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HOUSTON (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a tall enough task just winning the starting quarterback job in training camp. Now that he’s accomplished that, the job will get monumentally tougher as his first opponent will be coached by one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL.

The Houston Texans went from having one of the league’s worst defenses in 2010 to having one of the best in 2011, primarily thanks to the hiring of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.

The former Dallas Cowboys coach took a defense that ranked 29th in points and 30th in yards allowed in 2010 to fourth in points and second in yards allowed. But, Phillips’ job will be a bit tougher this season than last.

He lost All-Pro linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams, but played much of last season without him as well. Phillips also has to replace middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans who has moved on to another team. But, he still returns Brian Cushing and has first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus (which is a great name for a defender) on the other side.

The Texans will likely rely heavily on defensive end J.J. Watt, who as a rookie out of Wisconsin in 2011, played beyond all expectations. Houston also has an undersized nose tackle and has high hopes for defensive end Jared Crick.

Mercilus will be brought in on passing downs as a likely replacement for Connor Barwin. Houston brought in Jonathan Joseph last season as a free agent and he immediately paid dividends in the secondary along with up and comer Glover Quin.

Houston primarily runs a 3-4 defensive front, which the Dolphins used last year. The Texans will also likely use a lot of exotic blitzes to try and confuse Tannehill when he’s in the game. Plus, Tannehill is playing in his home state, which could add to the pressure he’s already under.

For Tannehill, he’ll likely be throwing to a combination of receivers that includes Davone Bess, Anthony Armstrong, Brian Hartline, and Anthony Fasano. The Fins have been trying to acquire a veteran receiver to lead the group, but have yet to make a move to add anyone and likely won’t before Sunday’s game.

The early lines on the Dolphins vs. Texans have Miami as the biggest underdogs of the week. Miami has also never beaten the Texans in six previous matchups.

The Dolphins and Texans kick off on Sunday 1 p.m. and can be seen exclusively on CBS4.


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