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Monday night showdown with Saints serves as Dolphins' litmus test

The SportsXchange

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins appear to be doing everything right. They're making big plays on offense, defense and special teams. They're not beating themselves with penalties. They're plus-two in giveaway/takeaway.

Now comes the Monday night showdown between the undefeated Dolphins (3-0) and the undefeated New Orleans Saints (3-0) at the raucous Superdome in New Orleans.

We'll see if the Dolphins can put an exclamation mark on their somewhat surprising early-season statement.

Ryan Tannehill vs. Drew Brees.

New Orleans' high-powered offense vs. Miami's injury-slowed defense.

The upstart Dolphins vs. the time-tested Saints.

The Dolphins have already done more than many thought they'd do in this brutal five-game start to the season. They've won three games. Most Dolphins fans would have been happy with two victories.

A victory on Monday at New Orleans might be akin to the Dolphins announcing they've arrived. They would have four victories with three over playoff teams from a year ago - Indianapolis, Atlanta and New Orleans - and two of those victories on the road, at Indianapolis and New Orleans.

But once again, that's getting way ahead of things.

You won't catch Dolphins players thinking that way. They've remained remarkably level-headed amid the euphoria that's sweeping Dolphins Nation.

The sobering reality for the Dolphins is their defense could enter this game without four starters - defensive end Cam Wake (knee), defensive tackle Paul Soliai (knee), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin) and linebacker Koa Misi (shoulder).

Wake is their best pass rusher, as well as the team's best player, Soliai is the best run-stuffer, and Patterson is the leader in interceptions (two).

Those absences are even more dangerous this week because once the Saints get that offense going they're tough to stop. But the Dolphins have a card up their sleeve.

"We've been strong at the end of the games, and we have been good in the red-zone again," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.

Still, it's a "no excuses" league and the Dolphins have a chance to assert themselves and make a statement this week.

--DT Paul Soliai (knee) will likely miss this week's game, which will put a hurt on the Dolphins' run defense.

--DE Cam Wake (knee) could miss this week's game, which would severely impact the Dolphins' pass rush. Derrick Shelby would see his workload increase if Wake is sidelined.

--CB Dimitri Patterson (groin) could miss his third consecutive game.

--LB Koa Misi (shoulder) appears OK. He left last week's game in the third quarter and didn't return.

--DE Dion Jordan played 50 snaps last week, about 30 from scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has been increasing Jordan's workload each game, and it'll increase again this week.

"We're seeing more and more of Dion (Jordan) and he's getting better," said Coyle.
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