On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will begin their 50th NFL regular season on the road against the Washington Redskins. The Dolphins hold an 8-4 series advantage as they won their last meeting 20-9 on Nov. 13, 2011.
The Miami Dolphins once again made a big splash during free agency last March. The team signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was considered by most to be the most prized free agent on the market. The Dolphins also signed receiver Greg Jennings and tight end Jordan Cameron, and traded for receiver Kenny Stills.
Because of their moves during the offseason, Miami is the sexy pick to not only make the playoffs, but some are even picking them to win the AFC East. The Dolphins will begin their quest for their first division title since 2008 on Sunday against the Redskins, whose offseason has gone a bit differently.
In his rookie year in 2012, Robert Griffin III couldn’t have had a better rookie campaign. The former Heisman Trophy winner threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also rushed for 815 yards and seven scores as well.
Things have changed for Griffin ever since then as he has either been injured or played ineffectively. Griffin suffered a concussion on Aug. 20 against the Detroit Lions and has yet to be cleared to play. That’s why Kirk Cousins will get the start against the Dolphins.
Miami at Washington
Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Miami -4
Three Things to Watch
1. How will Branden Albert perform?
The biggest question mark heading into Week 1 for the Miami Dolphins is the health of tackle Branden Albert.
The former Pro Bowler hasn’t played in a game since tearing his ACL and MCL last November against the Detroit Lions. Albert didn’t play the entire preseason and Albert just began to practice at full speed a couple of weeks ago. On Wednesday, Albert told the media before Wednesday practice that he will play on Sunday.
"We all know the answer," said Albert. "I don't think I've got to say nothing too much more. I've been starting with the first team all week. So there goes your answer.”
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin says it will be great to have Albert back in the lineup.
“Yeah, he’s a veteran player. He’s a good player. He’s a guy that’s an important part of the ball club. He plays an important position on the football team, so it’s good to have him.”
2. Kirk Cousins
With Griffin not yet cleared by the Redskins medical staff, the team will look to Cousins to lead them to a win against the Dolphins. The four-year quarterback out of Michigan State will start the 10th game of his career on Sunday afternoon.
In limited action during his first four seasons, Cousins has thrown for 3,030 yards, 18 touchdowns against 19 interceptions. Despite his inconsistent play, Cousins is confident that he can get the job done on Sunday.
"You have to do your part and do well. I do feel believed in," Cousins said. "I haven't questioned that. I never questioned that. I have all the pieces around me to be successful."
3. Dolphins' defensive line
Miami already had an excellent defensive line last year, minus Suh. Now with the addition of the four-time Pro Bowler, the Dolphins should form one of the best lines in the NFL.
Washington’s offensive line has a lot of holes and is unproven, minus tackle Trent Williams. In their preseason game against the Detroit Lions, the Redskins allowed Griffin to be sacked three times in less than two quarters of play. That led to Griffin’s concussion, which is why Cousins is starting in the first place.
Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake said after practice on Wednesday that he isn't focused on the Redskins line as much he is focused on himself and the other Dolphins players.
“The unit (Redskins offensive line) works together well, said Wake. “They have a lot of new things going and there’s no real way to tell what they are going to do. I’m really concentrating more on the guys in this locker room and the guys on this side and what we are going to do.”
The Dolphins were 12th in total defense in 2014 with Wake, Olivier Vernon and Earl Mitchell and the team should be even better with the addition of Suh. How Washington blocks Miami's defensive line could be one of the significant keys to the game.
Washington has questions at quarterback, offensive line and on their defense. With all the weapons the Dolphins have on both sides of the ball, Miami should win the game pretty easily.
If Washington can get the running game going with Alford Morris and run on the outside of the defensive ends effectively, Washington has a chance to stay in the game.
In the end, the Dolphins defensive line will force Cousins to make plays and that’s when turnovers are likely to happen.
Prediction: Miami 31, Washington 20
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.