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Dolphins-Seahawks: Five Things To Watch

Posted Nov 24, 2012

Rookie QBs face off in bicoastal battle.



Two weeks before they make their own trip across the country the Miami Dolphins are hosting a West Coast visitor at Sun Life Stadium.

When the Seattle Seahawks take the field Sunday afternoon they just might be shaking off a little jet lag, which could play right into Miami’s hands. Seattle and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson have struggled away from CenturyLink Field, going 1-4 overall and 1-1 when they’ve had to travel to the Eastern time zone.

The Seahawks enter the game at 6-4 and very much alive in the NFC playoff picture just a game and a half behind the San Francisco 49ers n the NFC West. They have won two straight and are riding a potent defense and a solid ground game on offense.

Miami is looking to end a three-game skid and separate itself from the pack in the AFC East while hoping to gain a little ground on first-place New England. At 4-6 the Dolphins are tied with Buffalo and are a half game up on the New York Jets, so they need to win the critical match-ups against Seattle.

Five Things To Watch:

1. How will Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill handle Seattle’s tall cornerbacks and active secondary – The Seahawks boast the league’s No. 3 pass defense, allowing just 196.2 passing yards per game with nine interceptions. Cornerback Richard Sherman (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) leads the team with four interceptions and Brandon Browner (6-4, 221) is right behind with three. Free safety Earl Thomas has two and at 5-10, 202 has the speed and quickness to break a game open in the secondary. Tannehill needs good protection up front so he can have time to find the open receiver and he needs his receivers to create separation and widen the windows for him to fit the ball into.

2. What will Miami’s defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle come up with to slow down physical Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many other teams that use a two-back attack, Seattle has no problem giving the 5-11, 215-pound Lynch the bulk of the carries and he has responded with 1,005 yards and five touchdowns on 212 carries. He ranks third in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster but is facing the league’s No. 9 run defense and one that is eager to re-establish itself as the league’s best. If Coyle can figure out how to unleash defensive tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai and make Lynch a non-factor early, that will put more pressure on Wilson.

3. Dolphins Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long versus Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons The 10 days in between Miami’s last game at Buffalo and Sunday should have helped Long re-energize his 6-7, 319-pound frame and have him ready for the challenge of facing the athletic Clemons. Back-to-back seasons of 11 sacks has given Clemons (6-3, 295) more confidence in his pass rushing technique and resulted in seven sacks through 10 games, so he will be aiming for Tannehill in an effort to disrupt the rookie’s timing and add to his total. If Long can neutralize Clemons and Bruce Irvin when he enters the game that should make life a little easier for Tannehill.

4. Will Miami’s Marcus Thigpen pick up where he left off and break a long punt or kickoff return that swings the momentum in his team’s favor – With Leon Washington on the other sideline, Thigpen will have some extra incentive to make something special. He admitted that after Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin scored on a 79-yard punt return early in that Thursday night game he got angry and wanted to turn the tables. So after Rian Lindell’s field goal made the score 10-0, Thigpen took off on a 96-yard kickoff return, leaving everyone on Buffalo in the dust on his way to the end zone. Even if Washington is held in check, just his presence should work to Thigpen’s benefit.

5. Can the Dolphins’ front seven stay disciplined and not allow any running lanes for Wilson to exploit when the pocket breaks down – Tennessee’s Jake Locker and Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick hurt Miami with their legs more than with their arms by extending plays and converting first downs with their scrambling abilities. Linebacker Kevin Burnett described Wilson as a “running back who can throw the ball,” and Wilson has proven to be dangerous outside of the pocket. If Miami can plug those lanes when defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and Jared Odrick collapse the edge, Wilson won’t have any options and could be in for a long afternoon.