The Houston Texans kick off the 2012 NFL regular season Sunday at Reliant Stadium vs. the Miami Dolphins at high noon. The Texans have never lost to the Dolphins, compiling a 6-0 all-time record against Miami, including 3-0 at Reliant Stadium. However, the series between these two squads has been close, with 5 of the 6 games being decided by 7 points or less. The lone exception was last season, when the Texans beat Miami 23-13 in week 2 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.
The Dolphins enter this season as a team in transition. Miami will come to Houston with a new rookie head coach,Joe Philbin, and a rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill. Philbin comes to South Florida from the Green Bay Packers, where he was offensive coordinator of a team that went 15 – 1 last season and won the Super Bowl the previous season. Tannehill, the Dolphins 1st round selection and #8 pick in this year’s NFL Draft out of Texas A&M, will return to the Lone Star State to make his NFL debut.
Tannehill had a brief holdout at the beginning of training camp but once he joined the team, he beat out incumbent Matt Moore as the Fins starter. It was a quick ascension by Tanehill, who entered camp 3rd on the depth chart behind Moore and veteran David Garrard, who injured his knee before the preseason and was subsequently released by the team yesterday. It could be a rude homecoming and welcome to the league for Tannehill, who has to face the Texans defense that finished 2nd overall in the league last season.
Miami was the team that was featured on this season’s episodes of HBO’s Hard Knocks, the 5 week reality series that took fans behind the scenes of their training camp and preseason. Perhaps the biggest headline was when they showed raw footage of Philbin cutting WR Chad Johnson, who the team decided to part ways with following an arrest for a domestic dispute between he and his estranged wife. HBO also went behind the scenes and showed how a trade developed between Miami and the Indianapolis Colts. The Dolphins traded starting CB Vontae Davis to Indy on August 26th for the Colts 2nd round pick and an undisclosed pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Davis was a former number one pick of the Dolphins who lost his starting job in camp and seemed to fall out of favor with the new coaching regime. That could clearly be seen on the first episode of Hard Knocks, with Philbin chastising Davis for being out of shape at the beginning of camp. Newcomer Richard Marshall, who came to Miami as a free agent from the Carolina Panthers is the starter at corner opposite veteran Sean Smith. Along with the offseason trade of WR Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears, the Dolphins traded away two of their better players from a year ago.
Coming off of a 6-10 season in which they finished tied for last place in the AFC East, and with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach, this has the looks of a rebuilding season for Miami. Many predict another last place finish for the team this season. The aforementioned trades have allowed them to stockpile some picks in next year’s draft, so the franchise and roster turnover may just be getting started. Players to watch for Miami Sunday include Tannehill, RB Reggie Bush, who is coming off of his first 1,000 yard rushing season, and DE Cameron Wake, who is one of the top pass rushers in the league.
Although they have historically played the Texans close, it may be too much too ask a rookie quarterback to go toe to toe with a stout Texans defense in his first career start. Welcome to the NFL Tannehill, the Bulls On Parade await you. Good luck with that.