By Ryan Leong
Dolphins Season Record in 2011: 6-10 (3rd place in AFC East, missed the playoffs)
The 0-1 Oakland Raiders next challenge is their first road opponent of 2012, the Miami Dolphins, who are also 0-1.
When you think of the Dolphins, you either think of the glory days in the 1980′s and 90′s with Dan Marino at quarterback, or you harken back to the 1972 squad which remains the only one to go undefeated for the season, a perfect 17-0 culminating with a victory in Super Bowl VII.
But in recent years, other than their cool looking aqua uniforms and the logo with a Dolphin wearing the football helmet, this has been a rather nondescript franchise trying to recapture its glory years.
The Raiders are 19-15-1 in 35 meetings in the regular season since 1966, but the Dolphins have won six of the last seven games at Miami including a 34-14 victory at the facility formerly known as Joe Robbie Stadium on December 4, 2011. It’s had too many corporate names in recent years to mention here.
Both teams have first-year head coaches. Joe Philbin is the tenth coach in franchise history and was hired by Chairman of the Board/Managing General Partner Stephen Ross and General Manager Jeff Ireland on January 20. He is seeking his first win, including the preseason. Philbin was the offensive line coach and then offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers from 2003 through 2011.
A lot of pressure is on their quarterback, rookie Ryan Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Tannehill became the first rookie quarterback to start the season opener in franchise history. It was a game to forget. He was 20-of-36 passing for 219 yards, was sacked three times, and within a six-minute span of the second quarter he was intercepted three times. He finished with a QB rating of just 39.0 as the Dolphins lost to the Houston Texans, 30-10.
”Anytime you turn the ball over, you can’t be happy with yourself, regardless of how they happened,” Tannehill said. ”It’s not good. You can’t turn the ball over. You put your defense in a bad situation and ultimately it led to a lot of points for them.”
The team had just 79 yards rushing, 69 of those by Reggie Bush.
Many comparisons are drawn between Bush and the Raiders Darren McFadden. Bush is the Dolphins’ primary offensive threat just like McFadden. Both have explosive speed and are versatile as a running back or receiver. When healthy, Bush is consistently able to run for 100 yards or more. He finished 2011 rushing for at least 100 yards in each of the final four games, but his durability has been in question. Nevertheless, stopping Bush is critical to the Raiders winning this game.
The ‘Fins’ top receiver is veteran Davone Bess who is an Oakland native. Bess currently ranks third in team history for most receptions by a Dolphins player in their first five seasons with the team.
Defensively, Cameron Wake strikes fear into opponents with an appropriate last name. In his ‘wake,’ the 30-year old veteran defensive end has recorded an astounding 28 sacks in three seasons since he joined the team in 2009 from the Canadian Football League.
Another rookie might make his NFL debut against the Raiders, running back Lamar Miller. This will be a homecoming for Miller who played collegiate ball for the Miami Hurricanes in the same stadium. This time he’ll be returning as a pro. In college, Miller averaged 5.7 yards rushing and scored 17 touchdowns in 23 games.
”It’s a great feeling,” he said. ”I’ve been playing there for three years. It’s just a blessing. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity. I’m just trying to take full advantage.” Miller will serve as the primary backup to Bush.
The usual backup, Daniel Thomas is nursing a concussion and is doubtful to play. Last year, Miami got little production from their backup running back. Thomas averaged 3.5 yards rushing but in 165 carries, did not score a touchdown.
This is a VERY beatable opponent for the Raiders. If they drop the ball (pun intended), they could be staring at a possible 0-4 record because the Pittsburgh Steelers invade the Coliseum for the next home game on September 23, followed by a road game at Denver on September 30 before their bye week.
“Oh big game…big game, it’s a must win right here,” Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly said. “I mean you go down to Miami you don’t want to get into an 0-2 hole with Pittsburgh and then Denver coming through the next week so I mean it’s a big game….must win.”
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.