By Jeremiah Thermidor
Perhaps Ryan Tannehill will fare better at home. Last Sunday, in his debut as the starting quarterback for the Dolphins, he faltered on the road – passing for 219 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. Miami lost 30-10.
Tannehill had a quarterback rating of 39.0, which was the second lowest among the five rookies who started during Week 1. Browns’ rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden boasted a rating of 5.1 in a loss to the Eagles. So, yeah, it could have been worse.
But Tannehill and the Dolphins can’t afford to settle for mediocrity and perform the way they did last Sunday. They need a booster. They need to be revitalized, and a win against the Raiders this Sunday would do just that.
“I think it’s extremely important,” said Dolphins running back Reggie Bush when asked how important it is to get off to a fast start against Oakland.
Getting off to a fast start, however, wasn’t the problem for the Dolphins in Week 1. In fact, they had a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and the momentum seemed to be on their side before their implosion heading into halftime.
Miami’s biggest problem was its lack of consistency. The Dolphins weren’t consistent on offense or defense, and the Texans exploited that. Now, they’ll be looking to bounce back against a Raiders team coming off a crushing home loss.
Yes, the Raiders, led by first-year head coach Dennis Allen, suffered a 22-14 defeat at the hands of the Chargers. But what made it crushing was the way they lost. The Raiders made some costly mistakes, and an injury to its long snapper Jon Condo was partly to blame.
Most of the blame, however, went to the Raiders’ backup Travis Goethel who botched three snaps, which led to great field position and eventual scores by the Chargers.
The Raiders have had a short week to prepare for the Dolphins, considering their first game was on Monday night. But they’ll come into the contest with a slight chip on their shoulders, which could give them an edge.
This week, the NFL admitted the replacement referees failed to give Oakland an “untimed play” at the very end of its matchup against San Diego. The Raiders were entitled to the play after the Chargers punted the ball then touched it first when downing it at Oakland’s 5-yard line. Whether or not the Raiders would have been able to go 95 yards in one play and then make a two-point conversion simply to take the game into overtime is beside the point. The point is, everything in the Raiders’ last ball game seemed to favor their opponent, and now they’re seeking to shake off the disappointment from that loss when they visit the Dolphins on Sunday.
Miami’s receivers are going to need to elevate their play in this one. While Tannehill turned the ball over a lot in the last game, the wide outs, quite frankly, didn’t stretch the field enough to get open for big yardage plays. The Dolphins’ longest pass play against the Texans was a 34-yarder to Brian Hartline. The second was a 32-yard pass to running back Daniel Thomas.
Thomas, who left the game with a concussion, had more receiving yards than starting wide out Legedu Naanee. Naanee, in fact, had none – he didn’t catch one pass in his debut for Miami. If he continues to perform the way he did in Week 1, the Dolphins are really going to regret cutting Chad Johnson in training camp – if they don’t already.
Miami’s defenders must put forth a better effort as well. Their unit is facing off against an Oakland offense led by 2-time Pro Bowler Carson Palmer who passed for 297 yards and a score last Sunday. Palmer has played much better since last year, when he returned as a starter after sitting out the entire 2010 season and was then thrown into the fray in a Week 7 blowout loss against the Chiefs. He looks confident and is playing confident, which doesn’t bode well for a Dolphins secondary that gave up several big plays in the red zone against Houston.
Starter Sean Smith needs to try to be an effective shutdown corner that looks for turnovers in addition to being the guy who simply follows his assignments well.
The players who make up Miami’s new 4-3 defense must step it up as well. They gave up 79 yards and two touchdowns to Arian Foster, who was a game-time decision in that matchup as he was bouncing back from a sore knee.
In this matchup, Miami’s front seven will need to try to put as much pressure on Palmer as possible while also looking to make trouble for Oakland star running back Darren McFadden.
“He’s an explosive player,” Miami coach Joe Philbin said referring to McFadden. “We’re going to have to do a great job tackling, a great job of pursuit, and kind of gang tackle him.
The Miami Dolphins (0-1) will play host to the Oakland Raiders (0-1) on Sunday at 1pm eastern. You can catch the game right here at CBS 4.
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Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.