Dolphins vs. Texans: How Houston Should Attack Miami

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 7, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Reggie Bush #22 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by  Earl Mitchell #92 of the Houston Texans during a game at Sun Life Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Do the Miami Dolphins really have a chance against the Houston Texans on Sunday?

Sure they do. If the offense catches the Texans off-guard or if the Texans aren't prepared to deal with an underrated Dolphins front seven, they could find themselves in a closer game than many are anticipating.

Just because the Texans are heavy favorites doesn't mean they should take the Dolphins lightly, nor does it mean that the Dolphins will be handing over a win to their Week 1 opponent.

The Texans still have to have a game plan, and they still have to execute it. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips against rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill might be the mismatch of the week, but the Texans shouldn't accept rookie struggles as inevitable.

So here's what the Texans should do if they want to pick up a win.


Stack the Box

Reggie Bush is the best offensive weapon for the Dolphins, and the Texans would be wise to key in on him. That's especially true since the Dolphins rushed for 153 yards against the Texans' fourth-ranked rush defense in their Week 2 meeting last year. The Texans, who allowed just 4.1 yards per carry last season, gave up a whopping 5.5 yards per carry on 28 rushes.

They'd be wise to play stingy against the run and let the rest play itself out.

The Dolphins don't have the vertical threat that the Texans do, and for that reason they can afford to stick an extra man in the box from time to time. Either way, their man-coverage tendency should be in full effect. If Joe Philbin is smart, he'll try to run the ball from spread formations to force defenders out of the box. It will then be up to the Dolphins to execute those runs if they want to open things up on the outside.

In taking away the running game, the Texans will be forcing Tannehill to beat them with his arm. Unless the Dolphins receivers improved greatly from the last time we saw them, they could have a hard time against man coverage.


Respect Tannehill's Speed and Athleticism

We still aren't exactly sure how Tannehill's arm and skill set as a passer will translate to the NFL—although early indications from the preseason are pretty good—but if there's one thing we can be fairly sure will translate, it's his athleticism and speed. The Dolphins should be looking to get him outside the pocket, taking advantage of those traits and making the reads easier for him.

It could be an effective tool in neutralizing the Texans pass rush as well.

The Texans have two great pass-rushing threats in defensive end J.J. Watt and outside linebacker Brooks Reed. That should be more than enough to keep the heat on Tannehill, with youth and inexperience the name of the game for the Dolphins on the right side of the offensive line, where second-year guard John Jerry and rookie tackle Jonathan Martin get the start.

Wade Phillips will want to put the heat on Tannehill, and he should certainly do so from time to time, but they have to stay true to their lanes, and they can't afford to lose containment.


Test the Secondary Deep

The Dolphins gave up the third-most pass plays of 20-plus yards (63) last season and 10 pass plays of 40 or more yards. Their average of 7.2 yards per pass attempt allowed ranked 17th in the league. 

For all the question marks around the Dolphins, the secondary is the one spot (next to wide receiver) where the Dolphins may have done the least to address their issues.

Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones return at safety, but cornerback Vontae Davis is gone. Nolan Carroll is being asked to man the outside cornerback spot with the departure of Vontae Davis.

All this adds up to a secondary that should be tested early and often by the Texans' passing game.

Matt Schaub is not an elite quarterback, but he is just the type of veteran pocket passer that should tear apart a talent-deficient secondary. He also has elite weapons around him in wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Arian Foster. 

The Texans will have to run some draw plays and quick screens to get into the head of Dolphins pass-rushing phenom defensive end Cameron Wake. If they double-team him at the line with a tackle and a tight end, that should buy Schaub enough time to take a shot against the Dolphins secondary.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.