Houston Texans Vs Miami Dolphins
The Bulls On Parade Set To Welcome Ryan Tannehill To The NFL
Anticipation for the start of the NFL season has never been higher for the Houston Texans, as “lifelong” Texans fans are coming out of the woodwork in the Houston area. To be fair, the Houston Texans are certainly a much more fun team to watch nowadays than, say, 2005, when they went an embarrassing 2-14.
The Texans kickoff the season on Sunday at Reliant Stadium against the Miami Dolphins, a matchup that on the outside appears to be a mere primer for the ‘real’ competition in future weeks. But the Texans want to make a statement to open this season up in front of their home fans, so don’t expect a lackluster performance.
The Texans will be meeting the Dolphins for the 7th time, never having lost to the fish as they’ve accumulated a 6-0 record since the birth of the franchise. This Dolphins team will have a much different look to it than last season’s version, although not necessarily for the better.
After an offseason of housecleaning, the Dolphins have a new head coach, Joe Philbin, who was hired away from his position as offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. Philbin also has a new quarterback to work with in Miami, Texas A&M product Ryan Tannehill, who will start for the Dolphins on Sunday.
MIA Offense Vs. HOU Defense
We could say a lot of nice things about Ryan Tannehill and his bright future, but I don’t want to lead Miami fans on or give them a false sense of hope. This thing could get very, very ugly. The Dolphins simply don’t have any offensive weapons to speak of, and when your rookie quarterback’s best option in the passing game is Davone Bess, you know you have problems.
The talent level on this Miami offense makes the 2011 Jaguars look like the ’07 Patriots. Conversely, the Houston Texans’ defense is arguably the league’s best (and deepest). If the Dolphins can manage to put together one solid touchdown drive in this game, they should give themselves a pat on the back.
If the Dolphins want to put a dent in this Texans defense, they will need to get Reggie Bush going. The Dolphins must get Bush in space to allow him to use his playmaking ability to bust through the stout Texans’ front seven.
Reggie Bush, in his first season as a Miami Dolphin in 2011, was given an opportunity as a full time back, receiving 216 rush attempts. He rewarded the Dolphins with 1,086 yards and 6 TD’s on the ground while averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
The Houston Texans will be honed in on stopping Reggie Bush, attempting to force rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill to beat them through the air. One thing Tannehill does have going for him is his wheels. A converted wide receiver, Tannehill has the ability to tuck the ball and run when the pocket collapses, so the Texans will need to focus on keeping the young quarterback contained in the pocket, forcing him to win through the air.
Tannehill will quite likely get hit early and often, as the Dolphins’ offensive line allowed 52 sacks in 2011. The Houston Texans’ front seven presents an extremely difficult matchup for any offensive line, let alone Miami’s. With J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith on the line backed up by pass rushers Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed, Miami’s O-line will have to revert to “pick your poison mode” as they choose between the lesser of these four evils.
HOU Offense Vs. MIA Defense
Things look a little more encouraging on the defensive side of the ball for the Dolphins, although the task of figuring out how to stop the Texans’ multidimensional offense will not be easy.
Miami’s strength on defense is their defensive line, and they are led by pass rusher Cameron Wake, one of the best in the business. The Dolphins finished 3rd in the NFL in rush defense in 2011, allowing just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing backs and just 8 rushing touchdowns on the entire season.
Despite the Dolphins’ strong run defense in 2011, Ben Tate still managed to break through for 103 yards rushing in the Texans’ win over Miami last season. If Houston can effectively move the ball on the ground against Miami, they will be awfully hard to slow down.
Miami’s weakness lies in their secondary. The Phins finished 25th in the NFL in pass defense in 2011, and although the addition of cornerback Richard Marshall will help, they are no match for the Texans’ pass catchers, especially on play action rollouts and bootlegs.
The Texans finally have a healthy Matt Schaub, who looked fantastic during his limited action this preseason. Despite his presence, the Texans will want this game to run through Arian Foster and Ben Tate, setting up the occasional big play through the air. The Dolphins will be looking to unleash Cameron Wake on 2nd year right tackle Derek Newton, so the Texans will try to limit the number of snaps that Schaub is exposed to the pass rush.
Obviously, the best time to control a game with the run is with a lead, so Houston’s first several drives will be critical. The Texans are well-known for the effectiveness of their first 15 plays, which are scripted during the game planning phase. It is critical for the Texans to jump on the Dolphins early and set the tone for this game.
The Dolphins know that to win this game, they will need Cameron Wake and company to harass Matt Schaub and force turnovers. If the Texans can manage to protect the ball and control the clock, talent level will win out and they should have no problem putting points on the board.
The difference in talent level between the Texans and Dolphins is so great that it would even be a stretch to call this a ‘trap’ game. There aren’t very many scenarios where I can see the Texans getting beat by the Dolphins on Sunday afternoon in what is sure to be a very noisy Reliant Stadium.
Rookie quarterback, no talent at wide out, hostile territory, first game in the NFL: All these and more foretell a long afternoon for Ryan Tannehill.
As noted earlier, if the Dolphins manage to score a touchdown on the Texans’ defense, they should be proud. I don’t think they will.
Final Score: Texans 27 – Dolphins 9
Overlooked Stat Of The Week: The Miami Dolphins did not allow a single kick or punt return for a touchdown in 2011. Trindon Holliday of the Texans returned 3 in 4 games this preseason. Something’s gotta give.
Jared Huntley is a staff writer for Rattle and Hum Sports, covering the NFL and the Houston Texans. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @jaredhuntley