The Washington Post

Redskins-Dolphins: Five storylines to watch

The Washington Redskins head to South Beach, where they face the 1-7 Dolphins and aim to snap a four-game losing streak. Coach Mike Shanahan has never suffered five straight losses in his career. Will this mark the first time, or will the Redskins avoid that futility streak?.

Here are five storylines for this week’s Redskins-Dolphins matchup.

1.) Beck’s return – John Beck didn’t have much to say about his time in Miami, where he spent the first two seasons of his career, but you can bet that there’d be a good deal of satisfaction in getting his first win as an NFL quarterback against the team that gave up on him. Can he find a balance between knowing when to hold onto the ball and knowing when to check down and take what’s given to him underneath?

2.) Hankerson’s progress – This game marks a homecoming for Leonard Hankerson, whom Washington drafted out of the University of Miami in the third round last April. The wide receiver has made steady improvements in each of the last three weeks, and Mike Shanahan believes he has the chance to be an elite receiver. Washington certainly can use his big-play ability to ignite a struggling offense.

3.) Maintaining balance on offense – Kyle Shanahan has made a concerted effort in the last three games to open the game with a more balanced attack, both to keep the defense from focusing on one part of that attack and to ease pressure on Beck. The quarterback is averaging 67 passing yards in the first half of his three starts while Washington has rushed for an average of 51 yards in the first two quarters. That hasn’t translated into scoring opportunities, however, and in the second half of games, the Redskins have to play from behind. Beck has averaged 180 passing yards in the second half, while his offense has mustered only 5.3 second-half rushing yards per game. Definitely not a recipe for success. The Redskins need to open games with that balanced attack but put points on the board as well. If they can do that, they will avoid becoming one-dimensional.

4.) Run defense – Teams have found success running the ball against Washington. The Redskins have given up on average 160.7 rushing yards per game. On Sunday they face Reggie Bush, who is coming off his best two games of the season. Bush has more of a feature back role with the Dolphins than he did with the Saints, and the Redskins will do everything they can to contain him. If the Dolphins can put together sustained drives as Washington’s last four opponents have, it could make for another long day.

5.) Another 1-win opponent – The Cowboys, Eagles and Panthers all entered their games against Washington with one win each, but the Redskins, who owned the better record, lost to all three. Washington now braces for the 1-7 Dolphins. But players say this isn’t your typical one-win team. Miami should have won games against Cleveland, Denver or New York. So the Redskins say the Dolphins, who have explosive offensive players such as Bush and Brandon Marshall, are more like a 4-4 team, one that is coming off a 31-3 victory. This is a dangerous bunch. Can the Redskins reverse the trend?

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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