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Opponent Preview: Miami Dolphins

Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
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“We’re not so different, you and I.” -Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin to St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, October 2012.

OK, so maybe he didn’t say that. But the Rams and Dolphins actually could learn a lot from each other.

Both have, in different ways, things the other is working to establish.

An explosive edge rusher? Cameron Wake announced his presence with 14 sacks in 2010 and has 33.5 in 51 career games. The Rams think pretty highly of their own pass rusher Robert Quinn, whose 6 sacks are tied for third-most in the league ahead of, among others, Wake’s 5.5.

A franchise quarterback? The Rams believe they have found theirs in Sam Bradford, while the Dolphins hope they’ve found another in rookie first-round pick Ryan Tannehill.

A dominant left tackle? The Dolphins have a certifiable stud in Jake Long, a four-time Pro Bowler. The Rams are still searching for an anchor on the left side, with hopes that Rodger Saffold is the answer.

But for their differences, the Rams and Dolphins are very similar in their approaches to winning football games. The Dolphins don’t possess a high-flying, quick-strike offense, ranking 13th in yards and 19th in points per game. Instead, their game is predicated on a defense that keeps them in games and an offense that’s capable of scoring just enough to pull out close wins. It’s a recipe Rams fans should be familiar with.

At 2-3, the Dolphins’ record doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the team whose point differential is dead even through five games. Of their three losses, two have come in overtime games decided by a field goal. The Dolphins could easily be 4-1 heading into Sunday’s game.

On offense, the Dolphins’ most talented player is post-hype RB Reggie Bush, who proved last season he could be an every-down back by posting the first 1,000-yard rushing season of his career. Bush is working on an encore performance with 417 yards already through five games.

When asked to throw, Tannehill looks often to WR Brian Hartline. Through five weeks, Hartline is sixth in the NFL in targets with 53 and has caught 29 of those for 514 yards and a touchdown. Outside of Bush, Hartline and possession receiver Davone Bess, the Dolphins offense is pedestrian at best.

Defense is where the Dolphins make their presence felt. Wake leads a defense that is tied for sixth in the NFL with 15 sacks. And of their seven interceptions – good for fifth in the league – six have come from the starting secondary of CB Sean Smith, CB Richard Marshall, SS Reshad Jones and FS Chris Clemons.

But if the pass defense is opportunistic it’s from a wealth of opportunities. No team in the league has had more passes attempted against it, due in large part to the fact that the Dolphins are allowing a league-low 61.4 yards per game on the ground.

The Rams are used to fistfights, and they’ll be in for another one this Sunday in Miami. In a game where the teams share more similarities than differences, the team that gets the better of those differences will likely be the one that prevails.

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