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Dolphins-Rams: Five Things To Watch

Posted Oct 13, 2012

Miami eyeing .500 record before the bye.



Defense will be at the forefront Sunday when the Miami Dolphins host the St. Louis Rams at Sun Life Stadium, as it should be on a day when the team is honoring two defensive legends.

By the time Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas step onto the field to see their names unveiled in the Dolphins Honor Roll, the men carrying the torch for them on that side of the ball hope to be defending a lead. The brothers-in-law will be recognized at the half and with the Dolphins still owning the league’s top-ranked run defense, the odds are in their favor.

Thanks to the play of Taylor’s successor as the primary pass rushing threat, defensive end Cameron Wake, and his fellow defensive linemen, Miami is playing the kind of defense that Taylor and Thomas prided themselves in for more than a decade. The Rams come in a little bruised on offense but armed with one of the most physical running backs in the game in Steven Jackson, so that run defense will be tested.

Meanwhile, on offense the Dolphins are seeing rapid growth out of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill behind a solid and consistent offensive line and the emergence of a balanced attack with running backs Reggie Bush and rookie Lamar Miller and fullback Jorvorskie Lane. St. Louis is slightly better against the pass (12th) than the run (18th) and its defense ranks one spot ahead of Miami’s (14th) overall.

So this is one of those games between two teams not given a lot of attention before the season but looking to continue their improved play, with the Dolphins hoping to even their record at 3-3 headed into their bye week.

Five Things To Watch:

1. What role will the emotions surrounding Taylor and Thomas play in the final outcome – Last year when the late Jim Mandich was inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll, Miami rolled to a 34-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders on a beautiful December afternoon. Four weeks later, Taylor was carried off the field by his teammates following a dramatic 19-17 win over the New York Jets in his final game and many of those defensive players are still on the roster. So they’d like to give him and Thomas an extra nice memory on this day.

2. How will Dolphins rookie running back Lamar Miller fare in an expanded role – After being inactive for the season opener at Houston, Miller had an exciting debut performance at home in a 35-13 win over the Raiders with 65 rushing yards and a touchdown. Daniel Thomas was inactive for that game with a concussion, as he will be on Sunday, but Bush also is banged up with a sore knee, so Miller might be called upon to do more than just spot duty running the ball. He also will be asked to provide pass protection for Tannehill and could be an X factor.

3. Miami defensive end Cameron Wake versus St. Louis right tackle Barry Richardson – Should the Dolphins make the Rams one dimensional early on by shutting down the run, Wake will pin his ears back and go after quarterback Sam Bradford, who does not move well outside of the pocket. Richardson has the length at 6-foot-6 and 319 pounds to slow Wake down with his hands, but very few offensive tackles can cope with his speed and quick first step.

4. What will the Dolphins’ offensive line do to slow down the Rams’ active front four – Former Dolphins defensive end Kendall Langford is now the tackle lining up closest to Rams left defensive end Chris Long. He will try to use his familiarity with the men protecting Tannehill to his advantage. Long will be going against rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin and defensive end Robert Quinn will try to solve Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, but if that line can continue to give Tannehill a clean pocket he should be able to test the two aggressive cornerbacks for St. Louis, rookie Janoris Jenkins and veteran Cortland Finnegan.

5. Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin versus Rams head coach Jeff Fisher – A lot has been made this week of the fact that Fisher interviewed for the Miami job before Philbin, with the prevailing opinion that both teams came out as winners. Now they will test their skills against each other, with Philbin set to make a stronger case for being one of the better first-year coaches in the league if his team comes out on top.

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