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Retooled Dolphins admit execution must improve

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DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins must fix their run defense and scoring offense this week when they visits the Jacksonville Jaguars, or else they can expect another week of questions and suspicion, win or lose.

The Dolphins allowed 161 yards rushing to Washington last week (just 55 yards in the second half, however) as its front seven was put on roller skates during the first half.

Miami players say they have fixed that problem, which was largely caused by an inability to shed blocks and make tackles. That has raised eyebrows considering in the offseason they acquired defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and C.J. Mosley via free agency, and drafted Jordan Phillips in the second round.

The Dolphins, perhaps in a short-sighted move, didn’t sign a top-tier linebacker in free agency and opted not to draft a linebacker. That might have showed last week, especially in the middle where veteran Kelvin Sheppard and undrafted rookie Zach Vigil (Utah State) might be platooning again this week.

Regardless, the Dolphins aren’t thinking about missteps. They’re looking ahead.

Even Suh, who said he played “poor” with just two tackles, is putting last week out of his mind.

“I just didn’t do exactly what I wanted to do, but it’s over with,” he said. “I’m moving forward to Jacksonville.”

Offensively, the Dolphins scored a disappointing seven points last week (they totaled 17 points with the help of a field goal and a 69-yard punt return touchdown).

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked three times, missed two wide open receivers (one in the end zone and one near the Washington 5-yard line), and had two potential interceptions dropped.

Yes, Miami won, and that’s the bottom line. But the Dolphins know they must play a much cleaner game beginning this week, or there will be a lot of ugly questions.

Left tackle Branden Albert, recovering from two torn ligaments in his right knee, got off to a slow start, but Miami thinks Albert and the rest of the offense will pick things up this week.

Tannehill knows the situation, and seems to have a calm demeanor. For now.

“There were plenty of plays that we left on the field, whether it’s the third-and-one short run or a missed throw,” he said. “Those are the things that you want to hit and you want to move those chains and get those first downs. The more we can do that early in the season then, it’s going to carry over the rest of the year.”

INJURY NOTES: DE Derrick Shelby (eye) didn’t practice Wednesday. Shelby, who was poked in the eye in last week’s game at Washington, wore dark sunglasses at practice. He wore them after the game because he didn’t want anyone seeing his black eye. … SS Reshad Jones, who had a team-best 12 tackles last week, didn’t practice Wednesday. Jones; absence could present a huge problem because Miami is already missing FS Louis Delmas (knee). … TE Dion Sims (concussion) wasn’t at the portion of Wednesday’s practice media is allowed to watch and he didn’t practice at all. He is going through the league’s concussion protocol. … DE Cam Wake (hamstring) was limited in Wednesday’s practice. … DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) was limited in Wednesday’s practice, but said he’ll be fine to play Sunday.

SERIES HISTORY: 7th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead, 4-2. Jacksonville won the last meeting, 28-21, in 1998. Their most famous, or infamous, game was the Jaguars’ 62-7 wild card playoff victory over Miami in 2000. It will be remembered, among other things, as Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino’s final game.

GAME PLAN: Miami wants to have a balanced attack that uses RB Lamar Miller to set up the pass. QB Ryan Tannehill passed 34 times last week while Miller only ran 13 times, and Miami ran a total of 18 times.

Jacksonville will try to apply pressure on Tannehill, who was sacked three times last week and had two potential interceptions dropped. Tannehill has been sacked more than any other QB the last three years, so pass protection will be under pressure once again.

Defensively, Miami wants to use its d-line, which struggled last week against the run, to choke the life out of the Jaguars’ running game. DT Ndamukong Suh was subjected to cut blocks, which worked effectively early.

But what Miami wants to use more than its run defense is its pass rush. That’s where it plans to control the game by forcing QB Blake Bortles into bad decisions. Miami had two interceptions last week.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh, who was less than dominant last week at Washington, vs. Jacksonville C Stefan Wisniewski and RG Brandon Linder, who will double-team him often.

Suh only had two tackles last week and was subjected cut blocks. But you have to think he’ll be better prepared this week. Wisniewski and Linder will likely lead a philosophy that runs away from Suh as much as possible, but Suh is so athletic he can make tackles running from the back side. It will be crucial for the Jaguars to always keep a body on Suh.

–Dolphins LT Branden Albert, who appeared wobbly at times last week, vs. Jacksonville DE Chris Clemons, who has the speed and power to overrun Albert if he’s limited.

This could be a crucial matchup because Clemons has the ability to wreck the Dolphins’ game plan. Albert, who tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee in December, didn’t look very stable last week. His agility is limited and he has very little quickness. Expect Clemons to notice that, too. If he can make QB Ryan Tannehill worry about blind-side protection this game is up for grabs.


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