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Countdown To Kickoff: Miami At Houston

Posted Aug 17, 2013

Breaking down the Dolphins-Texans matchup.



GAME FACTS


DATE: Saturday, Aug. 17
TIME: 8 p.m. ET
SITE: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV: In Miami-Fort Lauderdale, WFOR-TV (CBS 4); in Fort Myers, WBBH-TV (Channel 2); in West Palm Beach, WTVX-TV (Channel 34) and WWHB (Channel 48, Spanish); in Orlando, WRDQ (Channel 27) and WFTV MegaTV (9.2 as well as on digital cable via Comcast channel 209, CenturyLink Channel 10, Cox Cable 118 and Decca Cable channel 717, Spanish).
TV ANNOUNCERS: Jesse Agler, play-by-play; Bob Griese, analysis; Nat Moore, analysis
ONLINE: Game available on computer or tablet. Details at dolphins.com/preseasonlive.
TV REPLAY: NFL Network, Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 3 a.m. and Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 10 a.m.

THE SERIES (PRESEASON)

SERIES RECORD: Miami leads 1-0
AT MIAMI: Teams are tied 0-0
AT HOUSTON: Dolphins lead 1-0
LAST MEETING: 2002 at Houston; Dolphins 24, Texans 3
HISTORY LESSON: The teams met in the next-to-last preseason game in 2002, but it happened to be the expansion Texans’ first-ever game at Reliant Stadium after an appearance in the Hall of Fame Game and two road contests. The Dolphins, though, didn’t cooperate in making this a memorable Reliant debut. They scored touchdowns on their first two drives and completely shut down the Houston offense to the tune of 152 total yards allowed, with five sacks (including two by defensive end Adewale Ogunleye) and two interceptions (including one by 2001 first-round pick Jamar Fletcher).

SCOUTING REPORT

HOUSTON’S RECORD: 1-0 in 2013 preseason; 12-4 in 2012 regular season
LAST GAME: Won 27-13 at Minnesota
OVERVIEW: The Texans have emerged as a power in the AFC in recent years, but they’ve come up short in the playoffs. In 2012, for example, Houston was rolling along at 11-1 and in line for the top seed in the AFC playoffs before a 1-3 finish left with the third seed and the season ended with a playoff loss at New England. Houston is hoping the additions of first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver and former University of Miami star Ed Reed at safety can help make the difference.
NEW FACES: WR DeAndre Hopkins (draft, 1st round), S D.J. Swearinger (draft, 2nd round), FB Greg Jones (Jacksonville), RB/KR Deji Karim (Indianapolis), P Shane Lechler (Oakland), LB Joe Mays (Denver), S Ed Reed (Baltimore).
VETERANS GONE: CB Alan Ball (Jacksonville), LB Connor Barwin (Philadelphia), T Rashad Butler (Cincinnati), C Antoine Caldwell (Buffalo), FB/TE James Casey (Philadelphia), S Quintin Demps (Kansas City), RB Justin Forsett (Jacksonville), K Shayne Graham (Cleveland), P Donnie Jones (Philadelphia), S Glover Quin (Detroit), WR Kevin Walter (released).
THE TEXANS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: Houston has an awful lot of ability on offense, with one of the best running backs in the league in Arian Foster, one of the top wide receivers in Andre Johnson, and an offensive line that features three Pro Bowl players — Duane Brown, former Dolphins third-round pick Wade Smith and Chris Myers. If we have to pick out one facet of the offense that stands out, it’s the running game, where Foster also has a productive backup in Ben Tate.
THE TEXANS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: For far too many seasons, the Texans have failed to find a dangerous wide receiver to team with Johnson. The hope is that Hopkins fills that role, and he got off to a good start with four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota in the preseason opener. The spotlight clearly will fall on Matt Schaub, who has been a good quarterback in recent years but struggled badly down the stretch last season.
THE TEXANS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The Dolphins got the first look last season at the kind of dominant 2012 performance defensive end J.J. Watt would put together. The former first-pound pick from Wisconsin ended up leading the NFL with 20.5 sacks, an already impressive feat made even more astounding by the fact he played in a 3-4 scheme. Watt has spoken this summer of wanting to play on offense in goal-line situations, but the Texans would be wise not to take chances with the guy who became the biggest game-changing defensive player in the NFL in 2012.
THE TEXANS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: The Texans were very good on defense for most of the season, but they also had a few games — including lopsided losses to New England in the regular season and the playoffs — where they looked lost. The problems usually centered around the pass defense, which is where the ball-hawking Reed — who is on PUP and won’t play Saturday night — could make a difference.
THE TEXANS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The Texans watched Jacoby Jones earn a Pro Bowl invitation as a kick returner with the Baltimore Ravens after they had released him in the offseason, but rookie Keshawn Martin proved a solid replacement when it came to punt returns. Martin averaged 12.1 yards, ranking him fourth — one spot behind the Dolphins’ Marcus Thigpen — among players with at least 15 punt returns on the season.
THE TEXANS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: One year before the Dolphins selected kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, the Texans also took a kicker in the fifth round, Randy Bullock from Texas A&M. But Bullock sat out all of his rookie season after being placed on injured reserve in the preseason and the Texans can only hope he gives them better placekicking than they got last year when Shayne Graham was only 11-for-18 from beyond 40 yards. Houston also needs to shore up its coverage units after allowing three touchdowns on kick returns in 2012, including a crushing 101-yarder in the season finale by Indianapolis’ Deji Karim, who ironically is now a member of the Texans.

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