DAVIE—There are no easy ones for the Dolphins this year. They’ve already lost to the Jets and Buccaneers, squeaked by the Chargers when they were a disaster and barely managed to get by Tennessee when it was missing its starting quarterback.
Any thought that they’re finally getting a break Sunday by facing Denver is unrealistic. The Broncos are awful, losers of seven straight, but they’re only one game worse than Miami this season.
For the Dolphins to avoid another embarrassment at home, here are five players that must perform:
1. QB Jay Cutler
Isn’t it funny how whoever the Dolphins play at quarterback, it makes everyone want the other guy? There is no other guy this week, unless the fans are going to start chanting for David Fales. Cutler says he’s fully recovered from a concussion, and he’s got no excuses this week. The Broncos are 3-8, they allow the fourth-highest passer rating in the league and they won’t have top cornerback Aqib Talib.
2. S Reshad Jones
The Dolphins are counting on Jones to be one of their top two defensive players, not only this year but for the next several. He wasn’t great last week other than scooping up a fumble when New England’s backup center snapped it halfway to the end zone. Miami needs Jones to be more than a big hitter. He’s got to be able to clean up coverage mistakes by a young secondary.
3. LT Laremy Tunsil
Mike Pouncey is the Dolphins’ only offensive lineman who has graded out high on a consistent basis this year. That’s not what they expected. Tunsil was the No. 13 pick in last year’s draft, and Miami got rid of a veteran left tackle to make room for him. He’s had some good games and some bad. It shouldn’t be that way for someone chosen so high in the draft, and there’s zero question he’s got the physical abilities necessary to be dominant. Tunsil needs to stop sulking, get his mind right and play like a top-level left tackle.
4. WR DeVante Parker
Speaking of underachievement, here’s a guy who managed one catch for five yards last week. The body language hasn’t been good for Parker lately, and he’s taken some blame for not fighting hard enough on at least two interceptions (maybe three) over the last two games. There are too many times when he disappears from the offense altogether, and just like Tunsil, that’s unacceptable for someone in whom the Dolphins have heavily invested.
5. DE Cameron Wake
Wake’s playing fine. Unfortunately for him, he’s Miami’s only intimidating pass rusher this season. He has eight sacks (none of his teammates have half that total) and has a very good chance of topping the 11.5 that got him in the Pro Bowl last year. For $8 million, the Dolphins are actually getting their money’s worth out of Wake, which isn’t something they can say about a lot of their other high-priced talent this season. The pressure’s on Wake to disrupt highly vulnerable Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, who is playing behind a line that’s given up 36 sacks.
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