It's time for our weekly Q&A session with a blogger who covers the Patriots next opponent. Up this week is Phins Phocus, a great blog covering the Dolphins that joined the Bloguin earlier this year. I asked the site's lead writer, Cody Strahm, a series of questions about the Phins, and he, in turn, asked me a few about the Pats. His responses are below, followed by a link to Foxboro Blog's Q&A session on Phins Phocus.
1. What are your thoughts on last week's game versus the Jets? They've beaten both the Pats and Phins in back to back weeks. Are they the top team in the division?
Sunday night was a huge blown opportunity for the Dolphins. They had this division right where they wanted it. After starting 2-0 on the road, they had the chance to begin pulling away from the Jets and Pats, with two home games on primetime. While, we saw the offense finally live up to its potential as Chad Henne and Brandon Marshall sliced right through the Jets' secondary, the defense that led the way in the first two wins was nowhere to be found. They couldn't contain the edge against the run, there was virtually no pass rush, Jason Allen reverted back to his old first-round bust ways, and Dustin Keller tore the secondary to pieces in the first-half. As for the Jets, they are obviously in clear command of this division right now, having beaten their two biggest competitors. If Sanchez can continue to play this well, with that running game and defense, they are without a doubt the most complete team in this division. Lucky for us, though, there's still a ton of football left to be played, and both the Phins and Pats are going to get another crack at the Jets. This should be one of the most entertaining divisions to watch, and I don't think it will be decided until the last couple weeks.
2. Do you think Chad Henne has what it takes to be your long-term franchise QB?
I may have beaten around the bush a little bit if you would have asked me this question last week. But, wow, what a show Henne put on against one of the best pass defenses in football. And no, you can't use Revis out of the lineup as an excuse. You saw firsthand how good they still are without him two weeks ago. Maybe he still won't become a long-term franchise quarterback, but he sure has what it takes. He has all the ideal physical measurables, including elite arm strength, and really just needs to grasp the mental aspect of the position. The Dolphins shouldn't defer from their identity, which is still pounding the football with Ronnie and Ricky, but they need to continue to build off what we saw against the Jets, and let Henne consistently get the ball down field.
3. What were you the most excited about heading into the 2010 season?
Obviously, anytime you bring in a game changing receiver like Brandon Marshall, you can't wait to see him on the field and the impact he has on the offense. In the first two weeks, I was a little disappointed in how he was being used. Dan Henning had the passing game on a leash, Henne's attempts were limited, including a franchise low five passes in the first-half against the Vikings, and the majority of the routes were in the 5-8 yard range. Against the Jets, they opened everything up, though. Marshall's totals of 10 catches for 166 yards and touchdown finally showcased how talented of player they have here, and how much potential this offense has if they can get the passing game going.
4. What is the Dolphin's biggest weakness?
It's tough to pinpoint the Dolphins' biggest weakness right now, because they've been hit and miss in just about every aspect of the game through three weeks. The defense dominated in Week 1, albeit against the lowly Bills, bent but didn't break in Week 2 in Minnesota, while forcing Brett Favre to turn the ball over four times and the Vikings' offense to turn the ball over on downs another three, but were ran over by the Jets last week. Offensively, we saw a couple lackluster performances in the first two weeks, but the passing game was clicking on all cylinders against the Jets. Special-teams obviously haven't been very good, especially last week with them conceding a blocked punt and about 40 yards every time to Brad Smith on kickoffs. Still though, I'm most concerned about the run defense, and in particular, their ability to set the edge. Grant it, the Vikings have Adrian Peterson and the Jets had the best running game in the whole league last season, but running the ball to the outside has come way to easy the past two games. Cameron Wake may be emerging as one of the premiere pass rushers in football, even though Damien Woody easily single-blocked him for the most part Sunday night, and Koa Misi has a solid motor, which allows him to cause havoc getting after the quarterback, but offenses are finding success running directly at them. Hopefully Ikaika Alama-Francis, who missed the first three games with a virus, can regain his playing weight in a hurry, because he was probably going to start the season in a co-starting role with Misi due to his ability to set the edge.
5. What's your prediction for the Dolphins this year?
I would say they are playing about 9-7 ball right now, and if that trend continues, they will likely finish 3rd in the AFC East. If they can somehow keep their heads above .500 in the next seven games, which are all against playoff caliber teams, I could easily see them finishing 10-6 and competing for the division title, but most likely locking up a wildcard spot. For that to happen, though, we are going to have to see the offense and defense, which have been good in separate games, put together some collective efforts.
6. What's your prediction for the Patriots this year?
Obviously, the Pats have a great offense like always. The at least solid defense we have seen in years past doesn't seem to be present anymore, though. With Tom Brady at quarterback, they're still good enough to win 10 games and land a wildcard spot, which is what I would probably bet if I had to today. Monday night will decide a lot, though. The loser will have already lost to both their two biggest threats in the division, and will be in a decently sized hole heading into the bye week at 2-2 overall, and 1-2 in the division.
7. How do you see Monday Night's game playing out and what's the final score?
Based on how both of these teams played last week, I want to say we are in for a classic shootout, with the winner needing to put up 30 plus points to improve to 3-1. If the Dolphins can't get pressure on Tom Brady with the way they play defense under Mike Nolan, we are going to see a lot of one-on-one coverage, which should provide some big-play opportunities for Brady and company. While, I see the secondary surrendering a lot of yardage, I think the defense bounces back in a big way this week by getting to Brady a few times, and forcing a couple turnovers. Offensively, I think we will see the Dolphins employ their most balanced attack this season, with the running game having its most success so far, and the passing game continuing to feed Marshall down the field against a suspect secondary. It should be a great game, and the possibility of the Dolphins dropping their first two division home games in back-to-back weeks scares me to death. But it's too big of a game, and too much of a tossup for me to pick against the Dolphins.
New England 24