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Dolphins offense to face huge test in Arizona

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Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off to running back Reggie Bush during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Miami.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) hands off to running back Reggie Bush during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Miami.

Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

DAVIE, Fla. — Reggie Bush wants to play this weekend. Against the Arizona Cardinals, the Miami Dolphins could certainly find use for him.

The Dolphins' running back, who was knocked out of last Sunday's game against the New York Jets with a bruised left knee, would certainly give Miami a much-better chance this weekend when it heads out to face the unbeaten Cardinals — easily one of the NFL's best teams on the defensive side of the football.

"Fast defense," Bush said on Wednesday. "They do a good job on getting a lot of guys to the ball. They thrive off of turnovers, they do a good job at creating turnovers and stripping the ball from ballcarriers."

Just about anyone in the Dolphins' locker room who was asked about Arizona's defense on Wednesday said the same thing — speed, speed, speed.

And for an offense off to a bit of a slow start, at least from a consistency standpoint, that could be a problem.

The Cardinals (3-0) are the only NFL team to not surrender even a 20-point game so far this season, and given the way they finished last year, it's no surprise that they're ranking among the league's leaders in a slew of defensive categories. After allowing at least 30 points in four straight games early last season, the Cardinals almost have been as good as anyone, especially defensively.

Since last November, the Cardinals are giving up 17.1 points per game — fifth-best in the NFL — and their 10-2 record over that span is the best in the league, one game better than Atlanta, Baltimore, Green Bay, New England and San Francisco.

"There is no going in underestimating that Arizona defense," Miami offensive lineman Richie Incognito said. "I mean, they're talented up front, they're fast, they're physical. I think everybody knows about them."

The Dolphins scored 35 points in their Week 2 win over Oakland — and have managed 30 points, total, in their two losses to Houston and the Jets. And Miami has won only twice in its last 10 trips away from home, perhaps one of the reasons why the Dolphins are heading out to Arizona on Friday instead of the customary Saturday departure for a Sunday game.

The way Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has it figured, the length of the flight combined with a three-hour time change makes the extra day of acclimation a smart move.

"We're playing an excellent football team," Philbin said. "I think there are three teams that are 3-0. ... So they've got to be awful good and we've got to be ready to play a heck of a ballgame. That's a tough place to play. I've been there a few times. It's not an easy place to play, so it's going to be a challenge for us."

Bush was hurt late in the first half against the Jets, leaving the game after collecting 61 yards on 10 carries.

The Cardinals are preparing for him to play on Sunday.

"Watching film, he's kind of taken his game up to a whole another level," Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "We'll have our hands full with him. ... If he goes, he's definitely their star player."

The Cardinals pride themselves on getting to the quarterback — and Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill could be facing his biggest test yet on Sunday.

Tannehill has completed only 53 percent of his throws so far in 2012; that's 28th-best in the 32-team league. He has one touchdown on 102 attempts, easily the lowest percentage among starters in the NFL.

"We're still working through some things," Philbin said. "We don't have the rhythm in the passing game that I envision us having a month from now or six weeks from now or eight weeks from now. Some of that's him. Some of that is the receivers and so forth. I don't think our passing game is operating at a high rate of effectiveness at this point in time."

Tannehill said he's picked the brains of some Miami defensive players who are familiar with Arizona's scheme, adding that he thinks the Dolphins are on the cusp of an offensive breakthrough.

"I have to just get that much better," Tannehill said. "I have to hit those big throws and take advantage of the opportunities that are there. Coach Philbin always says, 'Make the plays that are there.' I feel like we're doing that in the running game ... I think we need to get a few more passing yards. So I'm focusing on making the plays that are there this week."

Against the Cardinals, that might not be many.

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