Saints, Dolphins hope to come home from London with win
MIAMI -- The New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins are in London this week preparing for a Sunday game at Wembley Stadium.
With both teams already struggling in the standings, this is no vacation.
"We're completely focused," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan told The Times-Picayune after watching an Arsenal soccer game on Monday. "Our tourism part is over."
The Saints may have an issue with both their starting offensive tackles as rising star Terron Armstead (shoulders) did not practice Wednesday and veteran Zach Strief (knee) was a limited participant.
Miami (1-1) can cause problems with a pass rush that features two five-time Pro Bowl players, defensive end Cameron Wake and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And if Armstead and Strief are out or weakened, Miami figures to have a big advantage.
The Saints (1-2) have endured three consecutive losing seasons, the first time that has happened since coach Sean Payton took over in 2006.
Don't blame quarterback Drew Brees, however. Even though he turns 39 in January, Brees is still on top of his game, completing 68.5 percent of his passes this year. He has thrown for 867 yards and six touchdowns with zero interceptions so far.
Miami, meanwhile, is allowing 8.6 yards per pass play, the worst mark in the NFL. Dolphins cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard will be on burn alert in London.
The Dolphins also had issues at linebacker, where expected contributors Koa Misi and Raekwon McMillan are out for the year because of injuries and Kiko Alonso (shoulder) was limited in practice on Wednesday.
In addition, Lawrence Timmons, who was signed in the offseason with the expectation he would start at middle linebacker, is back after going AWOL for the opener and serving a one-game suspension.
"I'm sorry to all the fans, to the Dolphins, everyone," Timmons said Wednesday. "Sorry to the organization -- I'm just happy to be back."
New Orleans has three well-credentialed running backs who could test a questionable Dolphins linebacker crew, starting with free agent acquisition Adrian Peterson, a seven-time Pro Bowl player. Still, at age 32, it is questionable how much Peterson has left -- he has just 77 yards rushing this season, 3.3 per carry.
The Saints also have Mark Ingram, who leads the team with 125 rushing yards and is averaging 4.5 per carry; and rookie third-round pick Alvin Kamara, who adds speed to the backfield.
When Miami has the ball, Saints fans may indeed be nervous because New Orleans' defense has struggled for years and gave up 65 points in its first two games.
However, there is renewed hope for the Saints after their 34-13 road win over the Carolina Panthers last week. Jordan, a two-time Pro Bowl player who had 7.5 sacks last year, heads the Saints' defense, and he is off to a good start with two sacks.
Miami's offense, meanwhile, is coming off an embarrassing performance in a 20-6 home loss to the New York Jets.
The Dolphins avoided a shutout by scoring in garbage time on the game's final play, and Miami coach Adam Gase blasted his team.
"That last game was a disaster," Gase said. "That's obvious, and it's embarrassing."
Gase had other choice words, saying he was tired of watching his offense and that it had been "garbage" for the entire two years he has been the coach.
That is harsh. In reality, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler has solid weapons at his disposal, including running back Jay Ajayi, tight end Julius Thomas and wide receivers Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills.
However, Ajayi did not practice on Wednesday because of a knee injury, and his status for Sunday is in doubt. He was dominant last year with 1,272 rushing yards, including three games of more than 200 yards.
This year, though, he has just 138 yards and is averaging 3.5 per carry. Miami has lost its past three games in which Ajayi failed to rush for at least 100 yards.
In addition, Stills was limited Wednesday due to a hand injury. Landry has 19 catches in just two games but is averaging just 6.6 per reception.
Parker has been the team's only consistent game-breaker so far this season, making 12 catches and averaging 13.4 yards and scoring one touchdown.
Cutler, 34, had retired after last season, but the Dolphins signed him after losing quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the season. So far, Cutler has yet to impress, and he was completely shut down by the lowly Jets until the late drive on Sunday.
New Orleans is just 4-10 all-time against AFC East teams.
Updated September 28, 2017