This certainly isn’t one of Sunday’s marquee matchups, as this AFC East/NFC East showdown finds the 1-7 Miami Dolphins taking on the 3-5 Washington Redskins in Miami. As their records indicate, both teams have struggled this season.
The Dolphins had been competitive in a few games, but they were one of the top contestants for the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes for a few weeks. That changed last week, though when they thoroughly whipped the streaking Kansas City Chiefs 31-3 in their own house. They have also been competitive in most games this season, with Cameron Wake continuing to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Matt Moore showing improvement, and Reggie Bush starting to produce as a straight-up running back, which many doubted he could consistently do.
The Redskins have fared better than the Dolphins, starting 3-1, but injuries and quarterback issues have since stalled this squad. John Beck has yet to win a game, this season or ever, and the offense continues to show few signs of life, especially in last week’s 19-11 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and the previous week’s shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills. Luckily, the defense, while not elite, has kept them in games. They have a chance here to end their four game losing streak, but they will have a fight on their hands.
Brian Orakpo vs. Cameron Wake
Each of these feared outside linebackers is in the top 10 for overall graded 3-4 OLBs (Wake at No. 2, Orakpo at No. 7), both have six sacks, and both play primarily on one side of the line (Wake on the left, Orakpo on the right). Which one has the better day will play a large part in determining the outcome of this game. Orakpo may have an advantage here, if only because fellow OLB Ryan Kerrigan (+4.1 pass rush) has proved to be a force on the other side, while Wake’s fellow OLBs Jason Taylor (-2.4) and Koa Misi (-0.1) have failed to provide consistent pressure; as a result, Washington should be able to devote more resource to stopping the former Canadian Football League star.
Wake (+16.8 pass rush grade) has a good opportunity to add to his sack total against either Jammal Brown (-9.6 pass blocking grade) or Sean Locklear (-2.5). Brown injured his groin in the previous game so, as of Wednesday, it’s unclear whether he will play this week or not. Locklear, subbing for Brown last week and back at his natural right tackle spot after subbing for left tackle Trent Williams for three games, wasn’t horrible, but did give up a sack and two pressures to Ahmad Brooks. Wake should be a slightly tougher task than Brooks was. Orakpo (+16.2 pass rush) will be going up against former first round pick Jake Long, who has been one of the best left tackles since entering the league in 2008. The Dolphins left tackle has struggled this year though, having already given up five sacks, six quarterback hits, and a further 10 pressures; the previous year he only gave up six sacks, three quarterback hits, and 12 pressures. This will prove to be a real test for both players and one that could determine the outcome.
Can Reggie Bush keep it up?
After grading negatively in his first six games in a Dolphins’ uniform, Reggie Bush has put together back-to-back solid efforts, gaining 195 yards on 28 carries while catching seven passes for 67 yards, forcing seven missed tackles, and scoring a touchdown. Impressively, he also hasn’t given up any pressure in those two games, another area he has struggled in the first six games, giving up two sacks, three quarterback hits and a pressure. With the exception of the always reliable London Fletcher, Orakpo, Kerrigan, and safety Laron Landry, every Redskin defensive starter has a negative run defense grade, so there is a chance that the controversial Heisman Trophy winner has a third consecutive solid game.
John Beck vs. Matt Moore
Matt Moore led his team to their first victory last week with a +6.5 passing grade as he put 244 yards and three touchdowns on the Chiefs’ secondary. Not to take away from a solid performance, but much of his success can be attributed to the fact that, through the entire game, he was never pressured and only hit once. Moore’s decent 87.9 QB rating when not pressured drops to 57.2 when the heat gets there, which is a concern because the one thing the Redskins’ defense does exceptionally well is getting after the quarterback (+16.1 pass rush grade).
John Beck will be facing off against the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2007 draft. Since taking over for a benched Rex Grossman in week six against the Philadelphia Eagles, Beck has a 60.6 completion percentage, completing 80 of 132 passes for 858 yards, two touchdowns and four picks. With the loss of top weapons Tim Hightower and Santana Moss, along with injuries to the offensive line, Beck has been mostly trying to dink-and-dunk down the field; despite trailing for much of last week’s game, he only threw two passes +20 yards down the field, completing neither, and nine passes in the 10-19 yard range, with one of those being intercepted. The Dolphins as a unit are dead last in our pass coverage ranking (-49.9, with the Colts’ -47.9 the only unit that comes close to such ineptness), so if there were ever a game for Beck to take chances down the field, it’s this one.
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