Miami Dolphins (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (3-2)
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts.
Keys to the game
Even with QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion), injuries are a major factor for the Packers on both sides of the ball. The Packers must get good efforts from WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, who had forgettable outings last week at Washington. The Dolphins have the pass rushers to crash the pocket. The Dolphins haven't scored a rushing touchdown since Week 1. That could well change with the Packers minus LB Nick Barnett and OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring).
By the numbers
The Packers rank 12th in offense (tied for 15th rushing, 10th passing) and 13th on defense (15th rushing, 15th passing). The Dolphins rank 17th in offense (19th rushing, 13th passing) and seventh in defense (tied 12th rushing, fourth passing). ... The Dolphins have won three straight against NFC teams. ... Rodgers has won his last six home starts.
Inside the Dolphins
Heading into the fifth game of his Miami Dolphins career, Karlos Dansby has been steady and productive, contributing 30 tackles. But outside of the sack he had in the opening drive of the season-opening win over Buffalo, he hasn't exactly made his presence felt or provided the instant impact that would enhance his campaign to command respect as the NFL's best linebacker.
Dansby, who picked off Rodgers early in the playoff game and then scored the winning touchdown in overtime, said his production is a "work in progress" at this point and he knows the missing ingredient.
Gene Lower/Getty Images
The thought of seeing Dansby paired with Crowder, back practicing full after nursing a groin injury for the past two months, is something that has excited Dolphins coach Tony Sparano since Dansby signed in March. But Sparano's "only seen it for eight plays in that first preseason game," which has been a source of frustration.
"Karlos can blitz. He can cover. He can play the run. He can do all those things," Sparano said. "Well, Channing can do those same things, too, and it gives you the luxury of playing chess with some of your pieces. If you want to get Karlos here on a back, or get Channing on a back, the other guy can do (something else)."
Like cover a receiver downfield, or blitz the quarterback consistently. It's that freedom to roam that allows players such as Dansby to make an impact. The hope is Crowder's presence allows Dansby to blossom.
"Every down he's been here we've felt his presence and not just on the field," weak-side linebacker Cameron Wake said of Dansby. "There's more to being a professional than putting a helmet on Sundays and going out there and making plays. He's teaching guys how to lift weights, how to look at film, putting in those 15-16 hour days. He's passing on his wisdom."
The Green Bay offense won't be as diversified as in games past because of injury issues, particularly at tight end. Jermichael Finley, the team's top weapon in the pass-first scheme, might miss the rest of the season after having knee surgery Tuesday. That will allow the Dolphins, who are getting healthier on defense physically and statistically after initially struggling to stop the pass, to focus on bracketing wideouts Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
Dansby, a thorn in the Packers' side in their overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs in January, can't be allowed to wreak havoc as a blitzer and run stuffer if the Packers are going to rediscover continuity in moving the football. Green Bay could cut across the grain and try to establish the run against a defense that has been accommodating in allowing an average of 4.5 yards per carry the last three games.
The Green Bay defense also will be down key personnel with outside linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), the league leader in sacks, and defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) on the mend from injuries suffered in the last game. The Packers struggled to generate a pass rush after Matthews went out in the second half of the overtime loss to the Redskins. Still, slow-moving quarterback Chad Henne should entice defensive coordinator Dom Capers to apply the pressure and limit the throws made to the imposing Brandon Marshall and the diminutive Davone Bess, who has jumped out with 14 catches for nearly 200 yards in the last two games. The Packers are well-rehearsed in defending the Wildcat, which innovator Miami likes to run with primarily Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams an average of four times a game but has seen stall with a paltry output of 1.6 yards per play.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.