Armando Salguero

The Dolphins’ No. 29 run defense faces the Titans’ fourth-ranked run offense

DeMarco Murray (29) leads a Titans offense that comes into Sunday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium with the NFL’s fourth-ranked running game. The Dolphins have tackled poorly and are 29th in the league against the run on defense.
DeMarco Murray (29) leads a Titans offense that comes into Sunday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium with the NFL’s fourth-ranked running game. The Dolphins have tackled poorly and are 29th in the league against the run on defense. AP

1 The Titans rely on the run: With DeMarco Murray and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry delivering the one-two punch from the running back position, the Titans come in with the NFL’s fourth-ranked run offense. That means they’re good at running the ball so far. The Dolphins have missed tackles, missed assignments and are No. 29 against the run on defense. That means they’re bad at run defense so far. So do the trends hold up or can the Dolphins take away that which the Tennessee offense does best?

2 Can Ryan Tannehill recover from the Cincinnati disaster? Ryan Tannehill is not exactly playing terribly so far this season but he did have a miserable outing against Cincinnati in Miami’s last game. Yes, part of that was because the pass protection was poor, but sometimes good quarterbacks must overcome flawed pass protection. The point is the Dolphins offense scored only one TD in their last game and everyone is looking at everyone else sideways. Can Tannehill correct the course?

3 How much difference does Mike Pouncey make? The Dolphins have been fortunate in that they’ve played backup center Anthony Steen and third-string center Kraig Urbik and it hasn’t been a disaster. But now starter Mike Pouncey should be ready to return to the lineup and make his 2016 regular-season debut. So does that change the attitude of an offensive line that has lacked a nasty butt-kicker the first four games?

4 Can a secondary in flux play well? The Dolphins are managing an injury to cornerback Xavien Howard. He’s out. They’re trying to maximize Byron Maxwell, so he replaces Howard in the starting lineup. Isa Abdul-Quddus and Michael Thomas were shuttled in and out at safety in the last game. About the only constant back there is safety Reshad Jones, who is having a stellar season. So can Miami hide or correct its deficiencies against a Tennessee passing game that features quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has thrown three interceptions without a touchdown the past two games?

5 Can the Dolphins start fast? The Titans have done a solid job early in games this season, outscoring opponents 30-9 in the first quarter of games. The Dolphins have had significant troubles starting fast in games, particularly on offense. The last time the Dolphins were home, the offense had a turnover on its first series. So can Miami address an issue that has plagued the franchise for a couple of years now even while playing a team that so far this season is starting fast?

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