The Bengals (1-2) get their first primetime game of the season Thursday at home against the same Dolphins (1-2) that put up a fight in Seattle in Week 1 and then barely beat the Browns in Miami last Sunday.
The Dolphins are in year one of head coach Adam Gase’s regime and also have former Bengals’ defensive backs coach Vance Joseph as their defensive coordinator. Gase, who came down south after successful stints with Peyton Manning in Denver and Jay Cutler in Chicago, is still trying to change the culture of a team that had a down year last season, but Miami has talent all around to give Cincinnati fits.
Here are five Dolphins players you should watch for on Thursday Night Football.
Jarvis Landry, wide receiver:
The 5-11 wideout is probably the best offensive player on Gase’s roster and is putting up monster numbers throughout the first three weeks of the season. He might not be a vertical threat, but the Dolphins added DeVante Parker a year ago for a reason.
When quarterback Ryan Tannehill has time to throw - and more on that later - Landry can take advantage of his speed on long-developing crossing routes, as it was the case plenty of times against Cleveland. He is a mismatch underneath and can wreak havoc after the catch.
In his first two seasons as a pro, the Dolphins were giving him the football at the line of scrimmage a little too much, but now with Tannehill more in control of the offense it seems that they are increasingly using him down the field.
Expect Jeremy Hill’s former teammate to take advantage of the Bengals’ soft zone coverages.
Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle:
He’s back. The former Lion looks very close to the disruptive force that he was in Detroit early on in his career, and he’s providing the Dolphins with a lot of pressure inside. Paired with edge rusher Cameron Wake, Suh is a huge threat for Miami.
On an aggressive defense that tries to take some heat off their weak secondary, Suh will be key to the Dolphins’ attempt to stop the Bengals. They might lack the tools to stop the run, though, as the linebacker corps is below average and both Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. ran at will on them on Sunday.
Center Russell Bodine could be in line for a really long night.
Byron Maxwell, cornerback:
There’s a reason why the Eagles got rid of Maxwell in the offseason. He was torched by Terrelle Pryor and looks way too slow in off coverage and lost in his technique in press coverage.
A.J. Green has had two down games, but could be in line for a monster game on Thursday with rookie Xavien Howard as the Dolphins’ second cornerback as well.
Maxwell still has the size and the Dolphins believed he could recover his Seahawks form with Vance Joseph, as he coached on a cover 3-heavy defense. He is no match for Green, though. Pro-Bowl safety Reshad Jones is there, but he and Isa Abdul-Quddus are usually better against the run.
Ja’Wuan James, offensive tackle:
The third-year veteran got benched against Cleveland and has a lot to work on if he wants to stop Carlos Dunlap on Thursday. The Dolphins have protected their quarterback better this season, but James’ mistakes cost Miami two turnovers.
Cincinnati paid the price of not being able to get to the quarterback on Sunday, and they need their front four to produce if they want to avoid Landry to gain huge yardage.
Miami will be without their starting center and could be without their No. 2 also. That presents a great matchup for Geno Atkins too.
Cameron Wake, edge rusher:
He finally notched his first sack on Sunday and was a nightmare for Browns right tackle, Austin Pasztor, drawing penalty after penalty.
The Bengals contained Von Miller for most of their game against the Broncos, but Cedric Ogbuehi gets another tough assignment for the second week in a row. If Cincinnati has time to attack the porous Dolphins secondary, they will be successful.