5 Miami Dolphins under intense scrutiny vs. Tennessee Titans

The Dolphins need to get some sacks out of Andre Branch (Getty Images)

It’s still early, but it’ll be tough for the Dolphins to come back from a 1-3 start and make the playoffs again. Considering the schedule they have over the next two months, they can’t afford to squander a home game against Tennessee.

The Titans are no pushover, despite giving up 57 points last week, but if Miami’s the team it believes itself to be, this is a game it should win.

As the Dolphins look to even their record at 2-2, here are five players under pressure against Tennessee:

1. LB Rey Maualuga
Maualuga’s contributions are not thought of as a bonus; they’re essential. It’s hurt Miami to have him miss the first three games, and he’s back in time for just the kind of opponent that suits him. The Titans have two quality running backs, one of which is 247-pounder Derrick Henry, and Maualuga has made his living as a run stopper. He needs to produce immediately.

2. CB Cordrea Tankersley
He’s got the starting job for now, but the only way Tankersley keeps it is by proving himself every week. Byron Maxwell and Alterraun Verner are still eager to claim that spot. He held up well against Drew Brees and the Saints last week, and faces a slightly lesser challenge against the Titans. Tankersley has to show he can handle that without any issues.

3. G Anthony Steen
The key to the Dolphins straightening out their offense starts with the offensive line. It’s a really big week for the running game after Miami managed just 88 yards on the ground over the last two games combined. The Titans’ run defense ranks in the bottom third of the NFL, and Jay Ajayi is overdue for a big game. Steen can make a big impact on that, as well as getting Jay Cutler more time, by being sturdy in the interior.

4. DE Andre Branch
Branch got big money in the offseason—$24 million over three years—and the Dolphins are counting on him to step it up from last year’s 5.5 sacks. So far, he has one in three games. He’s playing close to 70 percent of the defensive snaps. It’s not just Branch, but the highest-paid defensive line in the NFL can’t possibly be sitting here with the fewest sacks in the league.

5. Adam Gase
Coaches don’t usually make this list, but Gase landed here because of the offense’s struggles throughout the season. Even the Week 2 win at the Chargers wasn’t a sparkling performance. He’s taken some blame for the play calling, and that’s the first thing he needs to figure out. He also needs to reevaluate the personnel, much of which has been assembled with his input. A week ago he said he had no answers for why the offense was so bad, but he’d better have some now.

[Adam Gase’s wake-up call to Jay Cutler: You’re not 25 anymore]

[A complicated cornerback situation with Byron Maxwell, Cordrea Tankersley and Xavien Howard]

[The moving story behind Isaac Asiata wearing pink hair Sunday]

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