May 31, 2020

Washington Redskins Game 1 Preview: Miami Dolphins

The Washington Redskins enter their season opener having endured almost a full season’s worth of drama already. The Robert Griffin III-Kirk Cousins-Jay Gruden-front office soap opera was in full gear during training camp, but now it is time to actually play a meaningful game. The Miami Dolphins and Coach Joe Philbin come to FedEx Field to take on the hometown Redskins to kick off the 2015 season.

After 3-13 and 4-12 campaigns, the last couple of seasons have not given the Washington faithful much optimism. However, a new year gives the team a clean slate to work with and a new guy with the keys to the car, Mr. Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been named the official starter, and Robert Griffin III will be relegated to the bench once he returns from a concussion. With the history of this team and its game of musical Quarterbacks, there is no doubt that Kirk knows he must perform in order to keep this job.

Miami brings forth a team with high hopes for a breakout year. The Dolphins showed signs of brilliance last season with an early win over the Patriots at home. However, they finished with a disappointing 8-8 mark with no more wins vs. a 2014 playoff team all year. The Fins did lose some heartbreaking games against some of the NFL elite, including 3-point losses to both the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers.

Like the Redskins, Miami was active in the offseason, signing DT Ndamukong Suh to a 6-year $114M Contract to steady their defensive line, signing QB Ryan Tannehill to a big extension, and drafting WR DeVante Parker out of Louisville in the first round. Miami’s run defense will undoubtedly be a key to their success this year and something for which the Redskins’ offensive line under Bill Callahan will be preparing strenuously.

Key Matchups

Washington Offensive Line vs. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake

Realistically, the battle in the trenches will always be a key matchup, but this one stands out even more because of the 2 Pro-Bowl caliber athletes on the Miami defensive front. With Suh in the middle, they aim to be among the best in the league. The intimidating 320 lb 4-time All-Pro wreaks havoc on interior offensive lineman and will dominate the Redskins’ power running game with Alfred Morris if they let him. Wake will be the primary pass rusher against Trent Williams and Morgan Moses on the outside.

The Redskins’ Offensive line has a couple of young players at key positions that must step up. The starting core includes Brandon Scherff, the lottery pick OG from Iowa, and Moses, the 2nd-year OT out of Virginia. The unit is under good direction with Coach Callahan, but they did struggle mightily in the preseason, especially vs. the Lions a few weeks back. The front 5 have to communicate effectively, follow their leaders in Williams and C Korey Lichtensteiger, and not let the big bad opponent intimidate them.

Kirk Cousins vs. Miami Secondary

Jay Gruden finally got his way and made his man the starting QB. Kirk Cousins’ play this season will most likely determine whether he or Gruden have a job with the team come next year (if not earlier). Cousins has struggled with turnovers in his time as a Redskin QB (19 INT in 14 career games), but he has also shown flashes of brilliance (427 yards, 3 TD vs. PHI last year). Mike Shanahan proclaimed this offseason that Cousins “is a franchise quarterback. He will be a top-10 quarterback in this league, no doubt about it.” We are a long way from that being true, but let’s see if both Gruden and Shanahan’s affinity with him has merit.

Cousins faces a secondary that is solid, but not spectacular. Brent Grimes is a 3-time Pro Bowler at corner, with 5 interceptions last year to lead the team, and Reshad Jones was second on the team in tackles, with 80. If Kirk can get a rhythm early and hit DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jordan Reed consistently, the Dolphins defense could seem a little more harmless.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Branden Albert

Kerrigan became a rich man this offseason with his new 5-year, $57M extension, but Redskins fans know he will not be complacent. Kerrigan is paid like one of the best outside pass rushers in the league, and deservedly so. His 13.5 sacks were a team-best and the 7th best mark in the entire NFL. Kerrigan will be a leader in Joe Barry’s 3-4 scheme, and his ability to penetrate and get to Ryan Tannehill could curb the production of Miami’s playmakers, like WR Jarvis Landry.

Tasked with blocking Kerrigan for much of the day will be OT Branden Albert. Albert is widely known as one of the best offensive linemen in the league, and serves as the main protector of Ryan Tannehill’s blind side. Getting pressure on Tannehill and winning the battle with Albert  will take a load off the Washington secondary and keep the Fins’ protection on their heels.

Redskins’ “Stud” of the Game

Pierre Garcon was nearly an afterthought during last year’s offensive debacle. With DeSean Jackson coming back from injury and not in complete week 1 shape, look for Garcon to be targeted early by Kirk Cousins and hopefully get things going. Cousins has targeted him often in the past, and he is much too talented to have another season like he did in 2014. Miami will still key on Jackson because of his explosiveness, so look for Pierre to benefit off of that and show some explosiveness of his own.

Staff Predictions

Neil Dalal: Redskins 23 Dolphins 27

The Redskins are a better football team than last year regardless of the quarterback position and off the field drama. The only problem is that they are going up against an up and coming team in the Miami Dolphins are look to make the playoffs this year. On offense the Redskins will likely pound the ball but turnovers will be costly and put the much improved defense in bad situations. Washington could make it close and interesting but Cousins will make one too many mistakes.

Seamus Kane: Redskins 17, Dolphins 21

Kirk Cousins shows a few signs of brilliance but makes some mistakes as well, partly due to the run game being stagnant against Suh & Co. The defense puts together a pretty stellar performance, but the Dolphins are just a little bit better on both sides of the ball and escape FedEx with a 4-point victory.

Eric Hobek: Redskins 10, Dolphins 20

The defense shows reason to be optimistic, but the offense doesn’t get much going.

David Nichols: Redskins 17, Miami 27

I think the Redskins are going to be able to move the football in spurts, but Miami’s front seven is also going to do a lot of damage. If the Redskins can run the ball early and establish a good possession game, they might stay competitive longer, but if they get down and have to play from behind, it could get ugly.

About Seamus Kane

Seamus Kane is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Wizards. A native of Silver Spring, MD, Seamus grew up in the area all his life rooting for the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Caps, and Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in American History and now lives in Washington, DC. His favorite DC sports legend is Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and his favorite DC sports moment was Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, a game which he attended. You can follow Seamus on Twitter @ShamelessKane

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