Dolphins-Bengals: Five Things To Watch

Posted Oct 6, 2012

Miami looking to go .500 on road trip.

It’s back on the road again for the Miami Dolphins for the second straight week, only this trip to Cincinnati is a little shorter than the one they made to Arizona last weekend.

The Cincinnati Bengals are on a three-game winning streak after dropping the opener at Baltimore, 44-13, and are coming off of back-to-back road wins at Washington and at Jacksonville. They have a reputable passing attack behind second-year quarterback Andy Dalton and second-year wide receiver A.J. Green, but their defense also has done well.

Miami, coming off of back-to-back overtime losses, unveiled a potent pass rush against the Cardinals to the tune of eight quarterback sacks (4.5 from defensive end Cameron Wake). It’s run defense is tops in the entire National Football League, so this should become a good battle to watch at Paul Brown Stadium.

Five Things To Watch:

1. How healthy will Dolphins running back Reggie Bush be at kickoff –
The Dolphins’ leading rusher seems to have fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out of the second half of the loss to the New York Jets, but he has been nursing a hip injury this week. If Bush can run as well as he had been prior to the knee injury and keep Cincinnati’s defense honest, that should also slow down the pass rush enough for rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill to find a rhythm, but if the Bengals don’t see Bush as a threat they can bring more pressure.

2. What will Cincinnati’s big offensive line do to slow down Miami’s pass rush – Wake has made it cleat that he doesn’t care who lines up opposite him – in this case it will by 6-foot-4, 335-pound Bengals right tackle Andre Smith – because he has it in his mind that he can beat anyone off the ball. Smith is one-fifth of a very big line capable of providing a strong pocket for Dalton and of opening running lanes for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. “Well you have to be able to disengage,” Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “In the run game you have to able to get off blocks. You can’t get engulfed by big people. In the passing game, if you just run down the middle of somebody, it’s tough to with big, big people, it’s tough to move those guys around. So you have to use your athleticism, your speed and your instinctive moves as a pass rusher to defeat guys. If you get right down the middle of big men, it’s hard to get around those guys.”

3. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap versus Dolphins rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin Although Dunlap missed the first two games while recovering from a preseason knee injury, he has one of Cincinnati’s 17 sacks and 15 in his career, including 9.5 as a rookie in 2010. At 6-6, 280, he’s similar to Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants with his long arms and quick feet, but the 6-5, 312-pound is one of the quicker young tackles in the league. If Martin can win that battle and keep Tannehill clean in the pocket that could bode well for Miami.

4. How will Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle win the chess match with Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator Jay Gruden – Having spent 11 seasons on the Bengals coaching staff and most recently as their defensive backs coach, Coyle is familiar with their offensive personnel. Conversely, Gruden is familiar with what Coyle likes to do on defense, so if Coyle can succeed in confusing Dalton with his creative blitz packages and coverage schemes, forcing him to hold onto the ball longer, he might see a repeat of the Cardinals game when it comes to sacks. His defensive backs will have to answer the call against Green and the other receivers and tight ends.

5. Will Tannehill be able to heat up through the air under adverse weather conditions for the first time – Two of Miami’s first four road games took place inside climate controlled environments at Houston’s Reliant Stadium and Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium, and his two home games were in the warm South Florida weather at Sun Life Stadium. If it rains Sunday in Cincinnati and the temperatures do dip into the 50s, Tannehill could be dealing with a wet ball and windy conditions. If he can overcome those conditions and throw the ball as well he did last week on his way to rookie franchise record 431 passing yards, the Dolphins could come out on top.

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