Breaking down the game

If the preseason actually meant something when it comes to projecting how a season opener might turn out, the Dolphins would be in for a major spanking Sunday against the Denver Broncos. But as Ryan Leaf's brilliant rookie preseason demonstrated so clearly, it would be foolish to attach too much important to those exhibition games.

Denver was absolutely sizzling in the preseason, with a perfect 4-0 mark, an average of 200 rushing yards per game and Jake Plummer's superb 123.6 quarterback rating.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, were ... well, everyone saw what happened.

But the Dolphins didn't show much defensively in the preseason and we must remind everyone that this is a defense predicated upon confusing opponents with a lot of different looks and formations.

Now, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't worry about the fact that the Dolphins gave up too much yardage on the ground in the preseason, a bad omen going up against Denver's traditionally strong running game.

But the defense also is liable to get to Plummer at some point, and he has been known to put the ball up for grabs during his career.

The opportunity for a couple of turnovers will be there for the Dolphins, and it's imperative they take advantage.

Deep coverage also has to be a concern for the Dolphins because the secondary very much is a question mark heading into the regular season.

On the other side of the ball, we're not expecting an explosion from the offense, but we're also looking for some improvement now that the first-team unit will be staying for the whole four quarters.

It will be interesting to see what Ronnie Brown can do in his NFL debut. Word is he will get 12-15 carries in this game, but we could see that number increase if he has success.

In the passing game, the Dolphins will take a few shots downfield and it would be a big bonus if they actually could hit one or two during the game.

Also don't downplay the effect of the heat in this game -- of course, assuming it doesn't rain like it has done so much in South Florida recently.

Just like opponents sometimes have a hard time adjusting to Denver's altitude, opponents who come to Miami in September often find themselves running out of gas in the second half, and that could be a big advantage for the Dolphins.

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