A First Look At the Miami Dolphins

We're finally getting closer to the Vikings playing their second game of the 2010 season, and for this one they'll be back at the comfy confines of the Metrodome as they host the Miami Dolphins.  For reasons I'm not too sure of, folks seem to be chalking this game up as a victory already. . .and, yes, while the Vikings are darn near invincible at home, the Miami Dolphins are a team that has a significant amount of talent on both sides of the ball, and definitely aren't a group to be taken likely.  This post is going to take a look at the Dolphins from my "outsiders" perspective, and take a look at some of the key players on the Miami roster.

Defense

Since almost all previews like this start out with offense, let's do something crazy and do defense first.  The Dolphins come into this week's game boasting the top-ranked defense, in terms of yards allowed, in the NFL.  While the Dolphins have some talent on defense, at least a little bit of this comes from playing against a Buffalo offense that can charitably be described as "not very good" and more accurately described as "with the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills select. . .Jake Locker, quarterback, University of Washington."  The Dolphins limited the Bills to 110 yards passing and 64 yards rushing. . .but one would think they'd have a pretty tough time holding the Vikings to those kinds of numbers.

Miami's big splash in the free agent market this year was the signing of LB Karlos Dansby away from the Arizona Cardinals.  If you'll recall, Dansby had an interception of Brett Favre in last year's Vikings loss to Arizona.  Dansby is one of the better interior linebackers in the NFL, and has the skills both in run support and pass coverage to force the Vikings to account for him at all times.  They also have a couple of nice outside linebackers in their 3-4 defense, with rookie Koa Misi on one side and former CFL star Cameron Wake on the other.  Each of them registered a sack against the Bills on Sunday, and will certainly try to replicate that against the Vikings.

Up front, the Dolphins will be without their first-round pick from this year's draft, DL Jared Odrick.  Odrick suffered a leg injury against the Bills and will be out for a couple of weeks, meaning that he won't see action against Minnesota.  No word about who will replace him in the lineup.

The Dolphins also have a couple of good, young cornerbacks in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith.  Both players are in their second NFL seasons, and are developing into a good, young duo at the CB position.  The nickel back is none other than our old pal Benny Sapp.  While the secondary is a talented one, if the Vikings can keep the pressure away from Brett Favre, there should be openings to exploit back there for Minnesota.  Hopefully, the Vikings have spent the extra few days they've had off working on their timing and building some of the chemistry that should have been built up during training camp.

All in all, the Dolphin defense presents some challenges for the Vikings' offense.  Are they beatable? It appears as though they are, but it certainly won't be easy.

Offense

Whenever you think of the Miami Dolphins' offense, the first thing that comes to mind. . .for me, anyway. . .is the Wildcat formation.  The Dolphins are the NFL's innovators of the Wildcat, and nobody runs it with the proficiency or efficiency that they do.  The man pulling the trigger for the Wildcat the majority of the time is RB Ronnie Brown.  Brown may have lost a little of his explosiveness after suffering some injuries over the course of his career, but he's a very intelligent back that displays a great deal of patience waiting for things to develop on Wildcat plays.  Granted, the Wildcat only gained a total of nine yards on the four plays the Dolphins used it for against Buffalo, but it obviously gives the Vikings another wrinkle to prepare for this week, and can end up being dangerous if Minnesota isn't thoroughly prepared for it.

Miami usually isn't too shabby when it comes to throwing the ball, either, although their offense struggled a bit against the Bills.  Quarterback Chad Henne completed 21 of 34 passes against Buffalo, and finished with 182 yards and no touchdowns. Brandon Marshall, the Dolphins' other big off-season acquisition, finished with eight catches, but only gained 53 yards and had a long reception of just 13 yards.  Limiting Marshall's yards after the catch is going to be a big key for the Vikings on Sunday, but Marshall isn't the only threat in the Miami passing game, as both Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are capable targets. . .capable enough for the Dolphins to send Greg Camarillo here to Minnesota, at least.

I think the Vikings' front four matches up pretty favorably with the Dolphins' offensive line.  Jake Long will be protecting Henne's blind side, and while he's a monster to be sure, the rest of the Miami offensive line looks beatable, including Richie Incognito, the walking personal foul penalty, starting at left guard.  I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dolphins leave Long out on an island with Jared Allen quite a bit on Sunday afternoon, and it will be up to the rest of the Vikings' defensive linemen to take advantage of their match-ups against guys that, quite frankly, they should be able to beat.  Ray Edwards and Kevin Williams are going to have to play big on Sunday to get pressure on Henne without having to bring the house in every passing situation.

The Vikings definitely have a winnable game this weekend, folks, but I wouldn't be automatically putting this one in the W column yet by any means.  Minnesota definitely has to come in with better timing and better preparation than they showed in the season opener, and I think that they'll have it.  They also need to lean a bit more on Adrian Peterson, much like they did in the first half of last week's game.  I think that Minnesota wins this weekend. . .obviously. . .but it should be a hard-fought, physical contest.

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