depth – as he proved during his tenure here – but I doubt you’ll see much of him on the field. This week, his biggest value will be the intel he can provide on the Texans.