1. Derek Newton
Newton won the right tackle job in the preseason even before Rashad Butler was lost with a season-ending triceps injury. He’ll get a quick baptism in his first NFL start opposite one of the quickest defensive ends in the league.
Cameron Wake has racked up 22.5 sacks in the last two seasons. The Dolphins would be crazy not to try to isolate Wake on Newton during obvious passing downs. Look for the Texans to try to establish the running game early, running right over Newton’s side, in an effort to wear down Wake and keep Matt Schaub upright.
2. Ben Tate
Tate is good enough to start for a number of NFL teams. Someday he will. But for now he has to settle for his role behind Arian Foster.
With Foster hurting this week, Tate’s role becomes even more important. Foster missed part of practice Thursday and was held out of Friday’s workout because of an unspecified leg injury. Even if Foster plays, Tate will be called on to shoulder a sizable workload. And if he delivers like he did last season, the Texans should beat the Dolphins.
3. Brian Cushing
With Demeco Ryans gone to Philadelphia, Cushing takes over as the leader of the “Bulls on Parade” defense. His teammates, for the first time in his four year career, elected him as a team captain on Friday. That’s not just a sign of respect, it’s a passing of the torch to the player being counted on most to keep the Texans defense among the best in the league.
Cushing’s role will be magnified even more Sunday as he will help keep Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas in check. The Dolphins ground game racked up 153 yards rushing in the Texans 23-13 win in Miami last year. Cushing and company are out to prevent that from happening again. If they blow up the Dolphins ground game, Ryan Tannehill could be, and should be, in trouble.
(Follow Robert on Twitter: @sportsradiorh)