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Dolphins face difficult matchup against Bills

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DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins are reeling as they head into Sunday’s home opener against AFC East rival Buffalo.

The Dolphins (1-1) don’t have a bad record until you consider they barely beat Washington, 17-10, and followed that with a 23-20 loss to Jacksonville.

Granted, both were road games, which raises the degree of difficulty regardless of opponent. But Miami’s run defense has been stampeded (27th in the league at 142 yards per game), its pass rush has been a rumor (one sack), and its pass protection has been suspect (allowed five sacks including two strip/sacks).

“I think it’s unacceptable,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said of the run defense. “You’ve got to respect every single team’s run game, and that’s the first goal, we’ve got to go out there and stop them. And obviously if we don’t stop them we’re not going to have many opportunities to pass rush and get after the quarterback. So they work hand-in-hand.”

And that notion of Suh (three tackles, no sacks) freelancing in the defense lurks beneath the surface. For the record, Suh said Wednesday he’s never disobeyed coaches’ orders.

Still, with all that going on, the Dolphins have to face Buffalo, a team that’s gone 4-2 against Miami in the three-year Joe Philbin era.

Perhaps the scariest aspect of this game for the Dolphins is Buffalo’s front four of tackles Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus and ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes going against Miami’s offensive line.

There’s nowhere Miami is safe.

In a bizarre twist, the ugliest matchup from Miami’s standpoint might be Hughes vs. left tackle Branden Albert, because Albert, the 2013 Pro Bowl selection, is hobbled. He was already slowed because he’s recovering from two torn ligaments in his right knee. But now he’s also dealing with a left hamstring injury that caused him to miss the second half of last week’s game.

If Albert can’t play, the situation worsens because Jason Fox steps in at left tackle to battle Hughes, who has had 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons.

Beyond that, Dareus and Kyle Williams, Pro Bowl selections last season, will go to work on Miami’s young tandem of left guard Dallas Thomas and right guard Jamil Douglas. Both struggled last week.

Miami is also at a disadvantage when it comes to right tackle Ja’Wuan James battling Mario Williams. James was flagged twice for holding last week against Jacksonville.

None of this is good for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who will likely rely strongly on short and intermediate passes because he won’t have time to stand in the pocket and go through his progressions.

But the bottom line is the defensive line has to lead the Dolphins. They’re the best and deepest unit on the team, and when they slump, the entire team slumps. So they need to wake up quickly.

“I don’t think you have an opportunity to get in slumps,” Suh said. “Every game in this league is very precious and you’ve got to go out there and play to your best ability. Obviously you’re not going to have perfect play every single opportunity that you out there, but you don’t want to get into any slumps because slumps in this league will definitely not do you well.”

–Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh sidestepped the question of whether he’s been freelancing in the defense, which a report alleged after last week’s 23-20 loss at Jacksonville.

“I think coach (Joe) Philbin addressed that, and I’ll kind of leave it at that,” Suh said.

Suh also said he wouldn’t ever disobey the wishes of defensive coaches.

“What for?” he asked rhetorically. “That’s my job to go out there and play as hard and fast as I can, with their direction.”

–Buffalo tight end Charles Clay, who spent his first four seasons (2011-14) with Miami, said he didn’t just leave the Dolphins via free agency for the five-year, $38 million contract he got with the Bills.

“From Day one, from the day free agency started, I felt valued,” Clay said. “I felt like they wanted me here. And some of the things they were doing I felt they were an organization on the rise and a fun community to play in.

“There were a lot of things about the situation. It definitely wasn’t just me having an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Clay faces the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, and although he’s off to a relatively slow start with six receptions for 73 yards, the Dolphins aren’t taking anything for granted.

“He has the total package,” strong safety Reshad Jones said. “He’s fast, he gets off the ball quick, got great hands, he does it all. So it’ll be a challenge for our defense.”

–Tight end Dion Sims returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, his first action since sustaining a concussion in the opening-game victory at Washington.

“I don’t really remember exactly what happened,” Sims said, “but thank God it was nothing that serious.”

Sims was taken off the field on a cart after diving for a pass in the end zone and hitting his head on the ground.

“I don’t remember what happened,” said Sims, the third-year player from Michigan State. “I just remember seeing a ball, and then waking up in a training room so everything before that, or in between, that was kind of a blank to me other than what I saw on film.”


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