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Psst, Roger, Dolphins practice violence

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DAVIE, Fla. — Competition remains the focus for the Miami Dolphins as they head into Sunday’s game at Tennessee is a battle of 1-3 teams.

Interim head coach Dan Campbell had a team tug-of-war at Monday’s practice. That followed the rounds of one-on-ones at his inaugural practice the previous week.

Campbell wants his team to be tougher and “violently compete” in practice and during games. Violently? As in, with violence?

Has Rodger Goodell, whose commissionership is all about safety and non-violence, heard about this? Or does that really matter if a coach’s title is preceded by “interim?”

Regardless. …

“We’re trying to change the attitude of those guys up front; it’s about finish,” Campbell said. “We need a little bit nastier attitude; we need a lot nastier attitude.”

Whether that happens can only be determined by how the Dolphins play against the Titans. Miami hasn’t been the same aggressive team in four regular-season games it was during its weeks of training camp and in preseason games.

But Campbell sounds as though he is running a lean-and-mean operation. He is not trying to drastically change what ex-coach Joe Philbin did, but, rather, trying to tweak some things and make other things better.

“I do believe in what coach Philbin did as far as you practiced and then you watched it, you clean it up,” Campbell said.

“I’m a huge believer in that and we want to be fast, we want to be efficient on the field and off the field. We want these guys in and out. Really at the end of the day what you want is you want to build an environment around here to where these guys want to be here, they want to be in the building, they want to work.”

Players still seem excited about the change, but the bare bones excitement that ruled Campbell’s first practice has worn off and the feel of the regular-season routine has returned.

That could be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on how Miami performs Sunday at Tennessee.

SERIES HISTORY: 34th regular season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 18-15. Miami won the first three games of this series after the Titans moved from Houston, but they’ve gone back and forth for the last four games. The big shocker came when they last met, a 37-3 Tennessee victory at Miami after Titans owner Bud Adams ripped his team.

GAME PLAN

–In the big picture, nothing has changed for Miami. The Dolphins need to get an early lead so they can dictate the game to Tennessee, not the other way around.

The key for the Dolphins, whether or not they get an early lead, is getting their defensive line, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh and end Cam Wake, to lead an aggressive attack on both sides of the ball.

Tennessee’s defense is third in the NFL at 283.5 yards per game, and opponents convert 31.8 percent of their third downs, which is third-lowest in the NFL. The Titans are also second in the NFL in time of possession, holding the ball an average of 34:18 per game. So they can play decent defense and keep the ball.

Miami must be efficient offensively, which means using the run to set up the pass, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has to read blitzes and make the correct play. And the Dolphins must stay away from mindless penalties.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, who has struggled all season, vs. Titans pass defense, which is No. 1 in the NFL, yielding only 166.5 yards per game.

Tannehill has been sacked 10 times and seems to have stagnated since last season. He’s not making good decisions, which he did in training camp and preseason, and he’s not reading blitzes. With the running game being off, Tannehill has to carry the offense. The Titans’ pass defense is good, but nothing special. The flip side of the pass defense success is the run defense is 23rd in the NFL at 117 yards per game.

–Dolphins RT Ja’Wuan James, who has been effective so far, vs. Titans OLB Derrick Morgan, who has 4.5 sacks this season.

James had perhaps his best game of the season against Buffalo Pro Bowl DE Mario Williams, but James’ performance slipped a bit against the New York Jets. Morgan, who has averaged a little more than six sacks per season for the last three years, isn’t Pro-Bowl caliber, but he’s good enough to wreck a game plan.


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